We asked Aussie director Glendyn Ivin to list what he believes to be the top 15 Australian movies ever made, back in Issue 41 of MC.
Incredibly, BMX Bandits didn’t make the cut, nor did Houseboat Horror or The Heartbreak Kid. Go figure. Still, he chose some great flicks, and you’d do well to put them on your to-watch list.
Maybe my favourite film of all time. The beautifully melancholic story of the motherless boy, mothering a motherless pelican, ‘Mr Percival’, and Fingerbone Bill is the friend every boy wants and needs. Directed by Frenchman Henri Safran, his European sensibility gives Storm Boy great spirit and energy.
The early ’90s was the golden age of filmmaking in Australia for me. So many of my favourite films came out around this time. Spotswood, Romper Stomper and Proof were all made in grey old Melbourne, and inspired me to move here in 1993. I watched Proof again recently. It’s one of those films you can’t help but keep watching. Hugo Weaving’s character is sad, mean and hilarious at the same time in every scene. The man is a genius.
Romper Stomper took me into a very specific world I knew little about: the late ’80s skinhead culture of grungy inner-Melbourne’s Footscray. The film is raw and uncompromising, and unrelentingly hand-held. I’d never seen a camera used with such visceral menace. Russell Crowe’s greatest performance. Hands down.
Ruin is one of the best films I’ve seen. Shot on a micro-budget in Cambodia, in Cambodian language, the film follows two lovers as they violently drift across the country. Kind of an Asian Natural Born Killers, but with more spirit, heart and poetry. Do yourself a favour!
Little Boy Lost
The first film I can remember seeing in a cinema. The film is a dramatisation of a true story about a little farm boy who was lost for two days and nights in the rugged bush. It has a wonderfully old Australian look and feel and if I saw it again I suspect it would be quite dinky, but as a six-year-old I found it quite profound and in many ways I’m still haunted by some of the images.
Albi Mangle’s World Safari
When I was a kid my Mum took me to see World Safari—not in a cinema but at the local RSL. A projector was set up, and Albi’s adventures flickered on a roll-out screen. World Safari I and II are rudimentary and clunky, but filled with a true sense of adventure. They gave me a curiosity for what was out in the world, and for independent, small-crew filmmaking.
I distinctly remember sitting in the cinema in 2000 thinking Dennis O’Rourke’s portrait of small-town Australia was a devastatingly different portrait to the one the Australian Olympic Committee was sending out to the world at the same time. Rough-as-guts racism, bored-as-batshit youth; the film shows just how wide the divide is between city and country, rich and poor, black and white. All through the unflinching lens of O’Rourke’s 4:3 framing. Uncompromised filmmaking!
On the Waves of the Adriatic
Documentary shot over five years in the late ’80s to early ’90s around Melbourne’s pre-gentrified Brunswick. The film follows three mildly intellectually disabled young teens killing time picking through rubbish tips, riding BMX bikes and killing snakes. Kinda sounds like Harmony Korine’s Gummo but this film is far from Korine’s fabricated reality. It’s astonishingly honest, raw and human. I have it on VHS, which seems appropriate. A misplaced masterpiece of Australian cinema.
I love cinema, but Candy is one of a handful of films I could say I truly, madly, deeply fell in love with when I first saw it. I went and saw it multiple times in the cinema just to spend time with it. I’m a hopeless romantic and there is something hopelessly romantic about this tragic junkie love story. It got under my skin and it’s still there.
Dogs in Space
I was obsessed with a girl who was obsessed with this film and by default I got obsessed with it too. The first time I visited Melbourne I tracked down the Richmond house where the film was shot. It was a pilgrimage that helped solidify my love for Melbourne and I moved here soon after. The end sequence where they cut around the house and all its empty rooms still pops into my head at random times. It’s influenced a lot of what I’ve done on screen in many ways.
My list, my film. My road movie featuring Hugo Weaving as a guy who takes his ten-year-old son on the run through the deserts of South Australia. Making this film was dream come true and many have said it’s Hugo’s finest on-screen performance. I tend to agree.
Picnic at Hanging Rock
Probably the scariest film I’ve seen. Have you been to Hanging Rock? It’s a fucking weird place even without the 19th-century private-school girls wandering around, staring at frill-necked lizards. The director’s cut is way better than the original cut and surprisingly about 20 minutes shorter!
Worth seeing if only for Sacha Horler’s killer performance as the obsessive Cynthia. I remember sitting in the cinema, jaw on the ground, watching her have sex while scratching the eczema on her chest. Such a beautifully raw character. Sacha Horler totally committed to it!
Van Diemen’s Land
A bleak, minimalist and unapologetically art-house imagining of the escape of Irish convict Alexander Pearce and his mates. Don’t watch with friends on an empty stomach. Humans taste a little like chicken, apparently. History Core!
When you’re 13 and living in a small town in country NSW, Razor Back is a really important aspect of your life. Partly because you know people who go out hunting pigs for real. But mostly because the idea that there really could be a giant feral pig out in the bush brings your imagination to life. This was my Jaws!
If I could choose any of the films in this list as the film I most wish I made, I think it would be this one. There is something so hypnotically menacing about this film. Its tone just grabs you from the first frame and doesn’t let go. Creepy, creepy shit.