The Carlton Ripple and the Australian Film Revival

Why, after a lapse of four decades, rake over the remnants of what are at best little more than footnotes to the film revival? The first and most obvious answer is simply because it was and is there in the memories of those surviving who participated and in the now generally hard-to-find documentation in the form of notes, reviews and interviews in publications such as the journal of Melbourne University Film Society (MUFS) Annotations on Film and the Melbourne Film Bulletin, and in the first halting attempts of publications like Lumiere and Cinema Papers (in its first incarnation) to devote serious space to films and filmmaking. Above all it survives in the films themselves which have been brought to light on the screen by Nigel Buesst’s reminiscence, Carlton + Godard = Cinema (2003). This Ripple (and its relation to the somewhat larger French New Wave) deserves our attention not just because, until quite recently, it has received very little, but because of what it represents as the intimation of a chapter in the diverse and important history of cinephilia in Australia which, in the broader context of film culture, extends back to the immediate postwar years in the late forties, a history that has been the subject of in-depth critical commentary, most notably by Barrett Hodsdon. More specifically the fact that the ripples spreading out from Carlton through the sixties and early seventies never became anything resembling waves does not mean they were without any consequence for the wayward path taken by low budget filmmaking in the wake of the emerging feature film industry powered directly and indirectly for the first time by the injection of public funds. The cases of Pure S… (1975) and Palm Beach(1980) with their Carlton and Ubu lineages respectively, did briefly produce some further ripples.


Filmmaking concentrated around the Melbourne suburb of Carlton and Melbourne University in the sixties preceded the Australian film revival by some years, gathering momentum as lightweight synchronised cameras and sound equipment became available – a sixties version of the digital revolution. A number of ‘Carlton’ filmmakers found inspiration in the French New Wave in a spontaneous outbreak of filmmaking in a space between the fully amateur and the commercial feature film.

Almost contemporaneous with the Carlton filmmakers was the more tightly knit and focussed Ubu Films formed as a group in Sydney at a single meeting in August 1965 . Those associated with the Ubu were drawn to a range of experimentation in filmmaking which can be encompassed by the term ‘underground’, while the Carlton focus was on New Wave inspired exploration of the possibilities in the narrative feature film in what Nigel Buesst has described as a “combination of permissive self expression and social reflection” (Carlton + Godard = Cinema). Mainstream theatrical exhibition and television were never considerations for the Ubu group, who sought audiences through counter-strategies. A varied program mix of local and overseas short underground films (at times accompanied by light shows and live music) was radically at variance with the norms of commercial exhibition centred on the feature film. The promotion of provocative form and content was at times highlighted by censorship controversies played out in the both the popular and underground press. The most prominent member of the Ubu group, Albie Thoms, completed two feature length experimental films, Marinetti (1969) and Sunshine City (1973). Thoms subsequently wrote and directed Palm Beach, a narrative feature for theatrical release. Ubu Films Incorporated was dissolved in 1972, leaving as its legacy the formation of the Sydney Filmmakers Co-operative in 1967.

Ubu and the Carlton filmmakers had different strategies for audience engagement, although any such strategy was more implied than actual in the case of the latter. Their films were positioned uncertainly on the fringe of mainstream exhibition and broadcast television. Insofar as it was sought at all, validation for Carlton films would have been bums on seats in mainstream exhibition or at least recognition through film festival screenings. Such validation was never an overriding consideration of the individual filmmakers who were making films more or less to please themselves within the loose parameters imposed by funding from Unifed (a trust fund set up in 1962 jointly by the Federation of Victorian Film Societies and Melbourne University Film Society using some of the surpluses accumulated from the Melbourne Film Festival) and others. The partial exceptions were Brian Davies and Nigel Buesst. Davies, the eminence grise of the group, explicitly dissociated himself from underground filmmaking which he described as “feeding off itself in an ultimately destructive way.” He recognised that the only real future for Brake Fluid (1976) outside a few specially arranged screenings was for a commercial distributor to take it on and pay for a blow-up to 35mm. Surprisingly for someone conscious of the parameters of mainstream distribution and exhibition (amplified by his experience with Pudding Thieves, 1964-67), Davies does not seem to have concerned himself with the need to meet the requirements of a minimum of about 70 minutes running time to achieve feature film status. The addition of another twenty minutes or more to what is a decidedly episodic structure would not only have bridged some of the gaps between a succession of disconcertingly disparate scenes but would have crossed the threshold from an awkward running time of 50 mins. to the fully-fledged feature status necessary if the film was to have had any real prospect of a wider theatrical release including the cost of a blow-up from 16mm to 35mm.The original running time of Nigel Buesst’s Bonjour Balwyn was 70 mins but Buesst subsequently produced a 59 min. version in order to qualify for the short fiction competition at the Sydney Film Festival (SFF). At about the same time Phillip Adams and Brian Robinson’s feature Jack and Jill: A Postscript (1965-69, with a similar history to Davies’ films – self funded, years in production in Melbourne, winner of a major local award) and a running time of just under 70 mins, was given a commercial release through Columbia Pictures on a double bill in a Melbourne city cinema after the filmmakers themselves had financed the blow-up to 35mm, although in reaching a wider audience they would have recovered little if any of the blow up cost. Mangiamele’s feature Beyond Reason shot on 35mm was also picked by Columbia for distribution but received only sporadic screenings on double bills.

The history of the Carlton ripple is not as finite as that of Ubu. There was an earlier phase of film production in the early to mid fifties, most notably two self funded films using the resources and personnel of Melbourne University Film Society (MUFS) made by the then-Society president Gil Brealey. In the fifties and sixties, Italian migrant and professional photographer Giorgio Mangiamele’s singular commitment to make narrative features for theatrical release on 35mm culminated with the artfully photographed drama Clay (1965) and Beyond Reason (1970) set in an insane asylum in a nuclear devastated Australia. Earlier Mangiamele had made a feature, The Contract (1953) and two short dramas, The Brothers (1958), and The Spag (1962), filmed on 16mm and a short feature on 35mm, Ninety-Nine Per Cent (1963). These were all on the theme of migrant problems, filmed in and around Carlton. But the ripple provided a glimpse of something new to the Australian filmmaking scene at a time when feature film production, other than that of an occasional feature of overseas origin, was almost non-existent. Its real genesis was in MUFS in the early sixties when a cinephiliac engagement with film by key members Brian Davies, Bob Garlick[1] and Bert Deling extended into filmmaking.

