Sunday, May 3, 2009

Baz Luhrmann's Australia (2008)

Finally got around to seeing Baz Luhrmann's Australia. Wish we'd seen this on the big screen: it really would have been worth it.

Most of what I have to say about this is captured nicely in Mahnola Dargis's comment (quoted in the film's Wikipedia entry) that it celebrates "kitsch as an act of aesthetic communion."

The fact that Dargis feels she has to point out that it's kitsch almost makes me annoyed, but I have to admit that I know there's kitsch here, and Luhrmann knows there's kitsch here. We can't really go back to the more innocent times when these things were real, when these clichés weren't yet clichés.

What we can do, what Luhrmann does, is handle them with so much energy and love that we remember why they became clichés, i.e. why they were so popular to begin with. He reminds us why they work.

Why what work? Impossibly handsome leading men striding sweaty out of the desert in a slow-motion cloud of dust. Cute prescient kids arresting us with their world-containing eyes. Stalwart retainers laying down their lives for the cause. Swelling music, bodice-ripping kisses.

In lesser hands, these would be risible. Luhrmann shows us how much potential they contain to move us. To mean.