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Kid Dabb: Someday I'll get a straight answer from you, and I won't know what to do with it.
         Only Angels have wings (1940)
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June Issue

Classic Film

The Australian Screen

In June, we are hosting great Australian director Bruce Beresford for two of our Classic film screenings, one for a film Bruce made and one for a film Bruce chose. And sticking with Australian film, our screening at Cafe Nova will be of the Australian Classic Caddie.

So in this issue of the eZine we will be taking a look at the life and work of Bruce Beresford, profiling character actor Sig Ruman (who appears in Only Angels Have Wings), and looking at the re-emergence of the Australian film industry in the 1970's.

And don't forget to check out more of the details about this month's screenings (including our cafe screening) by clicking the links at the bottom

We hope you enjoy this month's eZine.
Bruce Beresford
Classic Australian Director Bruce Beresford
Bruce Beresford was born in Paddington, Sydney on the 16th of August 1940, the son of Lona (née Warr) and Leslie Beresford, who sold electrical goods. He grew up in the then outer-western suburb of Toongabbie, and went to The King's School, Parramatta. He made several short films in his teens.

Bruce completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English at the University of Sydney, attending the University with critic and documentary maker Clive James, art critic and aficionado Robert Hughes, activist and author Germaine Greer, journalist Bob Ellis, poet Les Murray, and writer Mungo McCallum. His contemporary and friend, actor and theatre director John Bell, shared a house and also did some film acting. Bruce remains close friends with Australian comedian, satirist and character actor Barry Humphries, best known for his on-stage/television alter ego Dame Edna Everage.

After graduating in 1964, Bruce moved to England in search of film work. He could not break into the British film scene, so he answered an advertisement for an editing job in Nigeria, where he worked for two years, in Enugu] He then returned to England and worked for the British Film Institute as a producer of short films by first-time directors.

Bruce returned to Australia in 1970 to make his first feature film, The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, and spent the next 10 years working in Australia's developing film industry.

He established his reputation as one of Australia's best directors with a series of notable films in the 1970s, including Don's Party, The Getting of Wisdom, The Club and Breaker Morant.
Breaker Morant - just one of Bruce's many great films
When asked about Breaker Morant (1980), Bruce said:
When we actually finished it, they had no plans to release it in Australia. Nobody wanted to put it out there. Then, a French guy from the Cannes Film Festival came to Australia and insisted on seeing every Australian film made that year. I ran into him at a cocktail party, and he said, "I'm here seeing all the Australian films." And I said, "Oh, you must have seen my film." He said, "What's your film?" I said, "It's one called "Breaker Morant", but it hasn't been released." And he said, "I told them to show me every Australian film, including the unreleased ones!" Then he insisted on seeing it, and picked it for Cannes. After Cannes, it was shown in Australia. But it was not successful: It got mostly good reviews, but people didn't go. But that film still gets me work. People still call me and say, "Oh, we saw "Breaker Morant", and we're wondering if you might want to film this script we've got." It's amazing how much work that film has got me - for a film that was seen, statistically, by very few people. (...) ...the film didn't do that well in America either. I found out it was shown on the plane between New York and Los Angeles, as an in-flight movie. So a lot of the executives were basically forced to see it! When I started to get all these calls, I asked, "Where on Earth did you see this film?" They'd seen it on the flight.
                Bloody Bonza... Bruce brought Bazza to the Big Screen
Following the critical success of Breaker Morant (widely regarded as a classic of Australian cinema Bruce moved to Hollywood. His first film made in the US, Tender Mercies, earned him his only Academy Award nomination for Best Director in 1984. He also directed Driving Miss Daisy which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1989, and Black Robe, considered one of the best of his later films. In 1995, his film Silent Fall was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 45th Berlin International Film Festival.

After what might fairly be called a lean patch in his career, at least in comparison with his earlier output, the 2009 film, Mao's Last Dancer broke records at the Australian box office and won numerous film-festival honors.
Asked if he minded not even being nominated for the Best Director Oscar for Driving Miss Daisy, Beresford said: "No, not at all. I didn’t think it was that well directed. It was very well written. When the writing's that good, you’ve really just got to set the camera up and photograph it."
Academy Award winning success came for Bruce in 1989
In addition to films, Bruce Beresford has also directed several operas and theatre productions.
In 2012 he directed a production of Erich Wolfgang Korngold's opera Die tote Stadt for Opera Australia.
In August 2007, he published a memoir, Josh Hartnett Definitely Wants To Do This... True Stories From A Life in the Screen Trade.

Bruce now works both in Australia and the United States.

His favorite films according to the 'Sight and Sound' Top Ten poll: Chimes at Midnight (1965), The Apu Trilogy (Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956), The World of Apu (1959)), Ludwig (1972), The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), My Darling Clementine (1946), Fanny and Alexander (1982), The Rules of the Game (1939), Odd Man Out (1947), La Strada (1954) and Black Hawk Down (2001).


