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PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK - DIRECTOR'S CUT: DVD

SYNOPSIS:
On a beautiful St Valentine's Day, 1900, a party of Australian schoolgirls from exclusive Appleyard College, including boarders Miranda (Ann-Louise Lambert), Marion (Jane Vallis), Irma (Karen Robson) and Edith (Christine Schuler), set off for a picnic at the magnificently gnarled Hanging Rock. The girls gain permission to explore the upper slopes of the Rock. But when Edith wakes up from an afternoon nap, the other three are disappearing barefoot into a passageway in the Rock. Maths teacher Miss McCraw (Vivean Gray) goes to look for them, but neither she nor the three girls are ever seen again.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Etched into the Australian consciousness and an iconic film that helps buttress Australian cinema in its claim to international standing, Peter Weir's Picnic At Hanging Rock was a trailblazer in 1975, in the early stage of the renaissance of local filmmaking. The film captures the mysterious ambiance that the novel sets up, and with Russell Boyd's fluid, sensual cinematography, takes us into a world where the other is unsettlingly close - whatever the other is.

Subdued but intense, the film's mood, impeccably aided by Judy Dorsman's wonderful costumes, seeps into our subconscious. The scene, for example, in which the four girls stop in a plateau within the Rock and simply, gently lay down to sleep, carries a subtle yet powerful sense of intangible foreboding, created simply by the actors precise actions, the images and the sound design. Dow below at the base of the Rock, the other girls and Miss McCraw are also taking an afternoon nap in the summer heat. But here, the atmosphere is simply lazy; there is no ominous mood. It's with such subtleties that Peter Weir achieves this magnificent result.

This beautiful transfer has the benefit of a remastered audio track (in 5.1 no less), which adds even greater dynamic to the film's effect, since both sound design and music play such crucial roles. (Notably, the ethereal sound of pan pipes introduced Australian audiences to this South American instrument and led to a massive increase in record sales of pan pipe music.) Wonderfully edited by Max Lemon, Picnic deserves its place as one of Australia's modern classics, and the bountiful extra material on the DVD enables a much deeper appreciation of the film and its makers. Especially notable is the new two hour documentary about the making of the film, featuring interviews with all the key cast and crew.

This doco provides an all important context for how, why and when the film was made, starting from the casual purchase of the book by Pat Lovell (then a morning TV presenter!), and her instant realisation that it would make a great film, through to Peter Weir's reaction to it: "electricity through my body". Then came the hard part ...

Published August 2, 2007

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK - DIRECTOR'S CUT: DVD (PG)
(Aust, 1975)

CAST: Rachel Roberts, Vivean Gray, Helen Morse, Kirsty Child, Tony Llewellyn-Jones, Jacki Weaver, Frank Gunnell, Ann-Louise Lambert, Karen Robson, Jane Vallis, Christine SchulerMargaret Nelson, Ingrid Mason, Jenny Lovell, Janet Murray, John Jarratt

PRODUCER: Hal McElroy, Jim McElroy, Pat Lovell,

DIRECTOR: Peter Weir

SCRIPT: Cliff Green (novel by Joan Lindsay)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Russell Boyd

EDITOR: Max Lemon

PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Copping

RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes

PRESENTATION: 1.77:1; DD 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc 1: feature & trailer. Disc 2: Dream Within a Dream feature length documentary; A Recollection - 1975 on-set documentary; Joan Lindsay interview (1974), audio interview with Karen Robson (Irma); a tour of the film's principal locations, then and now; trailers, stills & posters; a 1969 adaptation of the novel by 13 year old Tony Ingram, with commentary

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Umbrella

DVD RELEASE: August 4, 2007







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