A major thematic show that features more than 228 films, costumes, and casting books is currently on display in Adelaide. Starstruck: Australian Movie Portraits is curated in collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery and the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia as well as The National Portrait Gallery, which encompasses more than 100 years of Australian filmmaking.
The exhibition catalyzes awakening, inducing reflection with films such as Caddie (1976), My Brilliant Career (1979), The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994), The Wog Boy (2000), Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002), Ten Canoes (2006) and The Sapphires (2012) signaling significant changes in the past caused by catastrophes or major social-cultural shifts.
David Kynoch photographed Sam Neill and Judy Davis on the set of My Brilliant Career (1979) with director Gillian Armstrong. Courtesy Margaret Fink, National Film and Sound Archive of Australia
The stills and headshots in Starstruck serve as mnemonics to events that occurred in Australian history. According to Hayden White, “The historical evidence produced by our epoch is often as much visual as it is oral and written in nature.”
The film footage still reflects the past century, which saw massive fractures (the Two World Wars) and other gradual changes (for instance, the ongoing influence of immigration in Australia and the mainstream Australian accepting the brutal real-world impact of the Stolen Generations).
Tianna Sansbury, Laura Monaghan, and Everlyn Sampi as Daisy, Gracie, and Molly photographed by Matt Nettheim in Rabbit-Proof Fence 2002. Courtesy Phillip Noyce, National Film and Sound Archive of Australia
Others are testament to continuing social and ideological contestations: the snakes and ladders progressive/regressive nature of Australian feminism from the 1970s until now, and the more recent, often toxic, exchanges a propos of gay marriage, not to mention the ever-burgeoning celebrity culture that focuses on “stars,” successively held up as social exemplars, then routinely cut down as tall poppies.
The other exhibition on display in the darkened gallery in the Samstag Museum is Rolf de Heer and Molly Reynolds’s moody moving image piece, The Waiting Room. It’s appropriate that these two exhibitions are on display in Adelaide, which is the city where the South Australian Film Corporation was founded at the time of 1972 by the eminent Dunstan government. Since its inception, the company has been an engine for change, commissioned various film productions while also establishing an efficient infrastructure (some of which was later dismantled) to ensure the Australian film industry’s dynamism.
Some of the most important early works in the exhibit include a still from 1919, The Sentimental Bloke, a silent film that was based on Phillip Butterss’s description as “C.J. Dennis’s narrative in verse about a street-fighter larrikin and his tense courtship with Doreen the young woman who affixes labels to the pickle factory. It’s still the most-seller collection that is Australian verse. Since its first publication in the month of October 1915, over 300,000 copies were sold in more than sixty editions.”
Lottie Lyell as Doreen and Arthur Tauchert as ‘The Bloke,’ The Sentimental Bloke, 1919. National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
As a film and book, The Sentimental Bloke offers a sharp critique of the status of women in Australia. Due to the Bloke’s historical and ongoing importance, it’s quite surprising that it’s just represented by one image in this exhibit.
Portrait of Louise Lovely, 1921, believed to be by Glen MacWilliams. National Film and Sound Archive of Australia
One of the most important earlier works is a photograph portrait of Australian-born actor Louise Lovely (1895-1980), recognized for being the only Australian woman to establish an international profession in America. United States, later reigniting it in Australia.