While we (at Classic Films) love many of Bruce's films, The Club is among our favourites. Catch a few snippets from the film in the video below
When you bring together Bruce Beresford, David Williamson, Jack Thompson and Graham Kennedy you get a great Australian film.
Classic Character Actors
Sig Ruman
Born in Hamburg, Germany on October 11, 1884, Sig Ruman studied Electrical Engineering before serving with the Imperial German Army during World War I. Widely considered a wonderfully talented character actor, capable of tremendous comedic and dramatic performances, his emigration to the United States in 1924, saw his acting career blossom. Befriending playwright George S. Kaufman and theater critic Alexander Woollcott, he enjoyed success in many Broadway productions.
Ruman brought his imposing size and strong accent to numerous roles in American films from the '30s, often playing arrogant officials (and later playing threatening Nazis).
With the advent of talkies, he was kept very busy in the cinema.  Often being cast on the strength of his Germanic presence he became a favorite of the Marx Brothers, appearing as stiff-shirted NYC opera owner Herman Gottlieb in the comedy classic A Night at the Opera (1935). He played a know-it-all surgeon crossing swords with Groucho Marx over what exactly was wrong with hypochondriac Margaret Dumont in A Day at the Races (1937). and played a dual role in A Night in Casablanca (1946).
While Sig was versatile enough to play both comic and sinister characters (sometimes as a part of the same role) he couldn't escape his German accent
With his unmistakable German accent and the advent of World War II , he was a regular in several WWII espionage thrillers, including Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939), They Came to Blow Up America (1943), and The Hitler Gang (1944). Ruman continued his trend of playing over-the-top German characters later in his career for Lubitsch's protege Billy Wilder, appearing in Wilder's films The Emperor Waltz (1948), Stalag 17 (1953), and The Fortune Cookie (1966). In Stalag 17 (a film we recently screened) he gave a superb portrayal of the two-faced POW guard Schulz. He was also popular with famed director Ernst Lubitsch, who cast Ruman in Ninotchka (1939), and To Be or Not to Be (1942).
According to Leonard Maltin in the DVD commentary for A Night at the Opera, Ruman had modified his screen name from Siegfried Rumann to Sig Ruman in an attempt to make it a little less German-sounding, to lessen potential anti-German prejudice against him.
Despite declining health during the 1950s and 1960s, Ruman continued to find work, making many guest appearances on television - a frequent guest star in series such as "Maverick" and "The Addams Family". In all, he notched up over 100 feature film appearances as well as his many TV show guest spots. Ruman suffered ill health for the final two decades of his life and passed away on February 14, 1967, from a heart attack.
While his name may not be instantly recognizable, the characters he played and the many great performances he gave likely mean you are more familiar with him and his work than you realise. He appears in this month’s film
Only Angels Have Wings (1940)… come along to the screening and keep an eye out for Sig.
The Last New Wave
In 1980 David Stratton wrote a book titled 'The Last New Wave' - it was his take on the exciting changes that had taken place in the Australian film industry over the preceding decade. In some ways the title was very apt as it really was the last new wave changes that a series of national film industries had gone through... the Italians in the 1950's, the British in the late 50's and early 60's, and the French into the late 60's.

What differed however is that prior to the exciting films of each new wave in Europe, all those countries had a long and mostly consistent history of filmmaking. For them it was a reinvention.

In Australia, the film industry was all but dead in the 1960's, so what happened in the 70's was a resurrection.
Australia benefited from the establishment of good training institutions like AFTRS, the emergence of some great Directors, success at international film festivals, along with a growing confidence and competence among many film practitioners... from screenwriters like Bob Ellis and David Williamson, to actors like Judy Davis, Jack Thompson, Mel Gibson and Wendy Hughes, to cinematographers like John Seale, Dean Semler and Russell Boyd.

The films of the New Wave fell into two main categories - the historical arty film (like Picnic at Hanging Rock, Breaker Morant or My Brilliant Career), and the Ocker film (like The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, Alvin Purple and Stork)

Typically the Ocker films were the ones Australians wanted to see and were the films that made money. The arty film were the ones Australians mostly didn't want to see, they lost money, but they established our international reputation as quality filmmakers.

Directors like Bruce Beresford made his share of both kinds of films.
Looking back on films of that period is a very different experience than living in that time, seeing those films released, and having to choose to see what to see at the local cinema. In many ways it is both an interesting experience and an advantage to be able to look back on the films of this period.

We're not going to pass judgement one way or the other.

Instead we'll give you a chance to choose what is worth looking back on and considering what it says about us, through the frame of sequences from films that were directed by Bruce Beresford.
It's hard not to enjoy watching Bazza and the crazy adventures he has in Pommy land. And it's interesting to consider what this says about Australia and the way we behave when we're abroad.
Breaker Morant (End)
And when we look at films like Breaker Morant it's hard not to look back with regret on our colonial past and ask serious questions about our modern relationship with the Empire or the Commonwealth and whether it is time to takes steps towards becoming a Republic.
It was a golden age of Australian film, which told stories which are still relevant. We were lucky to have it, and it would be a mistake to neglect or forget it.

At Classic films we believe it is not just rewarding, but also important to look back on older films... and this month provides the opportunity to see two Australian classics.

Join us for one or more of our screenings.

Screening at School of Arts

Saturday, 18th of June

7.00pm start

The Fringe Dwellers (1986)

Story of an aboriginal family who tries to move out of the fringe into the main white community.

Drama     Rated:PG        98 min
More Details

Screening at Cafe Nova

Sunday, 26th of June

7.00pm start

Caddie (1974)

Proud and classy Caddie Marsh is forced to get a job as a barmaid and raise two children on her own after her rich cad husband walks out on her.

Drama/Romance     Rated:M        100 min
More Details

Screening at School of arts

Sunday, 19th of June

7.00pm start

Only Angels have Wings (1939)

At a remote South American trading port, the manager of an air freight company is forced to risk his pilots' lives in order to win an important contract.

Drama/Romance  Rated: PG     121 mins
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