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I thought I’d compile the flurry of last-minute Mystery Road previews as the countdown for the film’s Sydney Film Festival premiere officially begins (it’s on at 7.30 tonight– yes, it’s already June 5 in Australia.) If you haven’t seen the trailer already, you’ll want to start there:
Hugo Weaving’s character, a policeman named Johnno, seems to be trapped in a difficult position, both trying to help Aaron Pedersen’s determined rookie cop and under pressure from higher-ups to suppress certain official secrets. The trailer is neatly ambiguous all around… we know Pedersen’s character is likely beyond reproach but everyone else is a question mark. I suspect there might be more than meets the eye to Johnno because certain initial reviews have praised the performance’s “unexpected” qualities, and pretty much every viewer going in will know Hugo is often typecast as villains or corrupt officials. But who knows. 😉 I like the fact that the trailer ratchets up tension without giving away too much, which is increasingly rare.
The film’s poster was released earlier this week. It doesn’t feature Hugo (in image, at least), but Ivan Sen explained his reasons for picking a counter-intuitive but deeply evocative image to film columnist Matt Riviera : “I was always keen on using text to show the amazing supporting cast. I’m not a fan of messy imagery, and I hope the film doesn’t feel like that. Strong and clean, that’s how i think we had to represent the film. So text was always going to be the best way to do it.” Designer Demi Hopkins adds: “We initially sought to feature Hugo Weaving and Ryan Kwanten but this resulted in a ‘gun fest’ and brought a negative or violent aspect to the key art which is not present in the film. The final image of him striding across paddock captures the truth of the story.”
from IMP Awards (click for even larger version)
You can read Sen and Hopkins’ full interview at A Life In Film. While I do collect film posters of Hugo’s work, I think the filmmakers made the right call here, even if it’s not the “commercial” one. This image reminds me of the Australian poster for Last Ride, which was also landscape-based and haunting, making you curious about the film without trying to telegraph everything in it. (The American DVD cover, meanwhile was predictably all tense close-ups and implications of peril….Similarly, the Australian poster for Little Fish chose mood over clumsy exposition while international versions included tiny scenes giving away most of the film’s major plot points, including the fate of Hugo’s character.) I always love it when filmmakers favor the artistic choice over the commercial one. I also applaud Sen and co. for bypassing traditional distribution methods, as explained in this Inside Film article, and overseeing the film’s journey to cinemas themselves.
No word on how this might play out internationally, or if they’ll have to go with a distributor at that point… But I know how poorly 80% of Hugo’s independent films have been distributed overseas using traditional methodologies. Just ask me (or Elisa from Random Scribblings) about The Key Man. An American-made film which still hasn’t been distributed in any English-speaking countries. I’ve heard that The Tender Hook and Last Ride weren’t widely released even in Australia. So… any change from the dismal norm is a good thing. I’m so tired of seeing the most trivial of Hugo’s work endlessly discussed and tweeted about online while his finest performances– and those films he has said were most rewarding– are criminally underseen.
While Hugo Weaving hasn’t given additional interviews since he spoke at the Festival Launch last month (those interviews compiled here, here and here), the film’s director Ivan Sen spoke with the Sydney Morning Herald and star Aaron Pedersen gave The Brag a lengthy interview. Here are a few quotes:
Aaron Pedersen: “Ivan’s idea was to make a film that spoke about Australia. He set out to put together a strong story, and I was just very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a cast like that….It was a delight. Hugo is a very humble man with a great heart, and he’s genuinely sincere. Everyone came to this project with a really good attitude. For me, it was a step in the right direction to work with Hugo!
…We’re out to entertain people and tell a story, but we want to send people away with a message. The film has a really strong plot – it’s a crime story, a genre film – but there’s also a really strong political undercurrent. It’s all about the relationships between white and indigenous people in this country. You’ve got to understand that how we see Australia is different from how white Australia sees it. We want to tell that story to the world.”
Ivan Sen: “It’s very exciting to be at the premier festival in the country. And for me, it’s just great to have all the cast coming to see the film, because they were all so supportive making it… There’s the murder-mystery element [to the story], which is the history in this country of the treatment of indigenous women. I wanted to highlight that. There are three women in my extended family who have been murdered and the police have done very little about it….There’s this inbuilt attitude from the police, especially in country areas, towards indigenous people.”
There are additional Mystery Road and Sydney Film Fest previews at The Australian, Twitch Film (featuring a trailer embed), Spotlight Report, The Sydney Morning Herald, and The Courier. Festival Director Nashen Moodley also briefly discussed the film in an ABC Radio interview promoting SFF. (Note: the interview is only a few minutes long… after that the radio host goes on an extended tangent lamenting the death of the necktie. Seriously. Of course, Hugo Weaving fans have no problem with men wearing open-neck shirts.) 😉
I’ll have a full update with any new Hugo Weaving interviews and pics that appear once the festival gets underway. Hugonuts Sydney Correspondent Yvette told me that the Mystery Road opening night gala sold out some time ago, and that there are curiously no additional SFF screenings scheduled. (Typically there will two or three additional screenings at festivals, particularly for in-demand films.) According to Inside Film, Mystery Road won’t be released in cinemas until August 15.
