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Picnic At Hanging Rock (Director's Cut)
Australia 1975
Directed by Peter Weir
Running time 104 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars


Picnic At Hanging Rock, which is based on the real and never-solved disappearance of a trio of schoolgirls and teacher whilst on summer's picnic at aforesaid geological outcrop is an icon of Australia's 70s film renaissance, being the first of many quality dramas that the decade produced and which have defined Australia film to an international audience.

Despite its stature, and no doubt because of the relative lack of experience in the industry of the time, it is a rather laboured effort, albeit evidently well-meant. The production design is excellent(in what became a typical feature of the 70s film, somewhat fetishing colonial decor) but the best aspect is the evocative cinematography by Russell Boyd, but even this is drowned by the overbearing soundtrack by Bruce Smeaton with its insistent pan pipes. The script is banal and makes the whiney-voiced, fluttering girls seem to have the intellectual sophistication of 12 year-olds, which may be true to the Joan Lindsay novel from which this is taken but it hardly makes for rivetting viewing. Most of the characters are precious and over-acted with Helen Morse's French teacher bordering on the annoying and only Rachel Roberts' stern principal leavening the proceedings. Weir, however was a good choice as director, his taste for woolly metaphysics and arcane ruminations padding out (the director's cut shortens the original cinema release by 10 minutes) the slim narrative premise and making for a pleasant enough nostalgia-tinged diversion .

DVD Extras: Umbrella's handsomely packaged 2 disc release will please fans and students of this film alike. There is a new 2 hour documentary A Dream Within A Dream featuring interviews with the main cast and crew; a 1975 25 min on-set documentary presented by Pat Lovell; excerpts from a 1974 interview with Joan Lindsay: a video tour of the film's 2 principal locations and audio interviews with Karen Robson and Dominic Guard. The gem of the extras is a short film The Day Of St. Valentine which in a striking instance of nascent indie film-making was made by 13 year old Tony Ingram and his friends in 1969 before Lindsay sold the rights although sadly no explanation of who Ingram is or what became of his interest in film. An extensive stills and poster gallery and collections of trailers rounds off the package.

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment

 

 

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