Marking the advent of a new modernism into mainstream film narrative, the French New Wave challenged a national cinema aesthetically and re-jigged it structurally. In this it can be distinguished in its diversity and industry-wide nature from smaller and more focussed art film movements such as German expressionism and Italian neo-realism (Williams, 328). An art movement or school is made up of a group of people individually motivated and energised by the shared desire to break new ground in form and content in the context of wider cultural influences. A.F.C. Wallace has offered the definition of a “revitalisation movement” as “a deliberate and self-conscious attempt to provide a more satisfying culture” (quoted in Tudor, 170). In Carlton and Sydney in the sixties what was simply the desire to seize the opportunity to make films that were both personal and accessible, ‘energy centre’ seems more appropriate than ‘movement’ or ‘school’ to describe the clusters of related films produced by the Carlton and Ubu filmmakers, although the latter were closer to a movement than the Carlton filmmakers[2] . Such energy centres are the product of the confluence of individual desire and opportunity (that can be provided by the interaction of technological and cultural change) facilitated but not initiated by public policy, as the arrival of both Ubu and the Carlton films in the decade prior to government funding of experimental and feature film production testifies. The desire to experiment with forms of personal expression and narrative in the Carlton films was extended not initiated by the establishment of the Experimental Film and Television Fund (EFTVF) and the Australian Film Commission (AFC).

The films of the French New Wave arrived on Australian screens rather haphazardly in a mix of commercial art house releases, festival and film society screenings. Breathless (France, 1959), the seminal film of the first wave was actually banned until c. 1964 when a dubbed print was made available on 16mm by the French Embassy in Canberra for non-commercial screenings. Unlike the films of the French New Wave, the Carlton films did not mark a point of disjunction with the established industry (since no meaningful national film industry existed outside the production of sponsored documentaries and commercials) so much as the intrusion into the Melbourne film scene of loosely connected instances of New Wave influenced and largely self-financed narrative permissiveness in Jack and JillPudding Thieves; Hey Al, Baby; Dead Easy  (1970); Sympathy in Summer  (1969); and Brake Fluid. Also seizing technical opportunities for stylistic experimentation and student union funding was the celebration of a university arts festival (Nothing Like Experience, 1969) and student orientation films (Monash 66, 1966, and The Girl-friends, 1968).

Whereas the New Wave aesthetic was founded on deliberate choices as much as necessity (as laid out by Michel Marie[3] ) that constituted a break with the tradition of quality in France[4] , in the Australian context these were necessities rather than choices. The ripple did actually meet almost all ‘choices’ set down by Marie as the basis for the New Wave aesthetic. Marie concludes that what this amounts to is an erasure of the borders between professional and amateur cinema and those between fiction and documentary. Marie is referring here to a conscious break with modes of production in the well established, mature French film industry. As Davies in particular seemed to recognise, necessity could be transmuted into a distinctive stylistic signature: the New Wave inspired what Davies called “an exhilarating adventure in forms and techniques”. He aimed to adhere to certain conventional disciplines of narrative filmmaking “without aiming at any feeling of classical unity” (interview, Annotations 1967). He saw the story as “just an excuse for making a film” and after a while “was more interested in…shooting each scene for its own sake” (interview, University Film Group Bulletin 1967). Both Pudding Thieves and Brake Fluid maintain storylines but relatively weak plot linkages being structured as a series of loosely connected scenes within which audience engagement through the narrative device of reverse angle cutting is eschewed in favour of medium shots and camera movement (mainly pans).

With some stretch of the imagination an internal dynamic very loosely analogous with that of the Cahiers du Cinema based group in France can be located in the comparatively slight body of work produced in Carlton at this time. If Pudding Thieves as the seminal film is the ripple’s Breathless, Hey Al, Baby in its embryonic psychological realism its ‘moral tale’ and the improvisational openness of Brake Fluid (without the durée) its ‘mini-Rivette’, then on the ripple’s own terms, Beginnings (1970-71), Dalmas (1973) and Yackety Yack (1974) are its ‘post 68’ incarnation. To stretch the analogy even further one might claim Buesst’s range of involvement with other Carlton films while making his own marking him as the ripple’s Chabrol and Duigan’s eclectic engagement with genre in his subsequent filmmaking career as its Truffaut. Could the currently inaccessible Sympathy in Summer, both maverick and symptomatic, be its Adieu Philippine (1962)?


At about the same time that Bonjour Balwyn and Brake Fluid were given their first screenings in Melbourne, the screen adaptation of David Williamson’s play The Coming of Stork was given its premiere at the St Kilda Palais. The Palais was four-walled by the producer-director Tim Burstall – as Davies had done for one night four years earlier to premiere Pudding Thieves – except in this case, Burstall and associates ran Stork successfully for a six week season. Subsequently Roadshow Film Distributors picked it up for widespread commercial release with 35mm prints blown up from 16mm. It is generally credited as the breakthrough film of the revival, demonstrating that Australian-produced films could be distributed and exhibited profitably. At the time they made the films, Davies and Burstall had both been heavily involved in directing plays at La Mama theatre (Burstall directed Williamson’s play). The central character in Brake Fluid, co-scripted by Davies, playwright John Romeril (who suggested the title which has no discernible relation to the content) and lead actor John Duigan, is as enigmatically recessive as Bruce Spence’s Stork is transgressively assertive. However, what seem to be deliberate inconsistencies if not contradictions in the scripting of the role of Thomas, played by John Duigan, come to a head in the final scene with Julia, the object of Thomas’s strange obsession, as he suddenly asserts himself in an outbreak of crazed frustration. An audacious conception perhaps (as is the insertion of apparently unmotivated surreal slapstick early in the film), but one that seems too arbitrary a development with which to end the film. The same arbitrariness marks the episode in which a group including Thomas and Julia, collectively encounter a hanged man on the roadside (“he looks a bit green”) while in transit to a suburban house where they watch a current affairs program on television. The gathering seems pervaded by a vague malaise reminiscent of that in Rivette’s Paris nous appartient (1961).

Scene for scene, Brake Fluid is a more assured work than Pudding Thieves, as Davies himself recognised – the outcome of extended viewing and reflection honed by a good deal of directing in experimental theatre at La Mama and lessons learned from his earlier film. This off-centre assurance is most evident in the scene of Julia’s visit to see Thomas, her elusively diffident stalker, in what turns out to be a frustratingly inconclusive confrontation in a newly painted all-white terrace house devoid of furniture (“Romeo and Julia in reverse” as Buesst describes it) and that of the subsequent La Mama-like social gathering replete with the screening of an experimental film (see note on Hey Al, Baby). If as it stands the film’s concluding scene seems a non sequitur, Thomas’s contradictory behaviour (foreshadowed in an early scene at the pub) is apparent in the La Mama gathering where, through the impromptu staging of a piece of experimental theatre, he openly professes his love for Julia, something he is unable to do when they are alone together. It is perhaps not surprising that Jerzy Skolimowski, as member of the jury for the 1971 SFF’s short fiction award, reportedly carried the day for Brake Fluid over Peter Weir’s Homesdale, the former sharing as it does some affinities with the Polish writer-director’s own films[5] . Although provided with some kind of a launching pad with the SFF award and the prospect of government funding just opening up, Davies seems to have lost motivation and Brake Fluid was only given a few isolated screenings around Carlton while both Homesdale and Stork went on to win major AFI Awards providing impetus to the careers of their directors.

