I grew up watching David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz hosting ‘The Movie Show’ and more recently ‘At the Movies’. This always entertaining pair could bicker about movies like an old married couple, with David’s refined English accent the polar opposite of Margaret’s raspy tones punctuated by smoky laughter. We trusted these two to give us their honest opinions on the movies they’d seen and no matter whose corner you were in that day their commentary always informed your movie choices for the weekend. As my friends recently lamented, “I don’t know what to watch now that David and Margaret aren’t on the telly.”
So with great delight I went along to view the new documentary created by Sally Aitken – ‘David Stratton-A Cinematic Life’.
David Stratton’s Early Life
This film tells David’s story from his early life in England where he was groomed to be the fifth generation of Stratton to run the local grocery store, until a passion for movies intervened.
During the war he was looked after by his Granny who took him to the movies every day as an escape from the doom and gloom all around them. The first Australian movie he saw was ‘The Overlanders’ starring Chips Rafferty in 1946. He still has the review of this film in his meticulous files, handwritten by a seven year old David.
From an early age he was analysing and reviewing films as a hobby and he became fascinated by Australia and her landscape, so much so that in 1963 he came here for a holiday from which he never returned. His father was furious.
This film intersperses shorts from some of David’s favourite Australian movies with clips from a who’s who of Australian cinema. Actors like Nicole Kidman, Sigourney Weaver, Russell Crowe and Sam O’ Neill make appearances alongside great producers and directors like Peter Weir, Gillan Armstrong and Fred Schepsi. Plus of course there’s a chat with Margaret still teasing him about his dress sense, his very proper way and some of the films on which they disagreed.
Great Australian films
David Stratton regales us with some of the great cinematic moments of Aussie film from the scary masterpiece ‘Wake in Fright’ through to family dramas like ‘Lantana’ and one of his favourite sweet films, Baz Luhrman’s ‘Strictly Ballroom’. There were some truly dreadful Auscapism films, that is until ‘Mad Max’ became a box office sensation. He also reminds us of well loved films like ‘Muriel’s Wedding’ which cemented the careers of Rachel Griffiths and Toni Collette. There were films that divided us, ‘Evil Angels’ with Meryl Streep was one such film and films like ‘Head On’ that reflected our changing culture. ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ is still a masterpieces of cinema and a true work of art.
David Stratton has been a champion of film and especially Australian filmmaking since he arrived on our shores over fifty years ago. He lobbied for federal funding for our film industry and has paved the way for progressive changes to our censorship laws. This documentary will tug at your heart strings with David describing his strained relationship with his father and have you laughing out loud at anecdotes and banter with Margaret.
David is also not averse to changing his mind. On viewing ‘The Castle’ he just didn’t get it and gave it one and a half stars. Today he says he’d give it four stars.
Throughout this film I was reminded of films I’d loved and Aussie films I’ve yet to see. It modelled the changing face of Australia and held a mirror up to our Australian character. For these reasons I give this film four stars or as Darryl Kerrigan might say, “ Four stars for a David Stratton film! Tell him he’s dreaming!”
David Stratton – A Cinematic Life is in cinemas March 9, 2017
Running time- 1hour and 40 mins