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Australia 1974
Directed by
Dave Jones
87 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Yackety Yak

Dave Jones was an American-born academic teaching media studies at Melbourne’s Latrobe University when he made Yackety Yak on a $4000 budget from a script he had written for a low-budget film to be shot in a theatre. The script was never produced but when in the heady early '70s Jones got funding from the Experimental Division of the new Australian Film and Television School to produce it, a version was shot in a week in a basement at the university with Jones in the lead and also filling the role of editor and using a cast of non-professional actors.

The result, a dead-pan spoof of counter-cultural film making, is one of the most dryly amusing films to have been made in Australia - a kind of Godard-meets-Warhol-Downunder. The set-up involves a trio of wannabes trying to make a film. The director, Maurice (Jones) decides that they need to create a new, more authentic cinema. Although he doesn’t know how to do it and his compadres (John Flaus and Peter Carmody) think the idea is crap, he presses on regardless with the production degenerating into shambles.

Made with Jones’s students as crew the result is an absurdist delight with Jones mercilessly lampooning the pretensions of art film makers. Flaus and Carmody are excellent as his embattled associates unable to extricate themselves from the folly in which they are embroiled. Peggy Cole as Carolyn, the director’s dim-witted girlfriend spends most of her screen-time naked (in order to generate ticket sales) and three fellow faculty members play famous suicides - Socrates, Mishima, and Kirilov from Dostoevsky’s 'The Possessed' who inform Maurice's own intention to top himself in the name of art . Although one needs to be familiar with the film’s references for the parody to be truly effective for anyone who likes their humour with a large twist of the absurd, Yackety Yak is a gem.

FYI: The older gentleman who appears as a passer-by is Jerzy Toeplitz, co-founder of the famous Polish Film School and the Australian Film and Television School's first director.




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