Sunday, 17 June 2012

A Immigrant's Discovery of Australian Movies

Australian movies - Is that even a category?

For a long time, growing up as I did in India, I only knew of two kinds of movies, - English and Indian. (Being South Indian, I knew that Bollywood/Hindi movies weren't the only Indian ones!). But it took a few years for me to realise that English-language movies themselves were not a monolithic group. British movies were different from American ones, and the discovery came as a pleasant surprise. I learnt to enjoy both.

I repeatedly rediscover the truth expressed by author Aatish Taseer, that "the world is richer in its hybrids." A world with only one genre of anything would be bland indeed, and it's as true for movies as it is for anything else. It's with a fresh thrill that I have discovered a third category of English-language movies. It turns out my adopted country makes some pretty awesome movies too, and they have their own distinct flavour to them.

An Australian friend first introduced me to "The Castle" (Thanks, David Urquhart!). This was hilarious. I found myself gasping with surprised laughter at the unexpected lines ("I pay cash" "What is it with you wogs and cash, anyway?") and some of the most sloppy legal arguments ever made ("It's the vibe").

I recently watched "Kenny", which is the portrait of the perfect Aussie bloke, an unassuming man in the most er, mundane job one can imagine, yet facing every difficult situation and difficult person with patience, humour and a philosophical attitude. I haven't yet read anything of Dostoevsky's novel "The Idiot", but a blurb said it was a "portrait of the perfect man". "Kenny" is exactly that. It too has hilariously funny lines delivered deadpan ("I can't advise you on what marriage will be like, mate. If you were to marry my ex-wife, I could tell you a fair bit, but you'll be marrying someone else, mate.") 

On the flight to NY, I decided to watch Australian movies after I finished watching "John Carter of Mars". Since I was flying Qantas, this was an opportunity that normally doesn't come my way.

The first one I saw was "Swerve", a low-budget action-thriller set in a small outback town. Lots of violence and killing, but also the trademark Aussie humour throughout. The scenes of criminal activity taking place right when the police band is marching through town and when policemen are having tea in a train's restaurant car are wickedly funny. It's an irreverent Aussie poke at their cops. After this movie, I long to see the Outback for myself and travel on the Indian-Pacific Railway from coast to coast.

I then saw the romantic comedy "Any Questions for Ben?", a story of a highly-paid twenty-something "brand strategy manager", whose life is a meaningless sequence of parties, drinking and sex. The protagonist is quite a jerk and never managed to gain my empathy. He didn't deserve to get the girl. In fact, he didn't deserve to get any girl, in my opinion. From a certain perspective, this movie was pointless. But it was absolutely thrilling for me to see Sydney picturised so brilliantly. I never realised I lived in such a beautiful and happening world-class city.

The male lead was a jerk, but the female lead didn't really have a lot of character depth either. I didn't really understand what made her tick or what she stood for. But man, is Rachael Taylor a looker! I consider her the best-looking movie star since Jacqueline Bisset.

It's weird that the movie billed as a comedy wasn't really funny, but the action/thriller was the one with the wicked humour.

At any rate, I've discovered one more reason to be proud of being Aussie. We've got some great movies with a flavour all their own!

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