Children of the Revolution

by Ben Bradshaw

Cast and Crew
Web-sites
The Search for Information
Synopsis and Comment
Critical Uptake
Director, cast and crew
On contemporary critical horizon
Medium-sized English language cinema
Works Cited

Cast and Crew:

F. Murray Abraham- Joseph Stalin

Judy Davis- Joan Fraser

John Gaden- Wilke

Rachel Griffiths- Anna

Russel Keifel- Barry

Sam Neill- David Hoyle

Richard Roxburg- Joe Welch

Geoffry Rush- Zachery Welch

Tristan Miall- Producer

Peter Duncan- Director, Screenwriter

Martin McGrath- Cinematographer

Financial Entities/ Production Companies:

Beyond Films Ltd.

Australian Asset Securities Ltd.

Australian Film Finance Corporation

Rev Kids Pty Ltd.

New South Wales Film and Television Office

Miramax

Box Office:$1000000 (http://www.neosoul.com/movies.1997.html)

Release Dates: 1 May 1997 in New York and Los Angles

9 May 1997 in the rest of the USA

Interview with Peter Duncan:

Cinema Papers. n113. December 1996. p22-26

SMH Metro Features ( http://www.smh.com.au/metro/content/961220/feat1.html)

Reviews and Articles:

Variety. 5 August 1996 p49-50

Screen International. n1057. 10 May p22

Moving Pictures International. n18. May 1996 p19-26

Moving Pictures International. n11. September 1995. p4.

Screen International. n1012 - 30 June 1995 p30

Screen International. n1002 - 7 April 1995 p2

Internet Coverage:

The most extensive coverage of Children of the Revolution (COTR) I found on the internet. This was mainly in the form of film reviews, film information and related articles on the issues that the film covered.

Web-sites:

All movie guide- http://allmovie.com/cgi-win/avg.com

The Complete Oscars, 1927-today- http://us.imbd.com/

Washington Post- Washingtonpost.com: Say you want a 'revolution'

E!- http://E!online/reviews/movies/leaves/0,20,239,00.html

Salon Magazine- http://www.salonmagazine.com/may97/children970509.html

Seattle Sidewalk- http://seattle.sidewalk.com/detail/23635

Cinema1- http://www.cinema1.com.movies97/childrenoftherevolution/us.html

Hollywood Top Stories- http://www.hollywood.com/news/topstories/01-17-98/html/2-2.html

Free Press- http://www.freep.com/fun/movies/qchild9.htm

http://www.newsday.com/movies/mmxz049.htm

Sam Neill- http://www.lib.virginia.edu/exhibits/church/rev.html

The Search for Information:

Looking for printed information on COTR was a difficult before I was told about the International Film Index. At first I was feverishly searching through journals seeking references to the movie. The formentioned index was a short-cut to bibliographical information on printed material concerning the movie. Unfortunately none of the particular issues were in the Murdoch library which was a disapointment.

The internet web-site information was quite easy to come by. A simple net search found quite a list of imformation and then it was just a matter of looking through them to find the ones which related to COTR the movie. There are web-sites which sprung from the movie for example I read one which addressed the issue of whether Joseph Stalin was good or bad. So in reguard to a movie, the internet is often used as a means of broadcasting, and a forum for discussion of relative issues raised by a movie.

There seems to be a lack of coverage of COTR in books. This I would attribute to it's recent release in 1996.

Children of the Revolution - Part Two

Synopsis and Comment

COTR is a bizzare political satire, comedy and farce which is directed and written by Peter Duncan. Judy Davis stars as a 'dead-set' Stalinist named Joan Fraser who is desparately trying to kick-start a communist revolution in Australia. Joan believes all negative commentry about Stalin to be propaganda and is constantly trying to get her point through to her 'comrade' party members who are not half as excited about a revolution as she is. Joans hard-nosed dedication leads her to get kicked out of movie theatres, where Joan is standing on her seat yelling because the movie was supposedly peddling propaganderist ideas, and workplaces where she is trying to gain the support of the workforce by preaching communist ideas to people while they are working. She writes to 'Uncle' Joseph Stalin almost everyday and her relationship with her supossed boyfriend is constantly on the backburner because she is always too wrapped up in the revolution to spare anything for him.

