Friday, October 29, 2010

What if "Australia" Had Ended Here?

On this very day in 1939, Australia's Northern Standard incorrectly assumed that The Lady Ashley (Nicole Kidman) and her Drover (Hugh Jackman) had both perished in the Kuraman Desert!

Newspapers. They've always had it rough; The second you publish something it's ancient history.

Just as soon as this news was making the rounds the lady and her cattle driving man, rode into town in a cloud of triumphant dust and defeated their main rival. They won! Celebratoryparties, long delayed lovemaking and a return to the now thriving Faraway Downs followed.  After a short orgiastic montage of Australia's natural beauty (the country's and the movie's), the epic movie ends with a speech by the young narrator Nullah (Brandon Walters)
Just like Drover say 'that rain make everything come alive.' The land it grow green and fat and we all go back to Faraway Downs. Mrs Boss happy. Drover Happy. 

I hear for the first time that thing called Christmas. Then the rain, it stops. And then Drover, he go droving. The Mrs Boss, she always misses Drover. But I know, he's going to come back.

How perfect are these golden shots as closing romantic images?

Only there's no closing. The epic movie didn't end there, not on October 29th (and the cattle drive was already quite a movie) or with Nullah's first Christmas. Or even after the Drover went a-drovin' again, an amusingly brief montage which consists only of this leaving and returning, beautifully illustrating a family falling into its future pattern.

But there's a lot more adventure, World War II adventure, coming. There's roughly sixty more minutes of it. I've often thought that had Australia wrapped up with that three shot shown above and this clear romantic narrative about the formation of a family (after one hour and forty-three minutes of a rousing western adventure), the critics and audiences might have been kinder. Wasn't Australia's main sin only that it was desperately overstuffed, that it didn't trust that one adventure, one tone, or one lead character arc was enough and it had to pack in at least a few of everything? Sometimes less is more, even for gorgeous sun-kissed epic that aspire to the mythic.

Australia came out two years ago and though two years isn't a long time, you rarely hear people discuss this one anymore. Have any of you watched it recently? If you haven't seen it since its premiere, what is your most vivid memory of it?


Jorge Rodrigues said...

I remember that I also thought this scene should have been the end. Besides, I thought IT WAS the end.

But then Baz had to go and mess the whole thing up.

I've seen it again last year because my sister wanted to (she's a Baz fan, having just discovered Moulin Rouge! and Romeo + Juliet) and I have to say it doesn't make that good of a second impression as well.

The movie is WAY everything (it's excessive in everything and not in a good way). That said, I still love some parts of it. I gave it a B and I stand by that.

The most vivid memory I have is of Nullah (Brandon Walters). What a charismatic first performance.

Andrew R. said...

I missed this movie when it came out, and saw part of it on TV.

Rather disappointing, although I liked the costumes a lot.

Jenn said...

Whoa, I saw this again just yesterday!! And I must admit, it gets better with time. It's still flawed, but you get to appreciate some of the details that were overlooked the first time around, probably because the plot drags on forever (I swear there were at least three times when I first saw it that I thought it would fade to black - but alas, it kept draining right down to the last trickle), and that, like you said, is probably the biggest drawback of this movie. Silly Baz, this could've reached epic greatness.

Glenn said...

I haven't watched it since, but I was always much more favourable towards it than most.

Liz said...

This is on HBO all the time, so I catch at least part of it frequently. It actually has a very high rewatch value, at least for me, and that's something I always like in a movie.

It's definitely too much of everything, but entertaining. Grade: B.

Roark said...

never saw it. big baz fan, but i missed it in theaters, and the handful of scenes i caught on hbo last year didn't draw me in. i probably owe it a legit viewing someday, but, y'know, i still haven't seen The Red Shoes or Tokyo Story, so Australia can wait.

emmanuel ramos barajas said...

What about auteurism? I mean we have something like Fanny & Alexander. Of course, the T.V. version is epic since the extra images add more. But if we cut out the extra hour, is it still Luhrmann's vision? It's clear he set out to make an Australian Gone With the Wind, and we know that that movie has at least two climaxes, so what's so different ?(aside from the fact that it wasn't well received)

joe said...

Liked it overall. Good acting, great visually and some moving moments.

However, things did feel a bit disjointed and it was overstuffed. Felt more like a miniseries to me.

Kate t said...

The most memorable was the kiss at the party. Nullah leaving with his grandfather was annoying after all they'd gone through.

Luiserghio said...

My most vivid memory hmmm!? Australia did open in my country in December 25th, after seven long years waiting a new film from Baz, I went to the 3pm screening, to make the story short, for the first two screenings, I was the only person trying to see Australia, and at the time, my local cinema had this "two viewers as minimum" policy, so I did buy a ticket for the 6 o'clock, started at 6:20, because it was on a holiday, some employees were angry... the equipment failured, maybe 3 times, with lapses of 10 - 15 minutes in between, while they fixed the system, the manager changed me to another screen maybe @ minute 85, the other screen was beginning (maybe at minute 20) :/ the the equipment failured other two times... I left the function at 10:30 pm, and I only saw it once.

It was my worst time in a movie theater, but I enjoyed the movie, a lot, and actually, I returned the next week, for a second time, but not at the same movie theater.

Iggy said...

The first thing that comes to my mind is linked to this site, someone described it (the txt critic?) as Hugh Jackman porn, so it'd be the shower scene. I enjoyed it a lot in spite of its flaws, but I watched it after it was trashed, so I guess my viewing was conditioned in a good way, trying to find something where others hadn't found anything worth watching. I never understood the title Australia though.

Ben Ong said...

I just saw the movie on Blu-ray yesterday, and I agree with everything you said, Nat. However, the most touching part for me was, and will ever be, is the last scene. To let Nullah go after fighting so hard for it, she's finally learned how to love.