In the meantime Bert Deling was persevering with his first feature Dalmas in Melbourne after a false start in Sydney. The camerawork in unedited footage[6]  of Deling’s Student Action film (1962-3), which was never titled or completed, showed the influence of Jules et Jim (France 1961). Dalmas however, was a political intervention that, with Dave Jones’ Yackety Yack, constitutes the clearest presence of Godard in Australian cinema. This is not to say that Dalmas is slavishly Godardian. Its point of departure is locatable in a variety of influences loosely termed the New Cinema, reflecting the political and cultural ferment of that time. While Jones was embarking on a fully scripted and rehearsed parody of auteurism and modernist reflexivity, Deling was engaging with issues of post-colonial cinema (he retrospectively invoked Frantz Fanon’s three stages of post colonial art in discussing Dalmas, which Deling placed at the second stage (interview Lumiere, April 1973) via an earlier path through Fellini, Antonioni, the New Wave, and a Cahiers influenced auteurist reappraisal of American cinema (Hitchcock, Hawks, Ray, Losey, Anthony Mann, and Siegel all of whom he wrote about in MUFS’ Annotations on Film). Overlaid on a ‘New Cinema’ engagement with the politics of narrative in order to construct a politically aware cinema, is the LSD linked radical spirituality of Ram Dass/Richard Alpert who appears on multiple television monitors recounting his encounters with his Indian guru in the early scene between Dalmas and the paraplegic ex-cop Rojak (played by Max Gillies). The footage had been earlier taped when Ram Dass was visiting Melbourne. What seems enduring in Dalmas today amidst a certain amount of counter-cultural soul-searching is an element of anarchic humour, perhaps not always entirely intentional, which at times hovers on the edge of parody (overt in the portrayal of the documentary film crew). Late in the film ‘Dalmas’ (played in the fictional first half of the film by Peter Whittle) reasserts his presence, seemingly spontaneously – by this stage any notion of a script had been abandoned – wielding an axe in a gesture of apparent frustration in the course of coming down, it seems, from a bad trip. This moment of dramatic surprise is defused by the lack of anything one could describe as conventional response on the part of the others to Whittle’s dramatically threatening gesturing. The film soon dissolves into the provocation of the final scenes where the assembled participants reflect six months later on the collective experience at Lake Tyers with Whittle clearly a dissenting presence in the foreground. Deling, the de facto producer-director, pronounces that ‘we are stuck with a crude linear form with which to represent a very complex multi-layered experience’. There is, I think, a basic misconception in this assertion. By literally handing over the film to the collective halfway through – each participant was provided with the opportunity to shoot footage of his own choosing which was assembled to form much of the film’s second half – rather than negotiating the film’s content with them, Deling apparently hoped with this democratising gesture to capture and ultimately synthesise what they were experiencing at Lake Tyers both collectively and individually. But the director’s role here was surely the negotiation, selection and structuring, with whatever degree of discursiveness he chose, of a proximately coherent representation of the world. This was something Deling was ultimately obliged to try and achieve anyway by default except that he had greatly reduced the possibility of any kind of meaningful synthesis of the disparate footage randomly shot at his invitation. To dismiss the means at the collective’s disposal as ‘crudely linear’ as Deling finally does is little more than an attempt to displace this strategic failure onto the perceived limitations of the medium. Fortunately in Pure S…, his next film, he proceeded to ignore his own prognosis which had culminated in the tearing down of the screen at the end of Dalmas.

The filmmaking process is foregrounded in both Dalmas and Yackety Yack by the auteur’s on-screen ‘erasure’ – Dave Jones’s parodic handing over to a fictional director (played by himself) in the latter and an open abdication, in Dalmas, from the role by Deling in favour of the cast and crew. These two films remain to my knowledge the only fully reflexive features in Australian cinema, each marked in very different ways by the on screen presence of their respective auteurs. Ultimately the importance of Dalmas, however, was its crucial role in clearing the ground for Pure S…. The end of Dalmas was both a coup de theatre and, as it turned out, a statement of intent on Deling’s part which he subsequently sought to realise in the supposed anonymity of collective authorship. There is no director credit (or other production credits) on Pure S…, a residue from the foregrounding of collective authorship in DalmasPure S was based on a genuinely collective process but the overall orchestration is undoubtedly and, in contrast to Dalmas, decisively Deling’s. The film was intensively workshopped over a six month period with script development followed by rehearsal filmed by two video cameras to build the confidence of the non-professionals through filming and playback in a process which Deling called ‘demystification’ (Filmnews 1977, pp. 8-9). Critically central to the film’s success is that everything being portrayed was based on the participants’ experiences. Initiated with the Buoyancy Foundation which was dedicated to the rehabilitation of hard drug users, Pure S… was at first conceived as a discussion starter but it is difficult not to believe that Bert’s ambitions for the film soon extended beyond mere therapeutic use. A stylistic influence (attributable to Deling) would seem to be American screwball comedy exemplified by the verbal slapstick of His Girl Friday (1940, a film which Deling admired) through the deployment of rapidly paced, at times overlapping dialogue. The stylisation, already evident in Dalmas, is filmed frequently in long takes in medium or medium long shot with panning camera, deployment of variable focus lenses and no reverse angle cutting. Action becomes the essence. The viewer is engaged by breathlessly rapid piling on of incident ‘on the road’ (a death from an overdose early in the film seems almost in passing) matched by the playing of the largely non-professional cast in a dialectic that both distances the viewer while placing him/her in medias res. As Deling pointed out this stylised representation is the junkie’s subjective view of his lifestyle since the effect of actual injection of heroin is to slow down the pace of life not speed it up (interview Filmnews). It is this subjectivity – the film’s darkly comic refusal of ‘moral’ distance from drug-taking and the satirical edge brought to the representation of the methadone rehabilitation program – that was controversial (one Melbourne critic famously called it ‘evil’). The violence of the police drug bust merges into the milieu; it is the stasis induced by the treatment that is ‘life threatening’.

The AFC’s failure to fund a blow-up of Pure S… to 35mm, thus denying the wide circulation of the film in commercial cinemas or the international festival circuit[7] , now seems indefensible. It apparently reflected not only a timidity but also, to quote Susan Dermody in her discussion of what she calls the ‘eccentric’ stream of Oz cinema, “a lack of cinematic sophistication, a slow uptake, a certain lack of interest in histories, shifts and differences of its own culture, let alone the wider world of film culture’ (74).


