A planned housing development in Sydney's Kings Cross in the mid 70s, designed by architect Stephen West (Richard Moir) for upstart Cockney immigrant developer Peter Houseman (Chris Haywood), becomes the centre of controversy as tenants and squatters in the doomed, older houses refuse to move. Their most outspoken member is Kate Dean (Judy Davis), who works with the publisher of a small but vocal local paper, Mary Ford (Carole Skinner) - whose relentless rabble rousing against the development is silenced only with her disappearance. Kate searches for Mary and has her suspicions, while she and Stephen develop an uneasy relationship. The union bans work on the site, but a well timed fire changes the dynamics of the dispute - but leads to tragedy.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
In this remastered (with 5.1 DD sound) version of Phillip Noyce's second feature, with a lot of the background dialogue cleared out to ensure greater clarity for the story, we are reminded what a terrific and natural filmmaker he was from the beginning. Heatwave is inspired by real events - the disappearance of Juanita Nielson, an activist in 70s Sydney, agitating against a major development project - but is not the simplistic class conflict story that it might have become. Satisfyingly filled with characters and issues that are far from simple, the film captures the revving energy of Judy Davis (Kate) and the cool intensity of Richard Moir (Stephen) as two of the central characters in a drama that deals with universal and ever-recurring urban conflicts.
Bill Hunter as Stephen's boss and Chris Haywood as the developer Houseman come fresh from Noyce's debut feature, Newsfront, but in opposite role relationships. In Newsfront, Haywood plays Hunter's apprentice; in Heatwave, Hunter is Haywood's client. Both provide plenty of dimension to their characters, and John Gregg has a pivotal support role as Houseman's lawyer, Phillip Lawson. Indeed, the cast list is full of names that are now readily recognisable, such as John Meillon (as a journalist), Frank Gallacher (as a migrant underworld figure) and Gillian Jones (as a stripper) among others.
Set between Christmas and New Year, Heatwave uses Sydney's notorious summer weather both as dramatic and symbolic setting, with the tension breaking Southerly change whipping through on New Year's Eve, coinciding with the climax of the story.
Vincent Monton's cinematography, notably the sensitively lit interiors, and Cameron Allan's wonderfully subtle but haunting ambient score help make this one of the finest films of Australian cinema. The socio-political relevance of the film has in no way abated and the dramatic grip of the filmmaking remains firm.
The DVD boasts a terrific half hour reflection by Phillip Noyce, in which he canvasses a slightly altered storyline which he now prefers, and the setting of the film in its context - both politically and in his own career.
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PHILLIP NOYCE INTERVIEW
HEATWAVE: DVD (M)
CAST: Judy Davis, Richard Moir, Chris Haywood, Bill Hunter, John Gregg, Anna Maria Monticelli, John Meillon, Dennis Miller, Carole Skinner, Gillian Jones, Frank Gallacher, Lynette Curran, Graham Rouse, Paul Chubb, Peter Hehir
PRODUCER: Hilary Linstead
DIRECTOR: Phillip Noyce
SCRIPT: Marc Stiles, Tim Gooding, Phillip Noyce, Marc Rosenberg
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Vincent Monton
EDITOR: John Scott
MUSIC: Cameron Allan
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ross Major
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
PRESENTATION: Widescreen; DD 5.1
SPECIAL FEATURES: Sweating it out: Phillip Noyce discusses Heatwave; stills gallery
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Umbrella Ent.
DVD RELEASE: July 10, 2007