New Mystery Road Red Carpet Interviews, Reviews, Print Article Scans, Updates on The Turning

Note: this is an archived entry. Some links might not still work, but I have tried to ensure scan and video embeds are still in place. If any linked material is unavailable, please let me know and I’ll attempt to find a copy in my personal archives.

The most interesting new Mystery Road/SFF material to turn up since the last entry are two videos posted by SBS; I’ll try very hard to embed them here, as the first is the only in-depth look at the red carpet, featuring ten minutes of cast interviews and context. The second is an edited version of the same footage.

Long Version:

Edited Version:

Is it just me, or does Hugo seem somewhat more reticent than usual in these interviews? Possibly he’s trying not to overshadow his director and costar, who should be the primary focal points for the film. I know he’s never been 100% at ease on red carpets either, which I consider a good character trait. He does seem to be trying to stick with Ivan Sen’s promotional line that the film doesn’t have a specific “message”, which could probably be more accurately phrased as it’s not trying to hit you over the head with any messages. But the film IS clearly trying to make viewers think about not-always-comfortable issues, and probably raises a lot of questions while also trying to entertain viewers and invest them in solving the central crime.  I guess directors always try to word things carefully when trying to promote to the mass audience. Usually Hugo has a lot of insightful comments about his roles… this time he seems to be trying to shift attention to Sen, and not give too much away. Maybe that is a wise tactic before the film opens wide, but I would love to hear his thoughts on Mystery Road in more depth once the film has had time to find its audience.  But then I’d love to read/watch an in-depth interview with Hugo on any subject. 😉

There are a few new photos, including a lovely, high-res shot of Hugo and Katrina mingling with the crowd, and an arrivals shot from Yvette, waiting under the cut. (Don’t want to crash any browsers…)

Hugo and Katrina  Photo: TalknLoud via Twitter

Hugo’s car arrives at the State Theatre   Photo: Yvette

Here are a few of my screencaps from last night’s red carpet video:

Hugo Weaving arrives with Katrina and Samara:

So far there haven’t been a ton of print articles about the Mystery Road premiere– just one in the Daily Telegraph, which unfortunately chose to highlight marital gossip about one of the guests rather than the film itself. But it does include a pic of Hugo.

Ivan Sen and producer David Jowsey will participate in a Q&A about Mystery Road on June 9 at noon– hopefully that will be filmed and posted online. More info here for anyone in Sydney interested in going. Hugo isn’t scheduled to attend, but he’s already busy in his role as Jury President of this year’s Sydney Film Festival. He and fellow jurors Joshua Oppenheimer, Kath Shelper and Paolo Bertolin were photographed at the premiere of Oppenheimer’s film The Act of Killing earlier tonight:

From the Sydney Film Festival Facebook page

Nice to see Hugo back in his default uniform. 😉

We finally have a bit of news about Hugo’s next film to premiere, Tim Winton’s The Turning, courtesy a lavish profile/fashion spread featuring David Wenham, Hugo’s frequent costar and friend, who is making his directorial debut on the project. Since there is quite a bit of crossover between the Weaving and Wenham fandoms, I’ll post the whole article behind a cut… Hugo fans will want to pay special attention to page 6. The story essentially confirms that Hugo will play a character called “Honest Bob” Lang in an adaptation of Tim Winton’s story “Commission.”The story in the book is a interior monologue from that character’s son, who is sent to track down his long-absent father. The son, to be played by Josh McConville, wrestles with memories as he undertakes the journey, and eventually describes the meeting. Since it’s strictly a third-person-limited story from the son’s perspective, there’s no dialogue, just a description of what happened, so it’ll be intriguing to see how the story is dramatized. Certainly its circumspect qualities (and the “local legend” status of Bob) require quality acting chops. I wonder if Wenham will use flashbacks, or keep Bob a mystery until the end? If the latter, it’ll be more of a cameo for Hugo, but a memorable one. But I don’t want to play spoiler-monkey here.

A few more reviews posted since the last update continue the trend of suggesting the film is a “slow burn” (yes, I think every single reviewer has used that phrase) with strong performances, thought-provoking themes and beautiful cinematography but a languid pace which some approaved of and others thought slowed the film too much. A few quotes:

Frank Hatherley, Screen Daily: “It’s a bold, unexpected advance: especially as his chosen genre is the Western — cowboys, hats, boots, guns and all…   Returning to his roots in a small country town “in the middle of nowhere”, Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pederson), a dedicated aboriginal cop, soon becomes enmeshed in the ramifications of the brutal murder of a teenaged indigenous girl at Massacre Creek… Working increasingly on his own, Jay moves deeper into a mystery that soon encompasses his own abandoned family — a bitter ex-wife and an aimless daughter who moves in the same crowd as the murdered girl. He is constantly stalled by his Sergeant (Tony Barry) and threatening Drug Squad officer, Johnno (Hugo Weaving). As the cover-up slowly cracks, the movie heads for the nearby hills for a thrilling shoot-out of which John Wayne would have been proud…

