Tuesday, July 15, 2008

DJG / Gallipoli

Acclaimed filmmaker Peter Weir’s poignant and unique take on camaraderie and innocence lost during Australia’s involvement in World War I with Turkey doesn’t come without masterful moments yet feels fully unrealized and frustrating at best. It follows the relationship of two young men (a very young Mel Gibson and Mark Lee) who share similar interests in competitive running and inner needs to discover a piece of the world for themselves, which eventually leads them to confusion and horrific obstacles by way of war’s battleground. I don’t aim to detour one’s intentions of viewing “Gallipoli”, it’s certainly one to watch in the Weir catalog, but, like “The Year of Living Dangerously”, the film feels a bit forced and out of breath by the time it does finally start to say something. And the very ending, I found to be quite fantastic, yet might leave some viewers confused and upset in the closing titles…though, not a bad thing as I feel the film’s message is fairly clear. Not too unlike a relay team of great athletes that don’t quite sync together, the film feels clumsily pieced together in three separate acts. Awkward editing, pacing issues and odd scoring choices run this film race (I typically love Weir’s use of strange music and sound, but it felt a little too out of place in this one). Each act I suppose is interesting in a Weir(d) way and hosts a number of grand and gorgeous camera shots and backdrops from Australia’s Outback to Egypt’s pyramids and finally ending at the shores and cliffs of Turkey. The film is good and I wouldn’t mind watching selected parts of it again, but overall it lacks the inspiring, haunting mystery and creative wallop of Weir’s first three masterpieces of the 1970s (The Cars That Ate Paris / Picnic at Hanging Rock / The Last Wave), a body of work that I consider to be hardly matched in the arts. “Gallipoli” swept the Australian Film Institute Awards, and I can understand why. Though, it feels to me like either an awkwardly-ok product of the early 1980s or the child of a genius director who is stuck in that hard place of groundbreaking artistry and the bright lights of the mainstream. Which, isn’t a bad thing, but I can imagine it can be a hard line to walk. Or, perhaps this is either the review of a kid who has seen way too many movies or maybe I just have my creative master sites aimed too high with a 1980s Peter Weir?


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