Wake in Fright ★★★★

Some of the fastest two hours of my viewing year, so quibbles seem especially minor. Flawlessly directed in a largely non-ostentatious fashion with occasional showboating, especially in the There Will Be Blood-esque opening 360 pan around the outback schoolhouse and surrounding areas. (Another shot cranes up up slowly, with every inch creating an artificial ripple from the lines of an outdoor water tank as its position changes in front of the school's walls — a fleeting effect, but an example of the meticulous care taken throughout.) Opening portentousness (hypnotic in its own right) quickly dispelled with the petty comedy of the schoolteacher's (Gary Bond) last day of term, his patient despair exacerbated by the last comment he gets from an overgrown permanent flunker ("See you next year, mate"). Bond has broader cultural aspirations, with Abbey Road on his wall and visions of escape to Sydney (in the short term) and England in the long run — but Australian outback gambling and self-abasing, bloody-minded macho leaves him exactly where he started.

There's some modish early-70s over-editing, but it seems justifiable, especially because the quick shots of half-recollected end-of-the-night snippets perfectly represent morning-after images perhaps better not enquired about. Rather like The Master it's a semi-comic, exhaustive depiction of Men Behaving Badly: big, bluff, blond men hilariously tackling each other until, unexpectedly, one gets offended and tries to massacre the other. They'll make up in the morning. You know these guys. (NB: I think even the rabbit hunt in Rules Of The Game is too heavily predicated on reflexive viewer sympathy for small cute things rather than a serious presentation of unfeeling savagery etc., so I think Bond's being a bit of a whiny bitch by film's end, but that's just me probably.) The culminating tragedy is Bond's understanding that his delusions of superiority are just that: given the chance, he's just a big a proponent of indefinite outback drunken revels as the less-educated Australians he despises. That this drives him to suicidal thoughts seems unreasonable, but that's again probably just me.