The Carlton films are a significant if largely unacknowledged prelude to a film revival that was unsettled by frequent changes of strategy. If Davies’ flirtation with existential comedy was inconclusive, Bert Deling for a time was a controversial figure[8]  in a strand of feature filmmaking that was a spin-off from the policy uncertainties in funding low budget production rather than any consistent strategic rationale for their place in the wider scheme of things. More by default than design this has produced a body of films, an underside of feature film production, that doesn’t fit the observable categories in the revival: the flagship period films (the AFC genre), films that drew their inspiration from European ‘art’ cinema, social realist films and Oz commercial genres with a kinship to the eccentric – ocker comedy (Don’s Party, 1976; The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, 1972) and Australian Gothic (Wake in Fright, 1971; The Cars that Ate Paris, 1974). In referring to the eccentrics we are speaking here of a body of work impressive in its variety and persistent in its narrative ‘unruliness’. Central to that unruliness is the eclectic way eccentric films often juxtapose (and at their best synthesize) elements of different styles and genres. In most of the Carlton films, a documentary-like evocation of milieu is contained in an episodic fictional structure. Intimations of conventionally plot driven narrative are shrugged off or unsettled in Pudding ThievesHey Al, BabyThe Girl-friendsBrake Fluid and Bonjour Balwyn by a recessive central male character and New Wave inflected mise-en-scène. What existed briefly in embryo was the possibility of a cinephile cinema tending to existential lite that unsettles naturalism, a felt kinship with the New Wave even if this was little more than half formed aspiration that merged unnoticed into the facility for low budget production provided by the establishment in 1970 of the EFTVF which funded later Carlton films For a year or two there existed an approximately one in four or five chance of receiving funding for projects with budgets of up to around $5000; sometimes this was stretched to support features (although the focus for funding was to be on ‘experimental’ shorts). A stated principal objective for the funding of the film and television industry, of which the EFTVF was conceived to be one of three strands, was to “isolate … individuals of conspicuous talent” (Berryman, i). In light of this, the modest success of the EFTVF and its subsequent incarnations in providing the cross-fertilisation sought for mainstream feature film production did provide de facto encouragement, as a kind of by product, to the formation of some energy centres located outside mainstream feature film production (at the Sydney Filmmakers Cooperative, for example) to which these centres tended to be either indifferent or hostile.

The aim here has been to attempt to place the Carlton ripple in a (pre)history of the revival. Adrian Martin has suggested that a new wave is not nurtured, it erupts spontaneously and transgressively (Nurturing the Next Wave 91). The French New Wave fits this suggestion although it was substantially assisted by the injection of public funds as a result of policy changes in 1959 (Nowell-Smith, 141) in contrast to the polarising and fragmenting effect of funding in Australia in the seventies, much of it revolving around issues relating to distribution and exhibition. The mise-en-scène of unruly films challenged the ruling mode of naturalism in the revival’s first decade. There was something symptomatic in the way a path breaking film like Pure S…, seemingly coming out of a collective endeavour in left field, was allowed to languish on a non-theatrical film gauge while elsewhere Palm Beach was finally funded to struggle into existence on 16mm when 35mm would have better served the experiment with narrative through sound in what turned out to be the only chance Albie Thoms was given to make a feature despite the critical success of his film. If there is any lesson here it is that an excessive media-fuelled concern with market share and supposed cultural imperatives is most likely to keep us from recognising the value of spontaneity[9]  which, however problematic a notion it might be in feature film production, is nevertheless a central ingredient of a ‘new wave’ cinema that generally first announces itself without fanfare.

The Films

There is, I think, fairly general consensus that the thirteen films in the first list below constitute the core of the Carlton ripple, of which eight are features or short features (50 mins or more) and two are documentaries. I have singled out another five features and a documentary that have, as suggested in the notes on the individual films, various connections or affinities with the ripple films.

All nineteen films were shot on 16mm. Seven of the core and related features completed between 1972-7 were assisted by Commonwealth and/or state funding. All those completed before 1972 were either self-funded or received assistance from student organisations at Melbourne, Monash or La Trobe Universities. Several received funding from Unifed – the purpose of the fund was specifically to support local non-professional production. Its most notable contribution was to provide completion funds for Pudding Thieves and Jack and Jill: a PostscriptHey Al, Baby was also supported by Unifed before the money ran out at the end of the sixties.

The credits of each film are generally confined to directors, writers, actors and technicians whose appearance in front of and/or behind the camera in two or more of the ‘core’ and related films is taken as indicative of active association with others in the ‘Carlton’ filmmaking scene from the sixties to the early seventies. Principal cinematographers are included in all cases. Films were shot and released only on 16mm unless otherwise indicated.

All the films listed here except Sympathy in Summer are preserved in the National Film & Sound Archive. They are available for viewing (generally on VHS videocassette) onsite in Canberra or at NFSA nominated access centres around the country. Many of the titles are also available for loan on 16mm or VHS from the National Film & Video Lending Collection (NFVLC) for non-commercial screening by registered groups and institutions– check the catalogue on the NFSA’s website.

Pudding Thieves (1964-7), short feature. 54 mins. Dir, sc: Brian Davies; ph Sasha Trikojus; snd: Lloyd Carrick. Cast includes a cameo by Bert Deling. Funded jointly by Davies and Unifed. Jointly four-walled in 1967 by Davies and Jim Wilson (with Wilson’s The Restless Hours, c. 1966, which has no other connection with the ripple) at the St Kilda Palais and by Davies at the Union Theatre, Sydney University.

The story of two professional photographers (Bill Morgan and George Tibbets) who dabble in pornography in a series of loosely structured scenes (the film ends rather abruptly) directly influenced by Jules et Jim and Les Cousins (France 1959) which Davies nominated as “the intellectual impetus behind it”. Pudding Thieves is as much about liberating the camera from classicism as Brake Fluid with its mainly static camera is about freeing narrative from cause and effect continuity. In the course of making the film over almost three years Davies became more interested in what he called the ‘character-actors’ than in the theme of friendship and basic differences developed particularly with one of the lead actors, Bill Morgan, differences which were described by Davies as “an interesting dialectic in ideas which must have expressed themselves in the film” (Davies interviewed by Maudson and Finney, Annotations 1966).

Watt’s Last Voyage (1965), short, 7 mins. Dir,sc: Brian Davies. Cast: Graeme Blundell.
This self-funded pilot for a proposed series of program fillers for ABC Television “was rejected because of its length”. Davies spoke of it as “an exercise in (conventional) filmmaking…not so personalised”. He concluded that “it was a mistake…you should never leave an actor to his own resources”. It seems to have been the first stage for Davies in the process of engagement with the meaning of the actor-director relationship as it evolves in the course of actually directing a film.

Monash 66 (1966), documentary, 31 mins. Dir: Chris Maudson; sc (uncredited): Maudson, Robin Laurie; exec producer: Geoffrey Gardner for MUFS Production Group; ph: Dug Hobbs et al; ed: David Minter; snd: Lloyd Carrick; funding from Monash University Union Board.

This film made for the purpose of assisting the orientation of new students is a series of interviews conducted by Maudson and Laurie with both individual and groups of students in which they discuss problems likely to be encountered. The interviews are interspersed with a series of tracking shots with music score which seem inspired by documentaries by Alain Resnais, most notably Toute la Memoire du Monde (France 1956).

The Girl-friends (1968), short, 25 mins. Dir: Peter Elliott; sc: Elliott, Jack Hibberd; ph Chris Lofven; snd, ed: Nigel Buesst. Cast includes Jack Hibberd, Jane Washington, Graeme Blundell. Funding from the Union Council, Melbourne University.
One assumes that this was funded as a student orientation film featuring two freshettes, one of whom forms a brief liaison with a character played by Jack Hibberd. It works well as a comedy with a satirical edge and is perhaps the ripple film that is most adept at capturing some of the surfaces of films from the Cahiers group, most notably Godard’s Bande à Part (France 1964).

