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Laurie McInnes's first feature as director Broken Highway (1993) was nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes (which she won for her short film Palisade) and for no fewer than five AFI awards in 1993 (which unfortunately for her was the year of The Piano).
Broken Highway is a dark film in both literal and metaphorical senses.
Laurie McInnes is the sister of William McInnes, the actor who was the husband of Sarah Watt, in whose second-last film (Look Both Ways, 2005) he played the male lead. Laurie McInnes also worked on that film, contributing photography and directing second unit cinematography
Palisade (Laurie McInnes, 1988) short, wr. Laurie McInnes
Broken Highway (Laurie McInnes, 1993) wr. Laurie McInnes, prod. Richard Mason; Aden Young, Claudia Karvan, Bill Hunter, Dennis Miller, David Field, Norman Kaye; b/w; wide screen; Qld; review by Adrian Martin in Murray 1995: 379
Dogwatch (Laurie McInnes, 1999) prod. Richard Brennan; Steven Vidler, Russell Kiefel, John Brumpton, Joel Edgerton, Richard Carter, John Alansu, Yew Glynn; 100 min.
On Guard (Sarah Gibson & Susan Lambert, 1983) prod. Digby (Janice) Duncan for RedHeart Pictures, wrs Sarah Gibson, Susan Lambert, dp Laurie McInnes, ed. Catherine Murphy, sound Pat Fiske, Sue Kerr; Liddy Clark, Jan Cornall, Kerry Dwyer, Mystery Carnage; colour, 16 mm, 52 min.
With Time To Kill (James Clayden, 1987) aka Man Who Lost His Head, The? dp Laurie McInnes; wr. James Clayden; Phil Motherwell, Marie Hoy, Peter Green, Jan Friedl; vigilantes; 71 min.
Redheads (Danny Vendramini, 1991) prod. Richard Mason, dp Steve Mason, camera operator Laurie McInnes; Catherine McClements, Claudia Karvan, Alexander Petersens; drama, thriller; 105 min., colour, MA, 35 mm, released on VHS; when a young barrister takes on a hardened young street kid, they become the centre of a murder investigation and intrigue
Sugar Cane (Laurie McInnes, 2003 project) mother-daughter situation
Laurie McInnes has made only two feature films, but they are remarkable. Broken Highway and Dogwatch have enough features in common for the viewer to feel in the presence of a single author. In terms of setting there is a naturalistic mise-en-scene: there’s no doubt Dogwatch was almost entirely filmed on a real ship, and Broken Highway begins in a similar location, before moving into a recognisable Queensland landscape. Both stories concern (too?) close relationships between characters with guilt-laden pasts, and there are struggles for power and vain attempts at expiation. Both have Bordwellian “drifting protagonists”, Aden Young as Angel in the first film and Steven Vidler as the Captain in the second, whose motivation is not “realistic” in Bordwell’s “classical” sense. All of the “characters tend to lack clearcut motives and goals”. In Dogwatch, “... as in real life, questions remain unanswered, ends are left loose and situations unresolved”. True, many of the characters are dead, but the narrative itself lacks closure: the protagonist, the nameless Captain, is still on the bridge, but no-one knows where the ship is going.
But it’s in terms of stylistics that designer McInnes is most distinctive. Broken Highway is a film literally so dark that at times it’s not possible to see what is happening; and much of Dogwatch is shot below decks, in the dark bowels of the ship. But this is of a piece with McInnes’s thematic concerns: she is interested in the dark places of the human heart, and her films should look like that. As in any art form, one of the most important criteria for the success of a given work is its integration: the degree to which the different parts or aspects work together in the service of its expression. McInnes may not (yet) be a successful cinema artist financially, but I believe that she has made a significant contribution to film art in Australia. Garry Gillard, 'Art film', Ten Types of Australian Film.
1994 interview with Laurie McInnes, with short clips from Broken Highway