When Stalin (F.Murray Abraham) gets around to reading Joans letters he is compelled to sit in a room for three days going through the back catalogue which had built up. After these days pass Stalin walks out of his office and says,' Three days ago I felt like an old man now I feel like a young woman'. Stalin promptly invites Joan to Moscow. When she arrives Stalin has arranged a dinner party where in a bizzare sequence there is drinking, singing, dancing and horseplay which all ends up with Joan sleeping with him then shortly after, he dies.

Joan is confused when a double agent named David Hoyle(Sam Neill) and everyone else is his office is happy about Stalins death. She returns to Australia and discovers that she is pregnant with Stalins child. For the sake of the child Joan asks her old boyfriend Zackery Welch(Geoffrey Rush) to be the father and marry her. Joe Welch(Richard Roxburg) grows up along-side his mother through a series of rallies and visits to jail.

Joe ends up serving time in jail for refusing to fight in the Vietnam war where he develops a taste for facism when he starts reading books about history and politics. In another bizzare turn of events he ends up gaining support from the police, gaining political leverage and public approval rating. He ends up basicly becoming another Joseph Stalin.

I quite enjoyed this movie in the end. It took a little time to slip into Peter Duncans brand of twisted comedy which at first I found a bit ridiculous. This is a very original movie as I don't believe I have seen anything quite like it before. Duncans style of story-telling becomes fun and enguaging as unexpected comic twists lend themselves to a bizzare sense of humour. I don't think COTR was ever meant a very serious viewer in the general movie going public, but more for the one who doesn't mind their intelligence being ridiculed by excessive acting and seemingly silly comedy.

Critical Uptake.

COTR got a very wide range of reviews from Australian and international reviewers. Firstly a review on the on-line Australian Film Database was very negative in saying that it had 'bad sets, pathetic dialogue, horrible 'comic' lines'. The review then goes on to site a New York Time Out reviewer as saying ' Children of the Revolution is a 'grevious' new low for the 'down under' farce'.

This review labeled the film a load of trash seemingly without very much substancial evidence which didn't come from the mouth of another reviewer. A subsequent review on the same web-page written by an american reviewer says, 'I don't think many people here would understand the film'. This statement throws COTR into the domain of an obscure Australian film which couldn't compete in the American market.

On the other hand COTR got a pearl of a review in the Washington Post on 9 May 1997. Jane Horwitz describes it as a 'razor-sharp, often halarious political satire from Australia'. Horwitz praises Duncans sets and the general look of the film in '..the movie looks good in both its '50s flashbacks, it's '90s chaos and it fake newsreel footage' and then '..Duncans imaginary Kremlin look a bit like Franco's tomb-- fascistic. And why not? Authoritarian is as authoritarian does right comrade'. You can plainly see here that Horwitz has tackled her review in a positive manner rather that a negative like the other two formentioned reviewers. She is also a great deal more passionate and convincing also.

An interesting review came from the 'Free Press' reviewer. ' Children of the Revolution is a smart satire from Australian writer-director Peter Duncan who dares to challenge the quirky comic conformity that makes most Australian films almost indestinguishable'(in Free Press web-site). This render COTR a progression in Australian cinema on the landscape of international cinema. More on this later.

Director, Cast and Crew.

Peter Duncan started out as an actor in 1958 appearing in a TV series drama Blue Peter. The next reference I found wasn't until 1973 with The Tommorow People(a guest appearance), then he played Kevin in Stardust (1974), The Old Curiosity Shop(1975) and Flash Gordon(1980). This was all in the U.K.. His directing carear in Australia started in 1995 with a short film A Bit of a Tiff with the Lord(1995) which from there he went onto Children of the Revolution(1996). His most recent project as director/writer is A Little Bit of Soul(1998), which is produced by Faust Films.

The cinematographer Martin McGrath has a broad range of experince in Astralian films with titles such as Blackrock, Muriels Wedding, Dad and Dave, as well as the work he's done with Peter Duncan in A Little Bit of Soul, and of course COTR.

