The Perpetual French Discovery of Australian Cinema
9. Perpetual Discovery 241
241 9. Perpetual Discovery The French Critical Reception of Australian Cinema 1995-2001 From the mid-1990s, following the kitsch spectacle of Austra- lia’s international successes in Muriel’s Wedding and The Adven- tures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Australian filmmaking headed into a period defined by the aesthetic of the ‘arthouse’ film. The movement consisted, on the one hand, of films of a brutal honesty in their depiction of disturbing violence and a sense of the harsh ‘reality’ of life in the less-familiar urban Aus- tralian landscape. On the other, the industry was producing films that sustained the aesthetic of the ‘strange’ or ‘bizarre’ that had developed in Australian film earlier in the decade. The French critical response to this period of Australian filmmaking reveals the perpetuation of the marginalisation of Australian cinema and Australian national identity in France, with themes such as ‘discovery’, ‘amazement’, ‘distance’ and ‘isolation’ punctuating French writing on the Australian films of the era, twenty-five to thirty years after the Australian cinema revival. * * * The cinema of Rolf de Heer represents the work of a filmmaker whose often disturbing singularity, within the context of an al- ready marginalised national cinema, clearly isolates him from the commercial mainstream. De Heer’s films have earned the director a reputation for unconventionality; not only in terms of style, but particularly in regard to the challenge his work poses for ‘conventional’ taste and morality. This translates into a con- fronting viewing experience for the spectator, and a resultant polarisation of critical responses to...
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