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Burning Man

Burning Man (Jonathan Teplitzky, 2011) wr. Jonathan Teplitzky, dp Garry Phillips; Matthew Goode, Bojana Novakovic, Essie Davis, Rachel Griffiths, Kerry Fox, Anthony Hayes, Jack Heanly, Kate Beahan; romcom drama; chef with a chic restaurant on Bondi Beach trying to put his life and his relationship with his son back on track while surrounded by women

Jonathan Teplitzky’s film is far and away the best Oz film released in 2011: no contest. I’ll definitely have to see it again – there’s too much to take in on a first viewing, even had I known the storyline. I’ve never seen a film with such depth in the acting by women. Some Pom attempts to play the lead man, and there’s a male child, but both are eclipsed by wonderful work by Bojana Novakovic, Essie Davis, Rachel Griffiths (who would have thought RG would ever come third after two other superb actresses?) Kerry Fox, Kate Beahan … and there are still more. I’d like to say more about complexity, temporal shifts, symbolism … but I’ll have to watch this seriously great film again. (And I see that David Stratton felt that he needed to see it again also.)

I had another look at Burning Man (Jonathan Teplitzky, 2011) to confirm that it’s the best Australian film of its year. It should win Best Film at the next AACTA awards, in January 2012. The photography and production design are outstanding: both worth watching the film for in their own right. It has its faults, of course, in the casting of the Pommy lead, and in the complexity of the narrative. Speaking of casting (Nikki Barrett, as usual) and here’s an unusual comment: it’s too well cast. What I mean by that is that there are so many excellent actors in tiny parts that it’s an extra confusion for someone who’s watched many Australian films to try to figure out why they and their characters are in the film at all. Kerry Fox with three lines, Rachel Griffiths in a small and too-revealing cameo – and I didn’t even spot Gia Carides at all, tho she’s in the cast list. Also not featured are Anthony Hayes, Kate Beahan, Marta Dusseldorp – and the great Dan Wyllie, who is right at the very bottom of the list. Garry McDonald, however, was terrible, and shouldn't've got the gig. (I say that as an admirer of GM’s life work.)

This is a stunningly well-made film, which challenges us with its intricate structure and which will probably demand more than one viewing from sympathetic audiences. ... Beautifully shot by Garry Phillips, intricately edited by Martin Connor, Burning Man is a film that will shock you with its honesty and its bravery. I can't wait to see it again. David Stratton.

Oddly, for all its deep emotional touchstones and the profoundly sad plot, the film doesn't ignite the fires of our emotions - perhaps because of the fractured storytelling structure. But it's a cinematic achievement nonetheless ... Andrew L. Urban

Update. It didn't win best film at the AACTAs — in which I've pretty-much lost interest as a result.

References and Links

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Garry Gillard | New: 18 September, 2012 | Now: 21 March, 2021