Hey Al, Baby (1968), short, 35 mins. Dir,sc,ed: David Minter; ph: Bern Hunt, Dug Hobbs. Cast includes Alan Finney, Chris Maudson, Peter Carmody, Anna Raknes. Funding from Unifed. Premiere screening (28/4/69) at the Carlton Cinema with The Rise and Fall of Squizzy Taylor.

There seem to be some biographical threads running through this film. The temporary departure of his male housemate leaves cinephile Al (played by Al Finney) as the sole male in a Carlton flat shared with three young women. This generates a certain amount of tension, much of it attributable to Al’s edgy response to the situation. Neither clearly describable as comedy or drama it is more in the nature of a partly improvised ‘slice of life’ which is nevertheless touched by a hint of melancholy masked by the comings and goings of those both within and outside the household and the underplayed tensions between them. Chrissie Loh, who has considerable camera presence in playing one of the three women in the house, died in a car accident while the film was still in production. Al’s retreat to his room in the final scene to project a Jerry Lewis film for himself finds a cross-reference in Brake Fluid when a character played by Al Finney projects experimental film footage he has shot (for which he provides a pretentiously cinephiliac commentary) to an unappreciative gathering.

Nothing Like Experience (1969), documentary-comedy filmed at the Second University Arts Festival, 50 mins. Dir,sc: Peter Carmody; ph: Dug Hobbs, Dave Downey, Gary Vaughn, Kevin Anderson, Norton Bradshaw (Nigel Buesst); snd: Lloyd Carrick; hairstyles: Nigel Buesst. Cast includes Bill Garner, John Romeril, Martin Phelan, Brian Davies, Anna Raknes, Jane Washington, Peter Cummins, Dave Downey, Nigel Buesst, Tim Burstall. MUFS Production Group. Commissioned by the Arts Festival; assistance from Melbourne University SRC, Union Council and the Administration of Melbourne University.

This commissioned film loosely structured around three student ‘types’ mixes fictionalised and documentary footage filmed during the festival including an assembly of cinephiles at a seminar replete with an in-joke or two at a Q&A involving Brian Davies.

The Rise and fall of Squizzy Taylor (1969), documentary, 55 mins. Prod, dir, sc, ph: Nigel Buesst. Cast includes Brian Davies. Self–funded. Screenings at the Carlton Cinema and the Union Theatre, Sydney University. Purchased for television by GTV 9 (Melb.) and TCN 9 (Syd.).

This is a documentary account, involving interviews and a good deal of restaging of the career of the larrikin gangster around the Fitzroy-Carlton area of Melbourne in the 1920s.

Sympathy in Summer (1969), feature, 88 mins. Prod, dir, sc: Anthony I. Ginnane; ph: Nigel Buesst. Assistance from MUFS. Premiere (March 1971) at the Grand Cinema, Footscray.

Reports from those who have seen Sympathy in Summer (originally titled None of Us are Perfect) and Ginnane’s own account suggest a film made very much under the star of Godard, Resnais and Truffaut, evoking the contradictions between the ‘interior’ life of a young student and his exterior behaviour. Ginnane seems to have been reluctant to leave much footage on the cutting room floor, perhaps attributable to the travails involved in the film’s funding and the perceived need to achieve feature length.

Dead Easy (1970), short feature, 53 mins. Prod, dir, sc, ed: Nigel Buesst; ph: Vincent Monton; snd: Lloyd Carrick. Cast includes Peter Carmody, Anna Raknes, Peter Cummins, Brian Davies, Martin Phelan, Bruce Spence; self-funded. Premiere at the Mandala Cinema, Sydney.

The circumstances of murders committed by four actual serial killers in and around Melbourne over a period of some decades are given an off-centre fictional framework, brought to an unexpected conclusion, involving a young student (Carmody) investigating the crimes at the locations where they were committed in and around Melbourne for his thesis with the aid of a German professor of criminology (Kurt Beimel). Describing it as “just a home movie” Buesst continued that “we all live around Carlton and spend our evenings playing pool at Johnny’s Green Room…The film says here we are, love us but we promise not to bore you”. (Krouskos interview).

Brake Fluid (1971), short feature, 51 mins. Prod, dir: Brian Davies; assistant prod (uncredited): Geoffrey Gardner; sc: Davies, John Romeril, John Duigan, (Peter Carmody – uncredited); ph: Dug Hobbs, Nigel Buesst, Dan Burstall. Cast includes John Duigan, Peter Carmody, Alan Finney, Graeme Blundell, Anna Raknes, Geoff Gardner, Martin Phelan, Bill Garner, Dave Downey; self-funded. Best short fiction award, 1971 Sydney Film Festival; second prize, Perth Filmmakers Festival 1971.

An off-beat comedy in which a couple (Duigan and Margaret Jacobs) are attracted to each other but find that they are unable to communicate. The anecdotes in the pre-credit sequence were written and performed by Peter Carmody. Although they have no apparent connection with the rest of the film, according to Geoff Gardner Davies liked them and decided to add them to the film. Geoff also recalls that the New Wave films Davies viewed repeatedly in the late sixties were Chronicle of a Summer and Adieu Philippine, the latter almost obsessively; both were then available on 16mm from the French Embassy.

Bonjour Balwyn (1972), short feature, 70/59 mins. Prod, dir: Nigel Buesst. Sc: Buesst, John Romeril; ph: Tom Cowan. Cast includes John Duigan, Peter Cummins, John Romeril, Alan Finney, Peter Carmody, Geoffrey Gardner. Assistance from the EFTVF. Premiere season at the Melbourne Filmmakers Coop Cinema.

This is the most New Wave inflected of Buesst’s films although such influences on the mise-en-scène are less apparent than in films by other filmmakers included here. Together with sound recordist Lloyd Carrick (9 films), however, Buesst was the most frequent name in the credits of the films (9 including his own four productions).The script of Bonjour Balwyn was co-written with playwright John Romeril who also worked with Davies on Brake Fluid. The hero, played by John Duigan, is struggling to keep a small circulation newspaper that he is publishing in Carlton afloat. He is a less eccentric character than the one he played in Brake Fluid but one whose egomania recedes as the film progresses. With most of the other ripple films, the film shares a loose, episodic structure that tightens with the introduction of Peter Cummins in the last third as an unscrupulously resourceful repossessor of tv sets from suburban householders behind in their payments.

Dalmas (1973), feature, 103 mins. Prod, dir, sc: Bert Deling; ph (col): Sasha Trikojus; snd: Lloyd Carrick. Cast includes Peter Cummins, John Duigan, Max Gillies. Financial assistance from the EFTVF. Seasons at the Australia Twin Cinema, Melbourne (Nov 1973) and the Sydney Filmmakers Coop Cinema, Sydney.

