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Australia 1975
Directed by
Peter Weir
104 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Picnic At Hanging Rock (Director's Cut)

Picnic At Hanging Rock, which is based on the real and never-solved disappearance of a trio of schoolgirls and their teacher whilst on a summer's picnic at the title's geological outcrop is an icon of Australia's 1970s 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 '70s film, somewhat fetishing colonial decor) but the best aspect is the evocative cinematography by Russell Boyd, even though this is somewhat drowned out 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 twelve-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 ten minutes) the slim narrative and making for a pleasant enough nostalgia-tinged diversion whose reputation far outweighs its reputation.




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