It is time for a new celebration, this time of one of my first favourites among filmmakers, Peter Weir. I mean first in the sense that when I came of age as a film enthusiast Weir was one of the first I liked for his body of work. The thing about Weir also is that I discovered him on my own. Other first favourites such as Hitchcock, Ford and Kurosawa were not people I had to discover, they were already there, in my face so to speak. But since my interest in Australia came about simultaneously with my interest in cinema I naturally wanted to see what Australian films I could find. And among the best were Weir's.
His is an eclectic cinema, with different types of films made in different locations, spread around the world. But they share several traits. One is spirituality, that the world is a somewhat magic place, for good or bad. Another is the milieu's importance on the individual, how we are affected by, perhaps even become, the world we suddenly inhabit. The word suddenly is key here because most of his films are about people who find themselves in a new milieu with which they are unfamiliar and which does not easily agree with them. This world, especially the outside world, is captured in powerful and haunting images (he has two trusted partners in cinematographers Russell Boyd or John Seale). Weir works with music, silences and images more than words and his films are full of scenes that are powerful enough to become unforgettable. There is also a moral seriousness to his films, even though they can be playful. His first film is a very weird one called The Cars That Ate Paris (1974) but it was the eerie Picnic At Hanging Rock (1975) that made him a leading example of the New Australian Cinema of the late 1970s and 1980s. He has continued to make remarkable films all along, in Australia, the US and Europe, and hardly ever compromising on his vision. That unfortunately means that he has not made as many films as one would have liked...
Let's start with a clip from Picnic at Hanging Rock, the opening sequence:
Here is a scene from Gallipoli (1981), a strange encounter in the desert:
This is a scene from The Year of Living Dangerously (1984), about an Australian journalist in Indonesia during the last days of Sukarno.
His first film in America was Witness (1985). It is set among the Amish, where Harrison Ford's character is hiding from three killers from the city.
Fun to compare this scene with the trailer:
Looks like two completely different films, although they are both representative. It is a great film on many levels, not least the way much of the beginning is told through the eyes of the boy.
Now, a clip from his film with Jeff Bridges, Fearless (1993). It is about survivors of a plane crash, and the effect surviving has on them:
Then there is the sweet and sad Green Card (1990) a French/Australian comedy set in New York, with Gerard Depardieu upsetting the ordered lives of some New Yorkers:
And I will round this off with the trailer for The Truman Show (1999). I think the film is astonishingly good and I love the trailer as well:
Weir has said that when he works on the scripts he always listens to music, as varied a collection as possible, and you can tell already from these clips the importance of the music in his films, and how all kinds of music are used. Music and moving images. It is a fantastic combination.