The Perpetual French Discovery of Australian Cinema
293 Conclusions There is a clear parallel to be drawn between the critical recep- tion of Australian cinema in France and the French critics’ per- ception of Australian cultural identity more generally. French critical writing on Australian cinema over the thirty-year period from 1971 to 2001 is characterised by a theme of perpetual ‘dis- covery’ of both Australian cinema and Australia as a national cultural identity. On the one hand, the French critics identify Australia as an exotic and distant European Antipodes; on the other, a loosely defined Australian specificity struggles to emerge from a perceived hegemony of Anglo-Saxon and, par- ticularly, American culture. The cultural markers used by the French critics to distin- guish an Australian specificity differ from those used within the English-speaking world, where linguistic variation constitutes a primary indicator of nationality-specific cultural origin. In the absence of linguistic reference, we have seen that the French critics tend to focus on geographical features to distinguish an Australian specificity – most notably the Australian desert landscape, and also Australia’s considerable distance from Europe. Given the fact that the French critics are writing for a French audience, the tendency is, quite naturally, to situate France at the ‘centre’, with Australia clearly at the other side, or opposite end, of the world. The positioning of Australia as a distant other is comple- mented by a suggested cultural ‘emptiness’ that reflects the bar- ren landscape. Australia’s geographical isolation is frequently referred to either as an indication, or explanation, of cultural and societal...
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