good citizens of Bundanyabba (“The Yabba,” like The Bronx or The Hague) will be
happy to buy a drink for any visitor. It
is a matter of civic pride. However, The
Yabba seems to amplify the worst in human nature throughout Ted Kotcheff’s long
lost grindhouse for the art-house Wake in
opens in all its restored glory this Friday at Film Forum.
Grant’s heart would not be in teaching, even if he were posted to a school in
Sydney. Unfortunately, he is financially
bound to the outback during his term of service. With the semester break starting, he will
finally be able to visit his attractive girlfriend in the city.
He just has one night to kill in the Yabba before continuing on his
way. Oh, but there will be
losing his term’s pay in a glorified game of heads-or-tails, Grant falls in
with a gang of lowlifes led by the town’s unapologetically boozy doctor, Tydon. A whole lot of alcohol will quickly hasten
Grant’s slide into the dark side. At
least, he is not a kangaroo. When Grant’s
dubious new mates set out on a hunting trip, the carnage is famously disturbing.
exactly a thriller or a horror film, Wake
is a brutally pessimistic morality play.
In the Yabba, the veneer of civilization is rather chipped and
faded. An intellectual like Grant ought
to be a model of man’s progressive perfectability, but Doc Tydon and his
running mates reduce him to his nasty, brutish core in a matter of days. Yet, it is never clear whether the Yabba yobs
are really out to break him down or if he is just a puppet of fate.
it is the blinding sun, the hallucinatory kangaroo hunt, or the stone cold
humiliations meted down on Grant, Kotcheff maintains a visceral intensity
throughout Wake, controlling the vibe
like a master puppeteer and framing some powerful visuals. One of only two films to be twice selected
for Cannes, it makes a convincing argument Kotcheff might just be the world’s
most underappreciated auteur. Indeed,
his oeuvre also includes Rambo: First
Blood, Uncommon Valor, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, and Weekend at Bernies, which is what we
call a career in mi casa.
late Gary Bond, who would eventually become an Andrew Lloyd Webber regular on
the West End, sure looks like a tool who needs to be taken down a peg or
two. Still, he takes his character to
some pretty scary depths. Donald Pleasance
plays his doctor-tormentor. That is so
perfect, there is no need to explain further.
In his last screen appearance, Chips Rafferty also adds further authentic
flavor as Jock Crawford, the ostensibly welcoming local peace officer.
It is important to bear in mind no ‘roos were
hurt for the sake of Wake. Kotcheff just tagged along with a regularly
scheduled commercial hunting outing. The
results stand in sharp contradiction to the Paul “Shrimp on the Barbie” Hogan
image assiduously crafted by the tourism bureau. Of course, for fans of Ozploitation the
restored Wake is a can’t miss
release. A surprisingly challenging
work, Wake is recommended for all
patrons of cult cinema when it opens this Friday (10/5) at New York’s Film
Forum, with Kotcheff on hand to receive his overdue ovation at the 7:30
Labels: Australian cinema, Ozploitation, Ted Kotcheff