The film opens as a crime melodrama in which Pete Dalmas (Peter Whittle) has tracked down ex-cop, the reclusive Rojack (Gillies), in his pursuit of drug lord, Mr Big. This leads Dalmas to an anarchistic drug dealer, Plastic Man (Cummins). After being beaten up in a police raid, Dalmas pursues Plastic Man to the Tribe, an alternative group experimenting with acid and communal living who are in the process of being filmed by a television crew with an overbearing director (Duigan). The fictional framework falls away as the collective takes over the film at the director Bert Deling’s invitation.

Yackety Yack (1974), feature, 86 mins. Prod, dir, sc, ed; Dave Jones; asst dir: Rod Bishop; ph: Gordon Glenn; snd: Lloyd Carrick. Cast includes John Flaus, Peter Carmody, Dave Jones. Filmed at La Trobe University during 1971 with assistance from the EFTVF. Season at the Melbourne Filmmakers Coop Cinema, 1974.

A film intended as an outrage against the standard aesthetic criteria of film in which the on-screen director Maurice (played by Dave Jones) takes over from the director Jones, edits out opposing views, interviews the man in the street (Prof. Jerzy Toeplitz) and philosophises to Caroline (Peggy Cole) who appears nude throughout the second half of the film in order to enhance its box office appeal. Under the weight of Maurice’s megalomania the film degenerates into ‘murder’ of the film crew and Maurice’s attempted suicide ‘assisted’ by his beleaguered onscreen protagonists, Flaus and Carmody.
Related Films

Jack and Jill: a Postscript (1965-9), 35mm feature, 67 mins. Prod, dir, sc, ph, ed: Phillip Adams, Brian Robinson. Shot on 16mm – blown up for release. AFI Silver Award 1969. Second Prize, 1970 Perth Arts Festival. Commercial release on a double bill at the Rapallo Cinema, Melbourne.

The relationship between a bikie (Anthony Ward) and an aspiring middle class girl (Judy Leach) is doomed by the class divide. Post synched dialogue was limited by lack of funds with voice over narration and the ironic use of nursery rhymes being substituted. Neither Adams nor Robinson were connected with MUFS or otherwise to the Carlton films. The production and exhibition history constitutes a parallel case to Pudding Thieves in particular. The combining of fictional narrative and quasi-documentary elements also link it to the Carlton films.

Beginnings (1970-1), 16mm documentary, 58 mins. Prod, Acme Films (Scott Murray, Rod Bishop, Gordon Glenn, Andrew Pecze); ph: Gordon Glenn et al; snd: Andrew Pecze. Funded by the National Union of Australian University Students, The Aquarius Foundation and various groups at La Trobe including the University Film Society and the Film Society Production Group. Premiere screenings on campus to full houses over a week at the Glenn College Lecture Hall, subsequently at the Carlton Theatre, the ‘embryonic’ Melbourne Filmmakers Co-operative and by trade unions and peace groups. Distributed nationally to university campuses by NUAUS.

The film began by following the spread of dissent at La Trobe university sparked by the discovery of two Defence Department officials ensconced on campus; filming later extended to the Anti-Vietnam demonstrations on St Kilda Rd, 3 and 4 July, 1971. An earlier documentary, Or Forever Hold Your Peace (1970) part funded by the EFTVF, was made by a Sydney collective about the first Vietnam Moratorium in Sydney but was not seen by the Beginnings group and was subsequently dismissed by them as “soft”. Gordon Glenn shot the St Kilda demonstrations and the clashes with mounted police from within the marches. Describing the film and its makers as “the most hopeful local event in many years”, Bert Deling provided strong support, arranging initial screenings on double head at the Co-op and collecting donations for post production.

Stork (1971), 35mm feature, 90 mins. Prod, dir: Tim Burstall. Sc: David Williamson based on his play The Coming of Stork first performed at the La Mama Theatre, Carlton. Ph (col): Robin Copping. Cast includes Bruce Spence, Peter Cummins, Alan Finney, Max Gillies. Shot on 16mm – blown up for release. Premiere season at the St Kilda Palais; subsequently distributed by Roadshow and sold in the UK. Funding from EFTVF.

Most of the Carlton films have connections one way or another with La Mama although, unlike Stork, none were adaptations of plays performed there. Apparently only about a quarter of the original play was used by Williamson and Burstall in transposing Bruce Spence’s stage performance to the screen (Lumiere interview). With the experience of his failed art feature 2000 Weeks (Australia 1969) behind him and a $100,000 budget to recoup, Stork was for Burstall a precarious exercise in risk minimisation. Although a less overtly commercial venture than the subsequent Alvin Purple films it was clearly an unembellished gambit for the home market with Burstall adhering closely to a shooting script which softened the social satire and added slapstick comedy while retaining some local colour akin to the ripple films. Brake Fluid is the clear cross reference: on the script level (Williamson v. Davies and Romeril). and the realisation in the mise-en-scène (populist v eccentric).

Come Out Fighting (1973), 16mm feature, 50 mins. Prod, dir, sc: Nigel Buesst from the play by Harry Martin. Ph (col): Byron Kennedy; snd: Lloyd Carrick. Cast includes Martin Phelan, John Duigan. Premiere season at the Pram Factory, Carlton. Assistance from the EFTVF.

An Aboriginal boxer (Michael Karpaney) struggles to reconcile competing demands on his life. The basic structure of the play was retained but little else. A close-up style with frequent zooming and panning combined with a minimum of rehearsal and lighting, lightweight sound recording equipment, and fast colour film stock aimed for authenticity and spontaneity. The boxing matches were real contests not just staged for the camera (Buesst, “Filming the Fight”).

Pure S… (1976), 16mm feature, 83 mins. Dir: Bert Deling; sc: Deling and cast; ph (col): Tom Cowan; snd: Lloyd Carrick. Funded by the Bouyancy Foundation and the Film Radio and TV Board of the Australia Council. Seasons at the Playbox Cinema, Melbourne and the Regent Cinema, Sydney. Original title of Pure S… was banned (Filmnews interview). Most Creative Entry” 1976 Australian Film Institute Awards.

An episodic black comedy which follows two days in the lives of four Melbourne junkies – three addicts and one beginner – as they cruise around the city trying to score.

Mouth to Mouth (1977), 35mm feature, 96 mins. Prod, dir, sc: John Duigan; ph (col): Tom Cowan, Nigel Buesst (assistant); snd: Lloyd Carrick. Funding from the Victorian Film Corporation. Premiere season at the East End Cinema, Melbourne. Shot on 16mm – blown up for release.