Judy Davis a lead actor in COTR has quite a back catalogue of appearances in Australian movies. She has won a Golden Globe Award for her appearence in One Against the Wind, got nominated for an Emmy in Serving in Silence, won 'Best Actress' at the AFI awards for Children of the Revolution. Even though she was dubbed ' a pip among a fine cast' by Jane Horwitz at the Washington Post.

Sam Neill is quite renownd for his career in acting. He has appeared in about forty-five movies all including the Speilburg hit Jurrasic Park. He acted in My Brilliant Career aswell as Judy Davis.

On Contemporary Critical Horizons.

COTR has been given an reviews to seemingly every exetreme. It has been dubbed 'a 'grevious' new low for the 'down under' farce'(Time Out), which would place Australian cinema some-what in the doldrums on critical scale. Then it was called the extreme opposite when in 'Free Press' they said it was a 'challenge [to] the quirky comic conformity that makes most Australian films almost indestinguishable', which infers it is something better and refreshing which is the opposite to a new low. The central way which Australian Cinema is refered to in these reviews are words like 'conformity' and 'down-under farce'. Reviewers take COTR and place in relation to this idea of Australian movies generally being anoyingly 'quirky', while peddling this myth of Australia 'down under'.

Australian Cinema: Medium Sized English Language Cinema.

I now want to address the question of how COTR fits into Australian Cinema as a medium-sized english language cinema in relation to how it tries to desociate itself from hollywood cinema. COTR defines a difference from hollywood cinema I believe quite explicitly through its reference to hollywood genres. As Dermody and Jacka argue, 'The 'second world' we inhabit is bound to reproduce the first world [UK and USA], but needs to assert a measure of independence, of product differeniation, to market or circulate our reproductions..'(cited in O'Regan,1996:98). So to an extent American film culture is bound to reproduced in Australian films. COTR has recognized and attempted a bit of departure in orger to break away and concieve a 'measure of independence'(98).

There are a few intertextual references to hollywood political spy genre movies. For example there are scenes where David Hoyle is acting as a spy, smoking cigarettes in Joans house when she comes home. Here this scene is used as a comic device. It draws on the viewers previous encounters with the same kind of scene in hollywood films. There is a sample of symbolism here as the spy in this case gets ridiculed. David Hoyle says.'Do you know who I am, Joan?'. Then Joan comes back with 'Bloody rude would have to be my first guess!'. This says that the 'big scary' spy facade doesn't fool us Australians. Here I believe that the credibility of this spy is compromised along with hollywood cinema as a whole.

COTR also has an explicit reference to the hollywood film A Few Good Men. The scene I am refering to is the one where David Hoyle, a double-agent spy who is in love with Joan attempts suicide while wearing his Russian soldier uniform. The viewers attention is drawn to this reference but then their expectations are not carried through when he doesn't die. In a Few Good Men, Davids equivilent shoots himself and dies. So in a simmilar way as before, a hollywood approach is taken on and then is departed from when it doesn't work out the way it's 'supposed' to in Hollywood cinema.

The film also draws on Australian television texts also. The 7:30 Report host Paul Lyneman appears as himself interviewing Joe Welch. This promotes the Australian realism which I would argue could detract from the international appeal of the film. COTR fits into the domain of art-film and Australian texts in this way in turn shifting out of the hollywood end of the scale. But then of course we must consider the idea of how a Hollywood film might portray an interview with a politician. The format for a political interview in western civilisation is a fairly straightforward interrogation. What makes the formentioned scene significant is that Paul Lyneman was almost a household name in Australia at the time of the movies release which is something that an international audience does not have. In light of this COTR could be argued to be in some respects exclusively Australian.

Works Cited.

O'Regan, Tom, 1996, Australian National Cinema, Routledge, London.

All movie guide- http://allmovie.com/cgi-win/avg.com

Free Press- http://www.freep.com/fun/movies/qchild9.htm

Washington Post- Washingtonpost.com: Say you want a 'revolution'

http://www.neosoul.com/movies.1997.html