RandomFest 2014 Film # 2
RandomFest 2014 Film # 2
Directed by Peter Weir.
Richard Chamberlin was a pretty huge star to me and everyone else, in the 70’s. He was Aramis, (in The Three Musketeers) David/Phillipe in “the Man in the Iron Mask” and (Edmond Dantes) “The Count Of Monte Cristo”, for gosh sakes. All the Dumas, all the time! “Centennial”! Anyway, he was one of my favourite actors as a kid for these reasons.
The Last Wave, I saw on 16mm in my Intro to Film class with Gene Walz at U of M in 1984. The film blew my impressionable 18 year old mind. I knew nothing about Australia, other than what I’d seen in “The Road Warrior," and “Mad Max.” so nothing, other than what we learned in geography or Social studies along the way. The whole Dream Time thing made a lot of sense to me. I grokked. Which was a term I use sparingly now, but in 1984 when I saw this film first, I used perhaps a bit too much.
Watching it now 30 years later for the first time, I was struck by Weir’s great use of low budget techniques to make a film with a fairly big story. The title spoils the ending a bit, but that part is a foregone conclusion, it helps you steer through the foggy conspiracy thriller vibe that is built from the opening, that is repeated throughout the film, in dream time and real time. Back in the day I would not have noticed the Douglas Sirk-ness of much of the story: Chamberlin is a Corporate attorney who is also a big social justice advocate, but doesn’t do criminal law, for some reason he gets roped into defending a group of Aborigines who maybe killed their friend, who stole from them, some sacred objects.
There is a lot of cheesy -but-effective John Carpenter-esque organ mood music, that flows into a great foley soundtrack of wind, rain, sounds of the city, which flows into some serious Didgeridoo music, which 30 or more years ago, was a real novelty to hear in North America. Now folks go, oh more Didgeridoo, how cliche. Back then it was the first time I heard it. Watching last night with headphones on, it was just as effective as it was meant to be in helping create the uber creepy dreamscape that the whole movie inhabits.
Chamberlin is perfectly cast as This Lawyer who people keep saying is romanticizing the Natives, but in fact he wanders through the whole piece hypnotized by them (especially that one young guy, who often is shirtless) and the notion of the dream time, connecting himself into a web of vague mysticism that everyone thinks doesn’t exist in the city, because of some dreams he had as a kid, and what with all the the rains of frogs, mud, hail, what not.
The whole apocalyptic weather just before the apocalypse notion is pretty relevant these days I think. In the end you are unsure in the best possible way whether this whole thing is in Lawyer David Burton’s imagination. He finds that he is lost, and found as he leaves an underground bunker, a real life dream time with weirdly Mayan artwork and sees the Last Wave, and lets it fall over him, through vaseline smeared photography.
A thriller that is kind of not a thriller. A surprisingly deep film, when you start to think about it, lots of layers, and of course the ever present David Gulpilil.
8.888 cloudless rainstorms in the desert that have deep meaning for short short wearing big city lawyers outta 10