Hugo Weaving’s two major films for Autumn 2013 (spring for Australians) continue to accrue positive reviews and word-of-mouth in advance of wide release, and Mystery Road continues to be a popular selection at a variety of worldwide film festivals, suggesting it might not be as slighted in international distribution as many of Hugo’s Australian films have been.
The most exciting new item this week has been a three-minute featurette from Madman Films in which many of the stars and directors of Tim Winton’s The Turning discuss the author’s influence. Hugo Weaving and David Wenham are both featured prominently, discussing their short “Commission”… and there’s also the revelation that Hugo appears both with and without a beard in the film, which should please the full spectrum of fans. 😉 (Though if the anti-beard faction hasn’t figured out that the beard is Hugo’s personal preference by now…) Not sure if this means Hugo’s character Bob Lang is depicted at two different ages, or if he shaves for plot reasons I’ll avoid divulging. (The plot involves Lang being sought out by his estranged son Vic after a long absence.) A younger version of Bob Lang, portrayed by other actors, appears in at least two other segments of the film.
I have finally started reading Tim Winton’s book after multiple indications by reviewers that viewers might be slightly lost without it. I haven’t yet reached “Commission”, though I’d read the first couple of pages earlier to glean clues about Hugo’s possible character. Though some advance publicity for the film makes the book sound imposing, overly arty or so Australian that it might confuse non-Aussies… none of these things are remotely true. It’s a page-turner and profoundly moving from the get-go, and the characters, while quintessentially Australian, have universally-recognizable human traits. It covers a span of about 30 years, but does so in mostly chronological order. It isn’t remotely hard to follow or prone to meta/lit-major discursions and in-jokes like, say, Cloud Atlas. 😉 The major challenge the book would present to film adaptation is that most of the stories are first-person or third-person-limited recollections, which are often difficult to translate without resorting to a lot of voiceover narration. But Last Ride demonstrated that there are visual ways of working around this without excessive VO, and most early reviews suggest that all of the film’s directors found creative solutions. Also, it might not be a great idea to try reading the book in a crowded public location like, say, an auto repair shop if you don’t particularly enjoy weeping openly in front of others. Yes, the book gets its hooks in you at the earliest opportunity.
Here are a few screencaps I took of the featurette, including a humorous exchange between Wenham and Weaving that I’d love to hear the audio for:
I’d mentioned earlier that it looked unlikely that Hugo would attend the Toronto International Film Festival screenings of Mystery Road later this week– now I know why. And it’s a very good reason. Hugo and David Wenham, along with producer Robert Connolly, are scheduled to introduce The Turning at its official Sydney premiere on 11 September at 7.15 pm at the Hayden Orpheum. It’s typical (and very endearing) of Hugo to opt for promoting a landmark Australian film at home rather than choosing the glitzier, high-profile international promo gig. (Also, I’ve heard Ivan Sen is busy making a film in China, and is thus also unavailable to go to Toronto, and Hugo has repeatedly shown his preference that Sen and star Aaaron Pedersen get the primary attention for Mystery Road.) Hugo might also have work-related reasons for staying close to home, but those are unknown at the moment. While it’s probably too early for Waiting for Godot to be in rehearsals, he is probably at least doing early prep work for that role as well.
The two-week special release of The Turning is selling out quickly, so Australian viewers should book tickets now while they still can. No international distribution info has yet been announced. While it’s probably too much to hope for the loving treatment the film has received at home in international release, I do believe the film will find an audience worldwide, and it deserves a wide international release in its original cut.
Some recent reviews:
Shaun Heenan, Popcorn Taxi: “The 17 segments were filmed separately, with completely different crews, and cover a multitude of styles…
Several of Australia’s big-name actors make appearances, and they’re uniformly impressive. Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett’s performances both consist, largely, of long, unbroken shots, allowing them to craft believable characters quickly. Rose Byrne gives a true stand-out performance as Rae, in Claire McCarthy’s titular segment The Turning, which appears around the half-way mark….
While the A-list actors have many of the showier parts, the lesser-known cast keeps up with them handily. There really isn’t a weak link in this collection; each short is directed well and shot beautifully. While several shorts stand out—Aquifer, Reunion, Defender—not a single one falters. It’s something of a miracle that so many directors, casts and crews can all work separately and still produce a film that feels so cohesive. This is cinematic ambition fulfilled on the grandest scale.”
Simon Miraudo, Quickflix: “The magical thing about Tim Winton’s The Turning is how consistently good it is. That it occasionally touches greatness makes it miraculous…
Though every episode has its own flavour, different casts, and little in common, stylistically, with any other, nine of them revolve around the same characters: the troubled Vic Lang, his anxious wife Gail, ailing mother Carol, and estranged father Bob. The best come from this batch. The filmmakers aren’t much concerned with keeping Vic’s timeline consistent. His age and race fluctuates, none of his stories are presented in chronological order, and, in the penultimate passage, he’s depicted in a wordless modern dance routine. It gives The Turning an ‘ebb and flow’ kind of feeling; matched by the tide of the ocean so often glimpsed in these coastal West Australian tales.
