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J.A.A. Purves

The Turning (2013)

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(Link to the the book.)

 

The Guardian:

In the midst of an off-season for Australian cinema comes a bold and audacious crazy quilt of a film that resembles its own mini-Aussie New Wave. Tim Winton's The Turning, which premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival on Saturday, is being marketed as "a unique cinema event." That it is to say the least. The passion project of creator Robert Connolly, this three-hour epic is a wholesale adaptation of Winton's short-story collection. Each of the book's 18 stories is interpreted on film by a different team of filmmakers, including collaborators from the worlds of theatre, photography, visual art and dance ...

 

The idea of such a curated project is noble, but it wouldn't be worth much if The Turning didn't work as feature-length entertainment. Omnibus films often feel like the cinematic equivalent of a meal of cocktail hors d'oeuvres; one of the achievements of The Turning is how well-crafted, cohesive and satisfying it is as a film. Despite its sprawling ambition and daunting runtime, it's surprisingly light on its feet – engaging, entertaining and frequently mesmerising throughout, with only a few missteps along the way.

 

It also effectively recreates the experience of being sucked into a top-notch short-story cycle by a gifted author. While most episodes here would stand alone, it's hard to recall another omnibus film with such narrative unity. Characters re-appear in different episodes at different stages of their lives, fleshed out in snapshots that explore recurring themes from different angles. In that sense it works a bit like a TV series, where different creative teams adhere to one master vision (with Connolly as showrunner, perhaps). The different disciplinary approaches and mixed media generally keep things fresh and interesting ...

 

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Wow.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm really looking forward to trying to obtain a ticket for this one whenever it gets over to San Francisco.
 
It sounds as if, once the limited release is first out on September 26, tickets will be hard to find:

As one of the most anticipated local films of the year, it's no surprise both screenings of Tim Winton's The Turning at the Melbourne Film Festival are sold out. Less expected is that when the film is released nationally on September 26, tickets may still be hard to come by.

That's because producer-director Robert Connolly and distributor Madman are taking the unusual approach of releasing the film in select cinemas for just one session a day (plus a few matinees) for a set run of two weeks.
 
''We want to make this a real event, a great night out,'' says Connolly, who promises the three-hour movie will come with an intermission, a 40-page colour printed program and, where possible, live appearances by some of the cast and crew (it will also come with a $25 ticket price).
 
If the demand is there it may run longer, minus the bells and whistles, but it is, Connolly admits, ''so far out there'' as an exhibition plan. Then again, the film itself is far enough out there that it practically demands special treatment.
 
Based on Tim Winton's best-selling book of short stories, the movie Connolly and Maggie Miles have produced has 17 directors and an enviable A-list of Australian actors (Rose Byrne, Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh, Miranda Otto and Hugo Weaving among them).
 
Each director tackles a chapter of Winton's book, but not all of them retell the story therein, at least not in straight narrative terms. There is an animation in sand; a live-action triptych film by Oscar-nominated animator Anthony Lucas; a piece told entirely through dance; and the directorial debuts of actors David Wenham and Mia Wasikowska, video artist Shaun Gladwell and Bangarra choreographer Stephen Page.
 
''It's like wandering into a gallery and seeing different artworks from different artists that you wander amongst, under a curated brief,'' says Connolly, who directs one segment himself, with Callan Mulvey - who played Mark Moran in the first series of Underbelly and the US special ops soldier who shot Osama Bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty - in the lead. ''I originally thought we might try to film maybe 10 of the stories but then the ambition just grew and grew. It evolved over time into this epic.'' ...

 

I don't know if there's any Tim Winton readers here at A&F, but I've read 2 of his books so far and they've both been mesmerizing.  Here's a few excerpts from a couple reviews of Winton's short story collection:

From The Guardian:

... Or there's Raelene, the protagonist of the collection's title story, cooped up in her caravan with two kids and a viciously abusive husband, nursing a body so horribly battered that she imagines herself looking "like a bad job from the panel beater". Gazing at the figure of Christ in the kitschy snowdome she has bought in a poignant attempt to connect with her friend's faith, she sees the situation clearly: "him in his little dome and her in her little aluminium box, both of them trapped." ...

 

Winton's international reputation has grown significantly since the publication of Dirt Music but his roots remain firmly lodged in his native soil. He's a regional writer in the sense that George Crabbe and Thomas Hardy were regional writers - a writer, that is, whose work is informed by an intimate but unsentimental connection with a particular landscape and the lives it sustains. Rich in specific and sharply realised detail - the mingled smells of wild lupins and estuary mud, sparks struck at twilight from scuffed white sand, the haze of banksia scrub in the rolling swamplands - these stories convey the quiet authority of a man at ease in a fictional territory he can legitimately call his own.

