Monday, October 7, 2013

Cloudstreet: Something Different On TV

When people talk about the new TV season they usually refer to new American TV series.
Well, when TV began it was supposed to open a window to the world.
So how about sampling just one new Australian TV saga in the middle of all those U.S. imports?
I've just been watching and enjoying a preview DVD of the six parter from Down Under titled Cloudstreet. It's based on a popular Aussie novel from 1991 by Tim Winton.
The first part is on Super Channel Monday October 8 at 9 p.m.
Starring are two very diverse families, the Lambs and the PIckles.
They find themselves sharing an old dark house in Perth in 1943 and the saga unwinds at a pleasing leisurely pace until the finale set in 1963.
The story begins with brilliant visuals as the deeply devout Pickles family sing hymns down at the beach while the males of the family toss nets into the sea to catch fish.
One of the nets gets intertwined with one of the young sons --and young Fish Lamb (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) seems completely gone but his hysterical mother won't give up banging on his chest.
She does revive him seemingly from the dead but he is completely different --brain damaged for life.
And soon the Pickle parents (Geoff Morrell and Kerry Fox) determine to desert their farm ravaged by dust storms and head for Perth.
On the one side there's habitual gambler Sam Pickles (Stephen Curry) --he lost all the fingers on one hand as the result of a fishing accident and really detests all forms of work.
His deeply unhappy wife Dolly (Essie Davis) drinks far too much and takes young lovers on the side as consolation.
Indeed she hears about Sam's accident by the banging on her bedroom door of daughter Rose (Laura Robinson) who finds her mother with another man.
The acting is top notch but beware this one doesn't play at all like a Hollywood soap. The camera lingers over seemingly insignificant details as character portraits are built up and an atmosphere of Australia deep in the Great Depression is forged.
Winton wrote the screenplay with Ellen Fontana so while some scenes seem slow moving they are achingly real to the problems of these two very different families.
Costumes, period details, it's all like watching an Australian version of Masterpiece Theatre.
Cinematographer Mark Wareham and director Matthew Saville have fashioned a real winner which obviously won't be for everyon.
But for one it's a delicate and poignant window on this world.
MY RATING: ***1/2.

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