We still know very little about this 17-segment compendium based on Tim Winton’s story collection– though I suppose anyone desperately curious can just read the book. (I own it but am divided about whether I want to read it before seeing the film. I’ve read the book first every time this dilemma cropped up before– V for Vendetta, Last Ride, Oranges and Sunshine, etc– because curiosity got the better of me. And because Hugo’s films take too damn long to cross the pond. Even VfV was delayed several months.) 😉 But some details are sure to emerge after the film’s Melbourne International Film Festival premiere next month. No date and time has yet been announced, and the MIFF page for the film features only one tantalizing still. (No, Hugo’s not in it. ) MIFF’s current trailer doesn’t feature any clips from the films to premiere. But according to their updates, the full schedule will be announced… June 5. Of course. 😉 And while we don’t yet know much about Hugo’s role in the film, an image of him with longtime pal and first-time director David Wenham appeared in a PDF from Australian Wildlife Conservancy, because apparently some scenes from TheTurning were shot at the Mount Gibson Endangered Wildlife Restoration Project. (Either that or the film cast and crew took a break and visited, the way the Hobbit cast visited a New Zealand wildlife preserve to promote their film.) Add The Healing, and Hugo’s commitment to environmental issues is really showing up in his recent film projects. SBS also posted a brief update on the festival.
A few additional details about Hugo’s currently-filming black comedy The Mule continue to filter out after the official announcement that the project was underway. (I assume Hugo isn’t required on set until after SFF ends, implying he’s really in a supporting role.) FilmInk supplied some hints suggesting someone there was familiar with the script: “The Mule is being described as a black comedy about a man who refuses to use the toilet for 28 days after ingesting illegal drugs.” And this is one of the more politely-worded “insider” notes on the plot. Others familiar with the script continue to imply that Leigh Whannell, not Hugo Weaving, plays the title character, and that Ray Jenkins is a younger man than Hugo or John Noble (who is already confirmed to be portraying a local club owner/drug kingpin.) No, none of these “sources” are named, so none of this can be labelled “confirmed”.
But based on what has leaked (a rather unfortunate choice of words in this context, but these writers are asking for it…) I would have to assume Hugo is playing another policeman, possibly a corrupt one. He could also be playing another drug lord. Or a doctor… or sanitation inspector. I hope this film doesn’t turn into a series of gross-out bodily function jokes… Hugo doesn’t usually go in for that sort of thing, but after some recent choices he’s made (or the Wachowskis pressured him into?) nothing can be said to be off the table, particularly for a project filming in Australia. More initial reports and quotes from the first press release can be read at Screen Daily, SBS Film, and Canberra Times, which included this image of Hugo from last year Les Liaisons Dangereuses promotion:
Hugo Weaving. Photo: James Brickwood
As far as the plot is concerned, I find the notion that a drug mule could keep ingested, drug-filled condoms or balloons in his system for a month without the condom breaking (or being broken down by stomach acid) somewhat implausible, though compared to Luc Besson’s drug mule movie Lucy, it sounds like gritty verisimilitude. (Lucy features Scarlett Johansson– yes, when I hear “drug mule” her name is the first that pops into my head, heh heh– as a mule who somehow obtains superpowers when her ingested drug-condom accidentally ruptures. Yes, that’s seriously the plot. Sounds like a script Zac Snyder wrote and then thought better of.) I would call The Mule’s plot crux One Thing We’ll Never See On Mythbusters, but now I hear they’re doing an entire Breaking Bad-themed episode. So, as I have to say far more often these days, anything is possible. 😉 But I do hope The Mule’s black comedy erupts from its wit rather than its intestinal tract. The film’s Twitter account is now live, but no set reports have been posted yet.
A much less ambitious Hugo Weaving-David Wenham teaming debuted May 24 at the St Kilda festival when Christopher Stollery’s five-minute short No Budget was screened. Both actors are featured in cameo appearances, but I haven’t been able to gather much more info on the project. You can watch a brief, celeb-cameo-free trailer here. (I know enough would-be filmmakers and videographers who constantly scrape for budgets and consistent casts to find this amusing.) It might also be a good idea to keep tabs on Stollery’s Facebook page for mention of any future screenings (or online streaming? Please?) 😉
The Key Man
Speaking of Facebook, I’ve decided to get a bit more proactive in trying to determine why Hugo’s 2006 film (completed in 2011) remains hopelessly in limbo in the US, UK, Australia and Western Europe while it receives spotty cable/streaming distribution in far-flung locales like Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and New Zealand. So I thought if I sent Occupant Entertainment a message (as one can do through their Facebook page… or you can contact them here: email@example.com ) mentioning widespread interest in seeing the film, and asking when it’ll be available widely, that might get some wheels turning. (Occupant also has a website, which is rarely updated and intermittently offline… they last mentioned The Key Man around the time of its SXSW screenings in early 2011.) k5 Independent is the European/German distributor. I’ve noticed a tendency for Occupant productions to get hung up in Distribution Hell after promising festival showings… maybe it would help if fans let them know there’s a demand.
…And speaking of drug smuggling plots, a brief snippet of Hugo’s 1996 UK/Australian miniseries The Bite, costarring Lesley Manville, turned up on Vimeo courtesy a mysterious uploader known only as “Theresa”. (Elisa from RS tipped me off.) This is another of Hugo’s projects that was never properly given any sort of home release at any time, though fans in the UK and Australia have told me over the years that it occasionally re-airs on TV. You can read a few magazine articles about the miniseries at my Flickr Archive starting here… I’ll apologise in advance for Flickr’s new layout and clumsy user interface, which forces one to toggle back and forth from slide shows to the optimal Original Size scans… just right-click on any image in the slide show you want a better look at, then click on “original” You can also download copies of the scans.
If anyone has a full copy of this miniseries, a lot of curious fans would love to see it. It features Hugo and Lesley Manville as a couple duped into drug smuggling who eventually become police informants.
Finally, the Archibald Prizes exhibit, featuring Del Kathryn Barton’s award-winning Hugo Weaving portrait, closed this week, but the portrait itself won’t be going far… the Sydney Morning Herald reports that the artist presented it to Hugo himself.
I’ll be back soon with reports from the Sydney Film Festival and Mystery Road premiere as soon as they appear… less than 12 hours now, so stay tuned!