"Grim, Uncompromising Classic of Australian Cinema"
Fred Schepisi's remarkable, disturbing, moving depiction of life in early twentieth century Australia gets a UK Blu-ray release (with the shorter Shout Factory US Blu-ray 'International' version as an extra) from Eureka.
Jimmie Blacksmith (Tommy Lewis) is half Australian aborigine and half white. Raised by a methodist preacher and his wife, Jimmie plans to 'better' himself by getting a job, making some money, building his own home and diluting his bloodline by marrying a white girl 'of good stock'.
But all his plans are scuppered by the racism and abuse he meets everywhere he goes. Despite doing his best to maintain an optimistic outlook, eventually Jimmie is overcome by the prejudice and deception of a society that considers him little better than an animal, and a wave of bloody violence follows.
I may be wrong, but Australian cinema seemed to completely bypass the 'Heroic Hollywood Cowboy' era of frontier cinema and instead went straight to the 'Brutal Exploitation of Native Races' theme. And what a brutal film this is, not that you expect it from the first act. Consequently Jimmie's explosion into violence is even more shocking so be prepared for it.
As he and his brother go on the run as outlaws there's mention of them becoming national heroes but there's nothing heroic or enviable about the situations they find themselves in, and the film can end in no other way but grimly.
Eureka's transfer runs for 122 minutes and is taken from the Umbrella Entertainment release, with the 'International Version' (Shout Factory) clocking in at 117. There are two commentary tracks, one from screenwriter-director-producer Schepisi and the other from critic Alexandra Heller-Nichols.
There's also a Schepisi interview, a making of, an hour-long conversation with Schepisi and DP Ian Baker, an interview with star Lewis, a Q&A with Schepisi and Geoffrey Rush from the 2008 Melbourne Film Festival, a documentary on the casting of the aboriginal leads and the usual still galleries, trailer, reversible sleeve and booklet with new writing on the film plus Pauline Kael's original review.
THE CHANT OF JIMMIE BLACKSMITH is one of the best (and arguably the best) film of one of the most important decades in Australian cinema, and it's a delight to report that Eureka have done it proud.
Fred Schepisi's THE CHANT OF JIMMIE BLACKSMITH is out on dual format Blu-ray and DVD from Eureka on Monday 19th August 2019