Walkabout ★★★★

I'm hard-pressed to think of anything more perfectly filmed and edited. Roeg's camerawork -- without the benefit of drones or modern lenses -- still holds up. Those early shots of the outback which slowly reveal two young Europeans lost in the vastness of the desert are incredible.

He also manages the montage trick so many failed at after him: from nature's beauty to her horrors, interwoven with the oppression of civilization for bonus difficulty. I think this is important in this movie, because it might otherwise be the parable (the cliche) of the noble savage. I'm not sure he doesn't still slip into that from time to time. Jenny Agutter skinny dipping is not prurient, per se, and it's certainly as beautiful as the rest of the movie. But it goes on for a while, lingering. Nudity as innocence as enlightenment?

This lingering discomfort keeps me from calling the movie perfect. In the end, both Agutter and David Gulpilil are ruined. Roger Ebert says it's a failure to communicate, not inherently a statement about civilization. That seems overly kind to me: the contrast between Gulpilil, who hunts for survival, and the white hunters, who kill for the fun of it, could not be any clearer.

Roeg is condemning civilization here, which is not to say it doesn't deserve it. However, he's also saying that the aboriginal natives are too weak to withstand contact with the most harmless representatives of colonialism. It's an anti-colonialist statement that's predicated on inherent fragility. Compare to the work of Claire Denis, who knows there's strength on both sides of that equation.

And despite the discomfort (which I nailed down in the process of writing, so thank you for indulging my process), it's spectacular. It's easy to see why Gulpilil became internationally known after this. As a piece of artistic design, I could ask for little more.

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