Tim Winton’s The Turning requires a big investment from viewers. Not all entries will resonate, and some will flat out frustrate and challenge. Nonetheless, this is indeed a special event: an unprecedented gathering of homegrown talent, both on screen and behind the camera. Enough amuse, many astound, and all intrigue. They succeed in holding you within their story; tricking you into thinking for their brief runtime that you’re actually watching a feature-length picture. When a segment abruptly cuts to black, part of you wishes we weren’t moving on, even though the promise of something better lies ahead. Yet, each still feels whole. That’s a success.” (Four stars)
Shayne Travis Grieve, This Is Film: “Typically a compiled work of this magnitude has the propensity to fall flat under the weight of its own bold aspirations, but for the most part, The Turning avoids this fate. While the sprawling 3-hour run time asks much of the viewer, each shortly lived chapter is assigned to a single director from various arenas of the Australian Arts scene. Connolly’s choice to divide and designate in this fashion gives the film the much needed diversity and creative energy to maintain interest and momentum throughout…
The rich and culturally diverse ensemble cast is truly outstanding and is headlined by some of our most respected and revered performers including Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh, Rose Byrne, Miranda Otto and Hugo Weaving. Amongst all that Australian royalty, the standout performances belong to Byrne and Weaving. Both depict gritty and bleak characters that are shattered and broken by abuse. Both fervent portrayals are absolutely captivating and demand your utmost attention…
The Turning’s ambition must be recognised and applauded. Though theatrically this film will struggle to find its audience, I’m certain these works will garner far greater attention and admiration over the following years, as a watershed moment for collaborative Australian filmmaking. For the time-being, The Turning should also break the underlining cynicism that many feel towards the overall mismanagement of the Australian Film Industry. Despite its missteps, this stunningly original concept provides even further evidence that our industry can deliver bold and passionate artistic works when given its chance. ”
I made every effort to attend the Toronto Film Fest screenings of Mystery Road despite the advance knowledge that Hugo wouldn’t be participating, but was undone by a variety of highly annoying, somewhat trivial obstacles. (One involved the car repairs previously alluded to, the other was the government’s utter inability to turn around passport renewals without an applicant in effect offering a bribe.) 😉 I do have two tickets to the September 9 screening if anyone wants one last-minute. The September 7 premiere is sold out. I should also mention that the TIFF ticketing system– including not making single tickets available until a week before the festival, and the “virtual waiting room” where one languishes for hours waiting for an alleged ticketing window as a clock winds down, only to have the clock arbitrarily, repeatedly reset itself just as the buyer reaches the 30-second mark– is a boondoggle which could provide Franz Kafka with plenty of story fodder if he were alive and writing today. 😉 I understand the interest in selling premium packages to wealthy patrons, etc, but one shouldn’t have to invest hundreds of dollars to have more than a week to plan a trip. I’ve never had this issue with any other film festival, or with obtaining theater tickets. Yes, there are always membership privileges and early access, but the general public can still get decent tickets well in advance.
I am glad, however, that Mystery Road’s TIFF screenings have been so popular in advance, and hope they lead to proper North American distribution early next year.
Mystery Road added a couple of new festival berths in the past week: it will be showcased at the “Thrill Gala” in the BFI London Film Festival on 10 October, with additional screenings on the 11th and 19th. You can buy tickets and read more at LFF’s website. Mystery Road will also screen at the Busan International Film Festival in Korea, where Oranges and Sunshine had its world premiere in 2010. Specific dates and times have not yet been announced, but you can read more here. The Busan festival runs October 3-12. I hope some of you British and Korean fans are able to go. More on both festivals at Screen Australia’s website (Busan) and Screen Daily (LFF).
There have been a couple of recent posts on Healing’s Facebook page recently after a quiet summer. There was a photo posted of director Craig Monahan and crew working hard on post-production/editing, and a notice that the film has already won the 2013 Queensland Literary Award for Best Feature Film Script. So it sounds like the stretch of quality Hugo Weaving films will continue into next year. (Healing premieres in Australia in early 2014, with international distribution TBD.)
The Key Man
Though this obscure film– shot in 2006 and completed in 2011– remains in an infuriating wide release limbo, and has only been seen in a handful of countries seemingly selected at random (the Middle East, Eastern Europe and New Zealand among them) a small amount of quality footage was shared by one of the film’s cinematographers Tarin Anderson on Vimeo. Though there’s a frustrating lack of audio, this very much whets the appetite for the rest of the film, as we see plenty of Hugo’s charming rogue Victor, who looks to be much more fun than the similar McHeath character (in The Tender Hook). And the obvious 70s cinema homage techniques are also on display, especial in that woozy circular dolly shot. 😉 I really hope that Occupant Films gets its act together and releases the film properly. Fans have been waiting too long to see it.
Thanks to Elisa at RS for the YouTube embed… as usual, LJ flakes out on most non-YouTube video posts. 😉
I’ll be back on the 11th to cover the Sydney premiere of Mystery Road, and ideally to share any new photos and video available then.