AUSTRALIA – For Baz Luhrmann, There’s No Place Like Home

An epic message for the Holidays

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

AUSTRALIA is an extraordinary film released just in time for the Holiday experience. Directed by New South Wales’ gift to the cinematic world, Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet, Strictly Ballroom), AUSTRALIA incorporates familiar elements of Classic Hollywood and borrows on particular stories associated with the Season. With the coming anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, many will learn for the first time of the bombing of Darwin, the northernmost of Australia’s capitol cities, located on the Timor Sea. The attack occurred shortly before 10 a.m. on the 19th of February, 1942 and is referred to as the “Pearl Harbor of Australia”. In fact, the devastation was far worse. By 1943, the city would endure 58 more aerial attacks by the Imperial forces. Luhrmann uses the first of these episodes to tell the story of a child – an illegitimate child, a clever and knowing child – who must be protected and saved. Enter the blonde and willowy aristocrat Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) and brawny cattle driver Hugh Jackman.

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BRANDON WALTERS – as Nullah, child of the Stolen Generation

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AUSTRALIA – Nicole Kidman (Lady Sarah Ashley), Brandon Walters (Nullah), Hugh Jackman (Drover)

AUSTRALIA is filled with magic. The script is tight and wildly aggressive – and so is the romantic tension between the very svelte Nicole Kidman and buffed-out Hugh Jackman. On the surface of its lens are trace elements of such beloved epics as GONE WITH THE WIND, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, INDIANA JONES, and a few spoonfuls from EXODUS, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, DUEL IN THE SUN and CASABLANCA. Lady Ashley is determined to save her inherited plantation and out-maneuver its less-than-refined and criminal-type competition. She is recently widowed, equipped with beauty, a head for business, sits well in a saddle, and – during any drought of imported finery – can flaunt the latest in fashion while dancing “Begin The Beguine” with a self-serving rogue hero who cleans-up well in a white dinner jacket.

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HUGH JACKMAN – as Drover, in Baz Lurhmann’s AUSTRALIA

It’s 1939. The world is at War. The boundaries and definitions of who belongs where become blurry; the issues of who is family and who is not are confused and incendiary; and which group is more worthy and more fully human than another simply a question of domination and annihilation. Daily life is up for grabs. Being around long enough to think about it tomorrow may depend on a few tricks of Fate and, more than likely, the uprooting of one’s home. As the Japanese fine-tune first string kamikaze and orchestrate their holocausts on key ports in the Pacific, M.G.M. Studios launches a road show of THE WIZARD OF OZ to the land down under. From Sydney to Perth – “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” hits the charts. Situated on a high precipice and overlooking the ancient plains below, stands the wisdom figure – an all-knowing, withered Aborigine man – “King George” (played by David Gulpilil). He is omnipresent and seemingly capable of transporting himself to wherever he needs to be. He watches over his grandson, Nullah, in whom he is well pleased. The bastard child is the product of an evil cattleman and an abused Aboriginal woman. As with the progeny of American slave owners, Nullah is an embarrassment to polite Society. He is visible evidence of the abuse of imperialism, and a testimony to classicism, racism, and social hypocrisy. Like others of his kind, Nullah will be rounded-up and sequestered. His white father is looking to kill him.

Luhrmann’s AUSTRALIA is a multi-complex journey across a shaky terrain of dusty mythology and a landscape of hard-boiled history. The film is as much a finely dressed fairytale dream come true as it is a highly glossed dark night of the soul. Some may find its 165 minutes of action packed adventures on land and sea, in the air and over the rainbow nothing more than a lot of mythical claptrap projected onto the multi-million dollar backdrop of historical fiction. For others, it is the tale of Herod and the murder of the Innocents. This Season, AUSTRALIA is the story of the Wholly Other Family who must let their child Be.

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Baz Luhrmann’s AUSTRALIA

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See Related: FINE ARTS CRITIC SEAN MARTINFIELD

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Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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