His Dark Materials
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A passionate and harrowing indictement of racism in Australian; a masterpiece of political cinema.
A raw, brutal, powerhouse story that all Australians need to see. Way ahead of its time both in terms of production values, storytelling and topically, this is a stunning film.
2nd viewing review: you know what, i first heard about this film because it was on the video nasties list! not only should this film NOT be banned but it should be seen by all boys and girls who live in the former british empire! plus it is one of the most beautiful of all austraulian films
For me, this is a solid, brutal depiction of racism in Australian colonial times that still has resonance today. The length of the film however, seems a bit unnecessary and the brutality displayed against the white settlers is most probably too confronting for Australian audiences to accept, which is probably why this was a more widely acclaimed film in the rest of the world compared with the more muted acclaim it receives in Australia (possibly only praised among film students and critics). Tommy Lewis has a larrikin naiivity that is both charming and tortured and is great as the 'Christianised' aborigine caught between the dreamtime and the crucifixion. In the end there are no heroes, no accolades but the preservation of a faux genial whitewashed society. This is perhaps what Australians are still not quite ready to accept. Did we right any of these numerous wrongs? And, what steps are we taking to reach that point of awareness?
Tarantino hosted a special 35mm screening in Sydney this week. I'd honestly never heard of this film, but apparently it was the highest budget Aussie film to date (when it was made in '78).
Incredible cinematography, powerful performances by the leads (not professional actors), confronting story and a little Tarantino-esque violence.
Was extra cool that the projectors were not in a booth, so you could watch for the cigarette burns, then turn around to watch, and hear, the reel change!
Totally false advertising on the DVD box. This film does NOT have one of the most violent, apocalyptic endings in cinema history. In fact, it goes out with a whimper, though it's got some good in it....
Winner of the Best Picture AFI Award of 1978, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith sounded like a good Australian piece.
All in all, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith was definitely a good film. But for it to be a great film, it would have to be viewed in the time of its original release. What is depicted in the film still has the power to shock, but the blow is lightened somewhat by the dated aspects of the film. Mainly it falls into the fact that the age of the film means it follows and older formula and so the story as a whole is only somewhat effective.
When I say that I mean that the subject matter in The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith will always be relevant and the brutality of some of its themes are undeniable, but when the film doesn't focus directly on their harsh material at hand, it tends to drag on. Running at nearly two hours, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith is a very long film which stretches a bit much at times. The subject matter may be striking, but by today's standards it is worn down somewhat by the slow pace and long running time of the film, as well as the fact that a lot of the drama doesn't exactly work to the same standard anymore. Some may find that The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith really milks its material for as much value as it can without ever fully succeeding at doing so.
What it boils down to is the fact that The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith has a very slow start. In the way that it burns the material slowly to show the treatment of the titular Jimmie Blacksmith in the unfair manner that it is. It doesn't get melodramatic about it or try to force a political agenda on viewers, but rather delivers a more subtle vision of what it is like to be an indiginous Australian in a racist community. The way that it depicts society in its unfair treatment of the community is confronting without being false, and the way that it captures a general sense of attitudes towards the people is something which is still relevant today. With Aboriginal communities still being treated as uneducated and inferior, a film like The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith will always be relevant because it forces viewers to confront how Australian history has gone against the people who belonged to the land but had it stolen from them so that the land could belong to others. The themes in The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith are very edgy, and once the tension in the film picks up there is no telling where it will go. The start is slow, but there is a large turning point just before halfway through The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith where everything changes for the better and the film evolves into the unforgettable feature that it survives as today. For the first film I have ever seen which deals so effectively with treatment of Indigenous Australians, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith stands out becuase of the way that the film can change in the blink of an eye and then maintain tension in its atmosphere all the way to the end. It may stretch on for quite a bit and fall into somewhat predictable territory, but viewers don't need to worry about that to be startled by The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith because it is a grim and realistic examination of Australian society.
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith gives viewers a very honest look at the treatment of indigenous Australians, examining both sides of the story in terms of where negative influence comes into play an the responsibility of one's own self. Where the line lies depends on the viewer's interpretation, but I found that the balance was strong because as the story oeos on it becomes a challenge to sympathize with the actions of Jimmie Blacksmith but failing to understand his side of the story is a difficult thing to do. Frankly, the subject matter of The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith is so brutal that it is unforgettable. And thanks to director Fred Schepisi, the atmosphere of the film runs organically tense all the way through. The visuals in the film show a sense of progression in the story and the sound effects are great, so the brutality of the general subject matter in The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith helps to make up for some of its more dated qualities.
And the leading performance of Tom E. Lewis in the titular helps to make the film more than just a tense spectacle. Taking on the lead role of Jimmie Blacksmith, Tom E. Lewis does a strong job of conveying what it is to be an Indigenous Australian in a racist society. Maintaining a stoic nature which deteriorates very gradually as the repetitively unfair racism in society pushes him more and more over the edge, Tom E. Lewis is able to slowly change Jimmie Blacksmith from the innocent young man he once was into a raging bull. He never plays the part as a stereotype and is able to deliver all of his lines with a sense of intelligence about him. He spends the majority of the first act with a slow burning sense of annoyance at his position in society and maintains a tense physicality the entire time to reveal that he will never turn a blind eye to it. Later on, we see him explode. He keeps his emotions in tact but he approaches the world in an all new way, showing through his facial expressions and confidence that his behaviour feels natural to him now. The change is a shocking one, and Tom E. Lewis stays consistent in the part, so he fits the lead role easily.
So while The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith is a slow, dated and long film without much in the way of story, the brutality of its subject matter and tense atmosphere in the second half make it a memorable viewing pleasure.
powerful film about the racism inflicted on Austrailia's indigenous peoples.
I've only seen this movie once, getting on for 25 years ago, late one night on BBC2, back when dedicated movie channels were in their infancy and the BBC still cared about its film programming. One of the regrettable byproducts of avid film viewing is a certain desensitisation to violence; we'll unflinchingly watch the most harrowing of scenes without being put off our popcorn. The brain-searing power of Fred Schepisi's second feature, however, has never left me, and I don't imagine it ever will. The story concerns a young Aboriginal boy, so dehumanised by white colonialism that he lashes out, commits an act of brutal savagery and goes on the run. While Schepisi certainly sympathises with his central character, I don't remember him seeking to excuse Jimmie's actions, and nobody could accuse him of pulling his punches in depicting the crime itself. A superb film. See it if you get the chance.