Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 


Andrew L. Urban looks at Topless Women . . .

The title may be a little long but it grabs your attention, and though it suggests a voyeuristic documentary, it actually refers to a film within the film that New Zealander Harry Sinclair has made. Instead of topless women, Sinclair’s movie stars an actress who was genuinely pregnant.

Topless Women Talk About their Lives has its roots in Sinclair’s TV3 mini-series of the same title. It followed the lives of a group of twenty somethings living in Auckland, and each episode lasted four minutes. When one of the actresses, Danielle Cormack, told him she was pregnant, concerned that it would jeopardise the series - or her role in it - Sinclair turned it into an opportunity.

"It was great to have an important part of my life documented," Danielle Cormack

"I saw certain possibilities in filming a really pregnant woman," says Sinclair, a writer and director making his feature debut. That was the trigger for the story, which follows the characters established in the TV series and examines how Liz’s (Cormack’s) pregnancy affects their relationships. A second storyline concerns Ant, who writes a screenplay titled Topless Women Talk About Their Lives. However, he loses the script, which is found on a beach by a German tourist. The screenplay ends up in Germany where it is made into a film. Ant assumes this makes him an important screenwriter.

But Sinclair’s film is really Liz’s story, as it charts her journey. "The idea of someone who is pregnant but doesn’t want to be, and who breaks up with the father became the focal point," he says, "and the other stories weave around it."

Liz changes from a girl who forgets to have an abortion to a woman ready to be a mother, and her friendships also alter. "It was great to have an important part of my life documented," says Cormack, "even as a different character."

"A controversial birth sequence"

The film was shot at weekends over six months, and as Cormack’s pregnancy progressed, so her on-screen personality changed - much in keeping with reality. The film ends in a veterinary surgery with what could be regarded as a controversial birth sequence.

Cormack, her partner Hayden and their 10-month-old baby Ethan, went to the 1997 Cannes Film Festival to promote Topless Women. Fittingly, the first sale for rights was made to a German distributor - TiMe - on the first day of Cannes, after an advance viewing of clips from the film.

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