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Break of Day

Break of Day (Ken Hannam, 1976) prod. Patricia Lovell, Clare Beach Films, wr. Cliff Green, music George Dreyfus, dp Russell Boyd; Sara Kestelman, Andrew McFarlane, Ingrid Mason, Tony Barry, John Bell, Maurie Fields, Eileen Chapman, Ben Gabriel, Sara Kestelmann, Geraldine Turner; WW1 vet falls for attractive artist; Melbourne, colour, 35mm, 112 min.

Ken Hannam was one of the pioneers of the Oz Cinema renaissance, directing Sunday Too Far Away (1975) a landmark film which was seriously marred by factors beyond the control of the director. I wonder if he was amused, having given us Break of Day in 1976, to be following that up, in 1979, with Dawn! (The exclamation mark is part of the title: it’s a biopic of Dawn Fraser, swimmer.) I’ve recently seen Break of Day: solid but unremarkable, and not enhanced by the participation of Greig Pickhaver, non-actor, and John Bell, over-actor.

Although it had a potential wealth of themes - small-town attitudes towards an independent woman, the myth of Anzac heroism, and more - the film emerged as a leisurely pastoral romance, with one of its central sequences, a country cricket match, created with such loving detail that 'one can almost taste the hot scones and catch a whiff of the beer tent' (Herald, 8 January 1977). Despite the effectiveness of such scenes, the film became the focus of a critical reaction against an apparent surfeit of 'nostalgia' films: 'I'm beginning to wonder if we're ever going to see contemporary Australia on the screen' (Australian, 22 January 1977). Pike & Cooper: 310.

Garry Gillard | New: 21 October, 2012 | Now: 8 January, 2020