Duigan moved from the improvisational looseness of the ripple films he had acted in through the failed experiment of his first film as writer-director, The Firm Man (1975; as an absurdist comedy of alienation it has a certain affinity with Brake Fluid), to the social realism of Mouth to Mouth. In expanding the idea of four teenagers spending a night on the town (a theme Duigan returned to more eccentrically in One Night Stand 1984) into the subject of unemployed youth in search of some kind of commitment and stability in their lives, Duigan again took considerable risks and was rewarded with a modest breakthrough for his persistence (he went through fourteen drafts and a number of knockbacks) with the success both critically and commercially of Mouth to Mouth. The risks (other than substantial personal financial commitment) were more in the writing and the casting than in the actual direction. A tendency towards offbeat unruliness most evident in The Firm Man, Mouth to MouthWinter of Our Dreams (1981), One Night Stand, and The Year My Voice Broke (1987) seems to owe something to Duigan’s extended engagement with the Carlton scene in films and theatre although his mise en scène has not consistently matched the ambitions of his writing and his facility with actors. Duigan also directed Dimboola (1979) produced by Carlton’s Pram Factory theatre company, a critically and commercially unsuccessful film adaptation of Jack Hibberd’s immensely successful play.

Carlton + Godard = Cinema (2003), DVD documentary. Prod, di, sc: Nigel Buesst. 145 mins.
A self-funded retrospective survey of the Carlton films including generous excerpts from the films, a linking insider’s narration from Buesst and excerpts from interviews with Bob Garlick, Geoff Gardner and Tony Ginnane. For availability: e-mail

Palm Beach (1979), 35mm feature, 88 mins. Prod, dir, sc, ed: Albie Thoms. 88 mins. Shot on 16mm blown up to 35mm. Distributed by Thoms. Premiere season at the Chauvel Cinema, Sydney. Funding from the AFC.

This is a drama involving an investigation by a private eye (John Flaus) forming the link between several sets of characters in the suburban sub-culture of Sydney’s northern beaches. Already a credentialed filmmaker with two feature length experimental films to his credit, Thoms nevertheless had great difficulty having his approach to feature film production accepted in a number of assessments for funding over a three year period. This approach involved working from a scenario rather than a full screenplay, central to which was a good deal of improvisation with both professional and non-professional actors. Thoms experimented with “narrative through sound” together with single-shot sequence (long take) filming (Filmnews interview).


“Film Production at the University: A Conversation with Three Directors” (Brian Davies, Bob Garlick, Bert Deling) Annotations on Film, Melbourne University Film Society, Term 3, 1962.
“Oscillations and Glances: an interview with Brian Davies”, University Film Group Bulletin 6, October 1967.
“Pure Shit” interview with Bert Deling, Filmnews Feb. 1977.
Martha Ansara, Nick Herd, and Tina Kaufman, “Talking to Albie Thoms, Director of Palm Beach”. Filmnews, May 1979.
Rod Bishop, “Rod Bishop interviews Tim Burstall” Lumiere, November 1973.
Rod Bishop and Fiona Mackie, “Dalmas: The film that freaked out: interview with Bert Deling and Robin Laurie”. Lumiere, April 1973. Also includes a review by Bishop.
Beryl Donaldson and John Langer, “Bert Deling”. Cinema Papers, April 1977.
Demos Krouskos, “Dead Easy: Demos Krouskos talks with Nigel Buesst”, Cinema Papers (first series), March 2, 1971.
Chris Maudson and Alan Finney, “Interview with Brian Davies”. Annotations on Film, terms 3 & 4 1966.
Albert Moran and Dave Sargent, “Ethics of the Outsider: John Duigan interviewed”. Filmnews, April 1984.
Scott Murray, “John Duigan on Mouth to Mouth”. Cinema Papers 16, April-June 1978.
John Thurston, “Make Your Own Breaks…’: interview with Brian Davies”. Cinema Papers (first series), no 5, February 1970.
Jake Wilson, “Carlton + Godard = Cinema: An Interview with Nigel Buesst”. Senses of Cinema 27, 2003.
Danni Zuvela, “The UBU Moment: An Interview with Albie Thoms”. Senses of Cinema 27, 2003.

Film Reviews
Monash 66: Alan Finney, University Film Group (UFG) Bulletin, No. 2 1967.
Pudding Thieves: Alan Finney, Annotations on Film Terms 3 & 4 1967.
________ Geoffrey Gardner, “Pieces of Eight” UFG Bulletin, Oct 1967.
________ Ken Quinnell, Sydney Cinema Journal Summer 1968.
Hey Al, Baby: Ken Mogg, Annotations on Film Term 1 1969.
Jack and Jill: Rod Bishop, Cinema Papers (first series), March 16 1970.
Howard Lindley, Lumiere, October 1971.
John C. Murray,Lumiere, January/February 1974.
Pure S… John O’Hara, Cinema Papers 
10, Sept-Oct 1976.
Sandra Hall, Critical Business: The New Australian Cinema in Review, Rigby, Adelaide 1985. Originally published in The Bulletin, 1976.
John Conomos, “Films We Love” Cinema Papers 101, October 1994.
Adrian Martin, “Films We Love: Going Down”, Cinema Papers 100, August 1994. Cross reference to Pure S… and the mini-traditions of streetwise films in Australian cinema.
________ Megan Spencer, 100 Greatest Films of Australian Cinema, ed. Scott Hocking, Scribal Publishing, Richmond, 2006.
Mouth to Mouth:
Jack Clancy, Cinema Papers 16, April-June 1978
Sandra Hall, Critical Business, originally published in The Bulletin, 1978.
Palm Beach: Noel Purdon, Cinema Papers 24, December-January 1980.
Sandra Hall, Critical Business, originally published in The Bulletin, 1980.
Geoff Gardner, Australian Film 1978-1992, ed. Scott Murray, Oxford University Press, 1993.

