Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Australia Controversy

australia poster
Originally uploaded by Asso Pixiel
For those in the know the post production on Baz Luhrmann’s Australia has been a thing of controversy. For weeks now it’s been rumored that the film isn’t finished, that the studio and Lurhmann are in fights, etc. Awhile ago I had a chance to see an advanced screening of Australia; as with most advanced screenings the film was nowhere near done – that’s just how it works. However, it was readily apparent that Australia would be a good and entertaining film but there were rumors about what was happening behind the scenes. The rumors were that the studio a) wanted to cut the film down, and b) hated the ending. While I know it’s not that common for studios to give a director final cut of their film any longer I would argue that Luhrmann should have it – particularly on a film of epic proportions like Australia.

My first argument would be to look at the classic films like Gone with the Wind and Lawrence of Arabia - these are films that are huge in all senses of the word and they are probably the two films I can think of that are most similar to Australia. I have already been telling people that I think Australia is Gone with the Wind for Australia; both films are grand, lavish love stories that are set in a very distinctive time and region. I also think Australia can be compared to Lawrence of Arabia which is a love story about the land and the culture. Both Gone with the Wind and Lawrence of Arabia are over three hours long, and as much about the images on the screen as they are about the story being told and are considered to be some of the best in the film cannon. My point here is that while long movies may no longer be widely sought by studios & audiences, well made epics endure forever no matter what their length and Australia is nothing if not an epic.

The studio thinking that audiences will not sit through a long movie is completely untrue. In the past decade Titanic and three Lord of the Rings films have proven that an audience will sit through a movie of any length as long as it is a good and compelling story. I tell you now that while I may not be able to say with finality that Australia is a perfect film, I can tell you that if Luhrmann was able it will be a good and moving tale.

The perfect example of why Luhrmann should be given complete control of Australia is perhaps Moulin Rouge!. Moulin Rouge! is a cinematic spectacle that no one else could have achieved and it is responsible for the resurgence of the musical into contemporary film. This Luhrmann film was nominated for eight Oscar’s and won two; the biggest travesty (which was even commented on by the host of the evening Whoopi Goldberg) was that Luhrmann didn’t get nominated for Best Director – and the film was so obviously the work of a masterful director. Luhrmann proved that he can make a visually stunning film, a film that bucks the current film trends, and make the film entertaining, a pop culture phenomenon and bring critical recognition. In my opinion Luhrmann’s previous film is the best reason why he should be left alone and allowed to make the film that he see’s in his mind’s eye.

One of the biggest controversy’s about Australia is how it is going to end – the actual film itself that is. I won’t spoil anything here but as always, it’s said that the studio wanted control over the ending as well as the running length of the film. According to at least one source Baz is firmly in control of his film; in fact this source claims he filmed three endings to the movie, only tested two and the third is the one attached to the film. One can only hope that Luhrmann really did retain the reigns of his film and we see what he wanted us to see.

I have to say that I am just as excited about seeing the finished version of Australia as I was about getting into the advanced screening, especially if it still holds a few surprises for me. On November 26 you will be able to see a full review of what I thought of the cut of Australia I saw at the advanced screening I attended and I hope to post my review of the final cut soon after; both will be available at The Director Is In. It is my hope that Australia will be as good as I hoped it would be and that it won’t be enjoyable to only the Luhrmann geeks like me.


Sushi said...

Sushi say,

Eat chocolate.
Drink tea.
Be merry.

Sushi has spoken.

Anonymous said...

Haven't seen it yet but I guess I'll catch it on DVD. I think Baz will get his day in the sun one day though in terms of Best Director Oscar.

Adam said...

I hope so. He's a born filmmaker, really and truly. Unfortunately, his next film is going to have to be significantly better than Australia if he wants the little gold guy.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if he goes back to the musical genre then?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, his next film is going to have to be significantly better than Australia if he wants the little gold guy.

Took me awhile to catch up to this one but I'll have to agree with you on that. Though, I would like to see the alternate endings now.