Oh - and the first kiss, her eyes. And I am not sure if you guys have scene it up close and personal, are you very sure she has botox? I saw quite a few lines and in her truck ride to faraway downs I saw her forehead's lines quite clearly and deeply.

mrripley said...

I will say this once again how is Kidman believable in this period role with modern plastic surgery,she doesn't resemble herself at all,look back at the portrait of a lady and you will all see what imean.

I know it is an old record but it needs spinning every now and again 'cosit upsets me what my once favourite actress did to herself & that every1 keeps saying "oh she is a great actress so it doesn't matter" so was faye dunaway!!!.

RM said...

Oh for Gods sake, can we please have ONE Kidman related blog without mentioning Kidmans alleged plastic surgery?!

Bitch was HILARIOUS singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Gorgeous movies, completely robbed of a cinematography nod.

Cindy Lopez said...

I can't believe it's been 2 years already!

I liked the movie when it first came out, but I never gave much of a thought about it ever since... Moulin Rouge was a 180 turn! I saw it twice in the cinema, bought the DVD and it's been a fav since 2001.

Australia's cinematography is gorgeous and Hugh's bathing scene is the best part of the film lol

Being a Kidman fan I was disappointed by her performance... much because of her plastic surgery that made her look like a blow up doll in some scenes... it was really distracting.


RM & Cindy -- i think it was robbed of cinematography too.

Anyone Not Obsessed with Surgical Operations -- don't you think Kidman looks great with a suntan? I know they aren't healthy for you but i think she looks best in the movie when they're in the desert or when they finish the cattle drive... but i also love that nearly sunburnt look on the girls in THELMA & LOUISE so maybe it's just me. it just screams "lovely time, real woman, at one with the elements" ...or something.

cal roth said...

Let me say this very very loud:


AmaliaPorAmor said...

I so agree with the sun tan! :D

Streisand has the most gorgeous tan in "What's Up Doc". She looks like a california girl, long blond hair... gorgeous!

Btw, a sun tan can be healthy if you're wearing sun screen(the sun helps develop vitamin D)... it's overexposing that can be dangerous (especially around midday).

Love your blog!

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

Oh - I feel more like, if Australia ended after just 10 overbearing minutes, it still would have been an abortion. At 3 hours though, it evolved into a full-blown assault on everything that's holy in cinema.

And I definitely don't think it was robbed of Cinematography. Luhrman, Walker and co. colour-graded the shit out of the outback.

What's so different between Gone with the Wind and Australia?... I mean how do you answer that without offending a person's mother. Other than the length, epic ambition and rampant racism (which is far less forgivable in a 21st century climate than it would be in a 1930s one), I see no similarities. No one ever accused Vivien Leighºs forehead of a botox overdose, and there isn't a single line in GWTW as mind-bogglingly misguided as "Well, I'm no Jesus Christ but I'll try! Ha ha!" (How does something like that survive 6 drafts and three different endings?)

I can sincerely say I haven't hated a movie this much since at least Love, Actually, or maybe Troy.

There is one positive thing I can say though - although 'Straya turned Luhrmann into my personal enemy (in a hellish tandem with that Chanel no. 5 ad and his insistence on raping F. Scott Fitzgerald next) - in spite of everything:

I still love the Red Curtain Trilogy and am happy to pretend Luhrmann's filmography ends there. (Dumping Jill Bilcock as an editor by the way, proved a ghastly and telling mistake.)

Anonymous said...

I hated this movie. It was just a major disappointment that I wouldn't even consider renting the dvd.

Richter Scale said...

Actually, you could say the same thing about Gone with the Wind. That one could've ended right when Rhett and Scarlett got married and skip that last hour. You could also say the same thing about The Sound of Music, which could have ended with Maria's wedding (it seemed a perfect place to end). You look at those two movies, and you can see exactly where Luhrmann drew his inspioration and what he was setting out to make. A sweeping romance set in the backdrop of a war. I appreciate the film quite a bit. It falls a bit short of its ambitious scope, but you have to appreciate what Luhrmann is doing here. I thought the film was much better than it was given credit for. I guess it could have ended right where you say Nat, but the extra hour gives the film more of a historical context and I found the last hour exhilirating in a very Luhrmann kind of way. Predictable, but still quite exhilirating.


richter scale -- i guess any film with major act changes could be imagined different that way, yes. i totally get why it went on, and i agree that it makes it more "historical" epic -- at least for international reasons -- but the first half i prefer. by a lot.

Derreck said...

whoops, totally missed this one.

Well, it was a disappointment to me, but honestly i had MASSIVE expectations for this movie. Moulin Rouge turned into one of my all-time favorite movies, and the thought of Baz reuniting with Kidman for a grand epic romance was too good to be true.

And it was. Like some people, i've seen piece of it on HBO, and it does have rewatchability, but i still feel disappointed in how it turned out. It's not a bad movie. Of course not. It's a Baz film. But there was so much potential that basically never came into fruition.

I'm still waiting for him to get off his ass and finish The Great Gatsby.

and on another Baz note, i finally saw Moulin Rouge! on Blu-Ray and it's as beautiful as ever. Plus, i love the new picture-in-picture feature. I'll be getting Romeo + Juliet next which i haven't seen in 6-7 years.

karlota blogs said...

haven't watched australia yet.. :( will catch it as soon as able..

Anonymous said...

The first thing i thought when i got to this part of the movie was "that was actually a pretty good movie" immediately followed by "wasnt there supposed to be something about the war in there". And then the movie kept going (downhill).

Kitty said...

Best movie.. i loved it.. and i loved Nullah, he is a good actor for someone they randomly picked off the streets.. since it came out i have watched it at least once a month..