Even though Hugo Weaving is terrific as the dangerous, secret-keeping cop, Pederson retains the central focus as Jay — troubled, unhappy, determined to do the right thing. It’s a performance in the tight-jawed, unhurried style of the great Western heroes.
What stops Mystery Road from wider release is its deliberately steady pace. Time passes slowly in this backblocks town and Sen, at two hours length, takes his time to introduce a host of characters, their dilapidated housing, their bleak surroundings. But the tension certainly grows and an explosive climax brings considerable thrills.”Jemima Bucknell, Film Fervor: “Pedersen is a strange cowboy, and it is hard to know where he begins and the character of Jay Swan ends. As Jay, he is uncomfortable in his clothes, an indigenous man with a badge, the kind of mix-up that has him walking a narrow line between the two extremely divided groups – there is a fantastic scene of him showing a local boy his gun in exchange for information. He also has a distinctive walk. Not quite John Wayne’s slanted swagger, but a heaviness in his stride that makes him both intimidating and awkward. The police, who include Hugo Weaving, are secretive and smart-mouthed, and have some of the worst on-screen eating habits to date. Jay’s disgust with these white fellas is written almost permanently on his face….Aside from the re-tooling of all the characters’ vocals – which were incredibly deep and loud (though, perhaps the cinema’s fault) – and some strange framing choices, Mystery Road is a good Australian film and rare insight into indigenous life, both in a day-to-day dialogue and considering the racial myths that appear to be perpetuated – by both sides – about which side of the law a black fella belongs, and what lawfulness means in a community that no longer cares.”

Samuel John Mullins, Magnanimous Revelry: “The subtextual commentary on race relations is far more successful than the actual text, as the mystery of the girl’s death proves to be fairly boiler-plate. There are drug runners and addicts and hunters and a few crooked cops and while it all comes together in a thrilling, marvellously staged shootout in the ragged brown hills of extremely rural Queensland, the glacial pace of proceedings deadens the impact once we get there…

But then the central plot kicks in and when Jay has to interact with others the film grinds to a halt. It’s not the fault of Pederson or any of the famous Aussie faces that populate the town, who fill their characters with life and personality; rather it’s a problem in the writing as scene after scene rolls out with Jay talking to one other person, shot at middle distance from the waist up, cutting from one person to the other as they each churn out their piece of the exposition puzzle…

Hugo Weaving, Ryan Kwanten, and Jack Thompson are all magnetic on the screen and do their best to make it work, but there’s only so much on the page for them to use. I would’ve loved to see Sen take a page out of Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs Miller and thrown all the characters together in a room a few times and have them talk freely and naturally rather than the stilted TV like scenes we get…As it stands, Mystery Road is a competent, intriguing film that has a few interesting and challenging things to say about race relations in Australia.”

Isabelle Galet-Lalande, We Are The Movies: “For all of Sen’s upbeat public personality, his films are not ‘easy’ viewing. Slowly revealed plots with lingering scenic shots, minimal dialogue and a large proportion of untrained actors, MYSTERY ROAD is trademark Sen. It’s a style that we’ve come to associate with the ‘inner world’ of the Outback: the vast expanses and sleepy pace of small-town life in rural Australia, a sight unknown to most urban dwellers that few have captured with as much poetry and authenticity as this young filmmaker…

Sitting in the darkened cinema, you can’t help but feel this is an important moment in the history of Australian cinema. We don’t see this sort of movie on the big screen every day, let alone in front of a power-wielding A-list audience. MYSTERY ROAD presents a grim vision of the wall that still exists between urban and rural Australia today; but instead of visible segregation, we see entire populations left in the dark to fend for themselves.”

Megan Lehmann, The Hollywood Reporter: “Blending genre conventions with subtle commentary on race relations in a colonized landscape, the writer-director-cinematographer-editor follows up the striking realist features Beneath Clouds and Toomelah by corralling a top Australian cast and crafting his most commercial film yet. A strong art house showing seems assured when Sen and his producer David Jowsey distribute the low-budget hybrid Western/murder-mystery domestically through their own Dark Matter film company on Aug. 15. Arclight has licensed U.S. rights to Well Go USA for a 2014 release…

[Aaron] Pedersen is superb as the square-jawed protagonist, stoic in the face of blatant disinterest from his sergeant (Tony Barry) and the thinly veiled animosity of Hugo Weaving’s menacing fellow cop…  The plot doesn’t so much thicken as expand to fill the wide-open landscapes shot with the spare framing and stillness of style that Sen has trademarked. Aerial shots of Jay criss-crossing the town along stringy dirt roads rope in a wide assortment of peripheral characters, giving juicy cameos to Jack Thompson as a melancholic loner, Damian Walshe-Howling as a petty criminal, Bruce Spence as the town coroner, the snowy-haired Jack Charles as the sly, all-seeing Old Boy and David Field and True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten as a casually racist father and son.

Strong characterization and Sen’s distinctive visual style trump plot, which advances at a crawl and occasionally stumbles over a surfeit of fringe characters and too-obvious MacGuffins. The journey is overlong (the multi-talented Sen should have outsourced the editing) but entertaining, helped along by the slowly swinging pendulum of a reverb-heavy soundtrack and a dose of laconic humor. A cracking shootout finale on Slaughter Hill shows Sen as much in command of action scenes as atmospherics.”


That’s all for now, but I’ll keep you posted as Hugo goes about his SFF duties. Yes, I do make note of the films he goes to see… he’s usually pretty spot-on, though we never get to hear his perspective on most of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if he skipped most of the high-profile Hollywood titles and focused on more obscure titles from far-flung corners of the globe. But he will have to attend all competition screenings.


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