March 4, 2013
Well, at great personal pain I am 50 minutes in to Mental starring Toni Collette and directed by PJ Hogan.
Being the regular font of wisdom on Australian Cinema (and it’s ills) that I am, I think I’ve divined what is going on here.
In the 90’s and much of the 00’s the funding bodies made these awful art movies on worthy topics (mental illness, asylum seekers, Aborigines, health, women’s issues, etc) that no one saw (or wanted to see). In the late 00’s there was a change of tactic due to an on going irrelevance of the National Cinema (due to these cinematic abortions) toward a more commercial and genre driven type of cinema. A good move in theory. But guess what? Instead of good genre films, based on exciting, edgy and original topics or ideas, etc., back came all the tired social causes (mental illness, asylum seekers, Aborigines, health, women’s issues) to further and condescendingly pollute our National Screen and bore a whole new generation of local cinema goers. The funding bodies would then attempt to make quirky comedies and feel good dramas about these ‘worthy’ social issues with equally, if not even MORE disastrous results. We are seeing the proof of this on our screens on a now monthly basis down under. See Save Your Legs and Goddess for further proof of this. Or the aforementioned Mental, Not Suitable for Children, Lore and many others from last year.
So, that’s where we are at the moment in mainstream Australian Cinema.
Addendum: I finished watching Mental and apropos it’s ‘worthy’ cause of Mental Health issues – I have never seen a more insulting and absurd movie about the issue in my life. So, these films are even failing as ideological engines of social responsibility. Is it not long overdue that we had some kind of National Forum on Cinema with the funding bodies to address these and other issues? We can’t allow Australian Cinema to so languish in the doldrums and for funding to be so wasted without responsibility or accountability.