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Australia 1977
Directed by
Phillip Noyce
60 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Backroads

Phillip Noyce's first feature which has Russell Boyd as cinematographer is an existentialist road movie that has at its core the relationship between an Aboriginal and a white Australian drifter. Based on a short story by John Emery but with dialogue largely improvised by its stars Gary Foley, a well-known Aboriginal activist of the time, and Bill Hunter, and released the same year as Fred Schepisi's more polished The Chant Of Jimmy Blacksmith, the did not find a local audience but was noticed at the Berlin Film Festival and at Cannes.

Made on a budget of $28,000 and influenced by American filmmakers like Cassavetes and Altman and films such as Monte Hellman's Two-Lane Blacktop and reflecting Noyce's background in documentary film, it is seat-of-the-pants film-making that works, being both fictional and realistic, entertaining and serious at the same time.

FYI: There was another ending intended for the film with the 3 main protagonists making it to Sydney and disappearing into urban anonymity but budgetary considerations and Foley's pessimistic view of Black Australia at the time determined the ending that we see.

 

 

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