Townsville’s film lovers will be treated to two very special screenings this weekend when Townsville Classic Films hosts one of Australia’s most highly celebrated film makers.
John Duigan will present his own film, The Year My Voice Broke (1987), and one of his personal favourites, Amarcord (1973) by Federico Fellini, at the Dancenorth theatre this Saturday and Sunday evening, respectively.
We caught up with John to understand what’s made these two films – both more than 30 years old – so everlasting, why it’s important we continue to celebrate old films, and why the big screen will always beat the laptop.
For those who haven’t seen The Year My Voice Broke, what should we expect?
It’s a film about three outsiders or misfits who live in a small country town on the southern tablelands of New South Wales. It’s set in 1962 and it has the first major performance by Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One, The Dark Knight Rises, Bloodline) who since of course has become quite a big star in America, he was around 18 years old when he did this film; and of course, Noah Taylor (Game of Thrones, Tomb Raider, Edge of Tomorrow) who also has a stellar career overseas. It’s about growing up in a country town and the gradual revelation of a big skeleton in the closet that’s collectively held by the older people in the town.
How has your relationship with the film changed over the past 30 years?
It’s a film that I feel very close to. I lived in a country town when I came to Australia and in some respects, I drew on my knowledge of the town and the rural landscape to make the film. I think it’s a film that doesn’t date and people have told me from all sorts of countries who’ve seen the film that they knew characters like that and had experiences very similar to that. People from countries as different as Poland and Germany and Lithuania; even someone from Belarus once told me that. It’s a film which has traveled a lot.
Have viewer reactions changed in that time?
I’ve not seen it with an audience for a few years now, it’s always interesting to sit with an audience and see how it works and the different sort of experiences that it generates with people. You often find that people pick up on different nuances, but because it very much relates to a trio of close friends who lived in a country town, anybody who has knowledge of that kind of environment will find something they can identify with and that hasn’t changed over the years.
How does Amarcord compliment The Year My Voice Broke? Why pair the two?
Fellini described Amarcord as him revisiting his memories of growing up in the town of Rimini in the Adriatic Coast in the early 1930s when Italy was under the control of the dictator Benito Mussolini. It’s a very exuberant and life-affirming film; a very different kind of film to The Year My Voice Broke, which is a very realistic, naturalistic film in its style of acting; and Fellini’s film is a series of rather wonderful vignettes and they’re sort of loosely related and based around the experiences of him and one of his best friends. So, it’s two different views of growing up in rather different cultures and different environments. Fellini was one of my favourite film makers as a student. He’s less known among young people these days but he had a wonderful body of work, and at least three of his films won Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film during the period of the 50s and 60s. He made such films as La Dolce Vita and coined words like paparazzi that he actually created for that film, that have gone into the language, so he was an exceptionally influential film maker in his period and I feel that it’s a shame really that his films seldom get shown these days.
Why do you think it’s important that we continue to celebrate the films of by-gone era?
It’s like any artist that has really had a major cultural influence – whether it’s a painter, a writer, a poet, musician or indeed a film-maker – works that have been really celebrated in the past can have a similarly dynamic and inspiring effect on audiences these days, so I think it’s really good that Mark [Enders] and Townsville Classic Films is reintroducing films of this kind. But also for me, I think the way to see and enjoy films at their best is to sit in a dark auditorium with a group of people and share that collective experience of watching a film on the big screen. You see so much more than you do on the best of TV sets or laptops. I mean most people these days see their films that way and it’s a shame because they’re made for the big screen and particularly a film like The Year My Voice Broke is a beautifully photographed film by Geoff Burton, one of Australia’s best cinematographers. The light is exceptional in it and was it widely praised for that aspect of it as well in its travels overseas. And Fellini is a master of orchestrating big spectacular scenes and set pieces, so you can look anywhere on the screen on a Fellini film and you will see new bits of details that are so easy to miss if you are seeing it on a small screen.
Townsville Classic Films will screen The Year My Voice Broke at 7pm on Saturday, 11 November 2017 and Amarcord at 7pm on Sunday, 12 November 2017 at Dancenorth. Both films will be followed by a Q&A session with John Duigan. For more information, visit Townsville Classic Films.