From Powell's Books:

Tim Winton's career comprises a veritable laundry list of literary accomplishments. He wrote his first novel, An Open Swimmer, when he was only 19 and has continued to write prolifically since. Twice nominated for the Booker Prize, in 1995 for The Riders and again in 2002 for Dirt Music, he has transcended his boy-genius label, gaining a reputation, at least in Australia, as one of the country's most compelling contemporary writers. In a poll conducted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Winton's novel Cloudstreet was named a "favorite read," trailing behind only four other books: The Lord of the Rings, Pride and Prejudice, the Bible, and To Kill a Mockingbird (in that order). Winton's distance from the literary scene -- he lives far from the country's capital on the western coast of Australia -- and his reluctance to step into the literary limelight seem to convey an appealing humility not always associated with literary wunderkinds, even in their more mature years. Despite his accolades, Winton remains largely unknown to most American readers. Of course, considerable obstacles impede any writer seeking to obtain a worldwide reputation. But given Winton's success, in a country that speaks the same language no less, his relative obscurity is still surprising ...

 

Winton's writing gives voice to downtrodden individuals -- the jaded policemen, battered wives, alcoholic fishermen, and frustrated teenagers who populate the town of Angelus, the last whaling town in Australia and familiar turf for Winton, as he set his 1986 novel, Shallows, here as well. If their vocabulary, and in some cases, their professions, are distinctly Australian, these are recognizable types, rendered sympathetic by Winton's writing. Elizabeth Ward has written in the past that Winton "gets you inside the very skin of ... Australians the way Joyce made you feel like a turn-of-the-century Dubliner," and these stories further establish the authentic feel of Winton's narrative voice.

 

Though Winton begins The Turning with a quotation from Eliot, the Joycean comparison is apt here as well. As in Dubliners, The Turning's stories (15 in Joyce's case, 17 in Winton's) are linked and set in a specific locale. Characters reappear in multiple stories at various stages of life: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age. Thematically, as well as structurally, similarities between the two works exist; truth, rather than beauty, seems the ultimate aesthetic objective. Just as Joyce held, in his own words, a "nicely polished looking-glass" to his country, Winton's unadorned stories seem designed to reflect the realities of his society.

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Interesting trailer. Omnibus films are always a bit of a curate's egg, but I might just be persuaded to watch this in the cinema rather than wait for the dvd. 

I don't know if there's any Tim Winton readers here at A&F, but I've read 2 of his books so far and they've both been mesmerizing.

 

Which books were those? I've read Breath and Cloudstreet, and found them both compelling. He has a style which is arresting without being showy.

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 Omnibus films are always a bit of a curate's egg

 

And I just learned a new phrase.

 

Oh, cool. I suppose it is more of a British phrase, isn't it? I love that cartoon...

 

 

 

And I just learned a new phrase that describes all the film and TV I love.

So do you prefer flawed masterpieces  to more polished gems? I guess I love my fair share of both - although TV is an almost impossible medium for perfection, especially those huge US series like Lost, Friday Night Lights, et al.

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Wow.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm really looking forward to trying to obtain a ticket for this one whenever it gets over to San Francisco.

 

It sounds as if, once the limited release is first out on September 26, tickets will be hard to find:

As one of the most anticipated local films of the year, it's no surprise both screenings of Tim Winton's The Turning at the Melbourne Film Festival are sold out. Less expected is that when the film is released nationally on September 26, tickets may still be hard to come by.

That's because producer-director Robert Connolly and distributor Madman are taking the unusual approach of releasing the film in select cinemas for just one session a day (plus a few matinees) for a set run of two weeks.

 

''We want to make this a real event, a great night out,'' says Connolly, who promises the three-hour movie will come with an intermission, a 40-page colour printed program and, where possible, live appearances by some of the cast and crew (it will also come with a $25 ticket price).

It looks interesting, but I find this kind of self-importance off-putting. Why would you make a movie and then deliberately make it hard for people to see it? And additionally, how can you ask me to pay more than double for a ticket when I have no way of knowing if it will be even close to worth it?

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I just finally finished this.  I only saw it because I ordered the DVD from Australia.  I'm rather excited at this point.  I've always loved some short story collections and this film treats a short story collection with great love, not only for the stories but also for Winton's language.  I've never seen anything like it.  But if we are very very lucky, this film with set a precedent with what filmmakers can do in the future.

 

Thus, I'm attempting to write a review of it now.  Hopefully it'll be the next review I can finish.

 

And oh yeah, I don't even know how to begin to describe how beautiful this film is to look at.  It's going to be a great challenge to do it justice with a review.

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