Baxter, John, The Australian Cinema, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1970.
Berryman, Ken, “…Allowing Young Filmmakers to Spread their Wings”: The Educational Role of the Experimental Film Fund, unpublished M.A. thesis, School of Education, La Trobe University, Melbourne 1985.
Buesst, Nigel, “Filming the fight”. Lumiere, May 1973. (About the production of Come Out Fighting).
Burstall, Tim “The Coming of Stork”. Lumiere, November-December 1971.
Crisp, Colin, The Classic French Cinema 1930-1960, Indiana University Press, Bloomington 1997.
Davies, Brian, “Films of Phillipe de Broca”.Film Journal 22, Melbourne University Film Group, October 1963.
_______ “La Nouvelle Vague”. Annotations on Film, M.U.F.S. Term 3, 1963.
_______ “The New Wave: Its Origins, History and Influences”. Film Chronicle, Melbourne University Film Society (MUFS), July 1968.
_______ “The Cahiers Push”. Annotations on Film, Term 1 1969.
Deling, A.B., “The Critics and the Nouvelle Vague”. Monograph published by MUFS, 1962.
_______ “The Local Scene”. Annotations on Film, Term 4 1963
Danks, Adrian, “Arrested Developments or from The Heroes are Tired to The Tomb of Ligeia: Some Notes on the Place of the Melbourne University Film Society in 1960s Film Culture”, in Go! Melbourne: Melbourne in the Sixties, eds, Seamus O’Hanlon and Tanja Luckins, Circa, Melbourne Publishing Group, 2005.
Dermody, Susan, “The Company of Eccentrics” The Imaginary Industry: Australian Film in the Late ‘80s. Dermody and Elizabeth Jacka, eds., AFTRS, North Ryde, 1988.
Dermody, Susan and Elizabeth Jacka, The Screening of Australia Volumes 1 & 2, Currency Press, Sydney 1988.
Gardner, Geoffrey, “Obituary: Brian Davies”. Cinema Papers, Oct-Nov 1984.
Hodsdon, Barrett, “The Avant-garde Impulse and Australian Narrative: Palm Beach in Context”. Originally published in Filmnews, January/February 1980. A revised version with new introduction in An Australian Film Reader, eds. Albert Moran and Tom O’Regan, Currency Press, Sydney, 1985.
Hodsdon, Barrett, Straight Roads and Crossed Lines: The Quest for Film Culture in Australia, Bernt Porridge Group, Sheraton Park, Western Australia, 2001.
Kovacs, András Bálint, Screening Modernism: European Art Cinema 1950-1980, University of Chicago Press, 2007.
Marie, Michel, The French New Wave: An Artistic School, English edition, Blackwell Publishing 2003.
Martin, Adrian “Nurturing the Next Wave: What is Cinema?”. Back of Beyond: Discovering Australian Film and Television, ed. Scott Murray, Australian Film Commission, 1988.
McFarlane, Brian, Geoff Mayer, Ina Bertrand eds, The Oxford Companion to Australian Film,1999.
Moran, Albert & Errol Vieth, Film in Australia: An Introduction, Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Mudie, Peter ed, UBU Films: Sydney Underground Films 1965-1970, University of NSW Press, 1997.
Murray, Scott, “Australian Cinema in the 1970s and 1980s”. Australian Cinema, ed. Scott Murray, Allen & Unwin in association with the Australian Film Commission, 1994.
Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey, Making Waves: New Cinemas of the 1960s, Continuum, New York, 2008.
O’Regan, Tom, “Cinema Oz: the Ocker Films”. The Australian Screen. Albert Moran, Tom O’Regan, eds. Penguin Books, Ringwood, Victoria, 1989.
O’Regan, Tom, Australian National Cinema, Routledge, London, 1996.
Pike, Andrew & Ross Cooper, Australian Film 1900-1977, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1980.
Rohdie, Sam, “The Write Stuff”. Cinema Papers 65, Sept 1987.
Shirley, Graham & Brian Adams, Australian Cinema: The First Eighty Years, Angus & Robertson & Currency Press, 1983.
Stratton, David, The Last New Wave: The Australian Film Revival, Angus & Robertson, 1980.
Turnour, Quentin, Alan Finney, Windsor Fick, “There is more to films than the Goldwyn Girls know”. Exhibition Catalogue celebrating 50 years of Melbourne University Film Society, Melbourne Cinémathèque in association with the Melbourne University Archives, August 1999.
Williams, Alan, Republic of Images: A History of French Filmmaking, Harvard University Press Cambridge, Mass., 1992.


[1] Bob Garlick was making Relf, a film financed by MUFS, at the time Deling had commenced shooting the Student Action produced film. Neither film was completed. At the time Garlick spoke of his interest in an interior cinema influenced by Dreyer and Bresson. The challenge for him was ‘to portray the inner world by the placing of man in his landscape; in this case the locale is the mental state of the man who wanders through it.’ There was to be no dialogue with the ‘pure emotion’ of performance complemented on the soundtrack by ‘literary thoughts that pass through his mind.’ (interview, Annotations, Term 3, 1962). Garlick is also credited as co-scriptwriter on Giorgio Mangiamele’s feature Beyond Reason (1970).
[2] The most conspicuous examples were the filmmakers’ cooperatives with a principal focus on distribution and exhibition of members’ films, the most prominent of which was the Sydney Filmmakers Coop as the longest lived with the most ‘spontaneous’ origins. Within mainstream production Kennedy-Miller and Film Australia (for a few years in the 70s) might constitute ‘energy centres’ in these terms.
[3] 1. The auteur director is also the scenarist of the film.
2. The director does not follow a strict, pre-established shooting script, leaving instead much of the filming to improvisation in the conception of sequences, dialogue and acting.
3. The director privileges shooting in natural locations and avoids artificial sets in the studio.
4. The director uses a small crew of only a few people.
5. The director opts for direct sound recorded during filming rather than relying too much on post-synchronisation.
6. The director minimises lighting requirements by working with fast film stock.
7. The director employs non-professionals as actors. (Marie 70)
[4] The French nouvelle vague was also facilitated by a shift in funding strategies. Producers such as Pierre Braunberger decided to take the money they would have spent on a single costly tradition of quality film and instead use it to fund ten much cheaper ‘new wave’ films, thus giving themselves ten chances at a box office hit instead of only one.
[5] Skolimowski was also reportedly impressed by the fact that Brake Fluid, unlike Homesdale, was entirely self-funded.
[6] A couple of scenes that Deling showed me in the late sixties.
[7] Deling has claimed that the AFC refused to take Pure Shit to Cannes (Megan Spencer, Reviews).
[8] Bert Deling subsequently made only one more film Dead Easy (1978), set in the underbelly of the crime scene centred in Sydney’s Kings Cross, on which he is credited as director and co-writer. It was would appear to have been an unhappy experience for all concerned (the film went straight to video) marred particularly by the choice of actors for the two lead roles compounded by failings in the script. It was nevertheless, within these critical limitations, well directed and strikingly photographed (by Mike Molloy and Tom Cowan) with resourceful mis-en-scène including compositions in depth involving longish takes. When one considers the successful deployment of a low (almost no) budget by Deling in Pure Shit it would seem that producer imposed constrictions was probably a major factor in the film’s failure.
[9] By spontaneity I am not referring here necessarily to off the cuff improvisation but to innovation in form and content which involves divergence from, for example, conventional division of labour and a relatively stratified and hierarchical approach to the production of feature films. Central here is the role of the screenplay in the process. See Rohdie in Articles.

I wish to acknowledge the assistance of Nigel Buesst, Geoff Gardner, Quentin Turnour and Scott Murray. Thanks also to Kathryn Weir, the curatorial manager for international art at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, who set me on the path by agreeing to include two sessions devoted to Melbourne’s brush with the New Wave in the extensive retrospective Breathless: the French New Wave Turns 50 at the Australian Cinémathèque, September-November 2007. The access service of the National Film & Sound Archive was essential to renew my acquaintance with or view the films of the ripple for the first time.

Created on: Sunday, 23 November 2008 | Last Updated: Sunday, 26 April 2009

About the Author

Bruce Hodsdon

About the Author

Bruce Hodsdon

The Carlton ripple coincided with Bruce Hodsdon’s engagement with film as a cinephile, first as a member of MUFS (1960-62) and later with the Sydney University Film Group. He has since curated film screenings and audio-visual collection development in several organisations and institutions, most recently at the State Library of Queensland. In recent times he has also contributed to the e-journal Senses of Cinema and entries to The Little Black Book of the Movies (Chris Fujiwara, ed.).View all posts by Bruce Hodsdon →