Thursday, March 3, 2016

Don’s Party

Smart, rude, and relevant

     Bruce Beresford’s Don’s Party (1976) was barely released outside of Australia, but thanks to TCM (and probably Netflix), it’s available.  It’s a party movie that really gets wild.  As the character that becomes the political butt to everyone else, says, “I’ve never met so many university educated people that are uncouth.”  Like Shampoo (1975), Don’s Party takes place during what was an important election.  In this case, it was 1969 and the Labour Party was supposed to narrowly defeat the two-decades incumbent Liberal Party.  

The Cast of Don's Party
     Most of the characters support Labour and met in college fifteen years previously as either students or instructors.  Unlike the American college reunion movies The Return of the Secaucus Seven (1981) or The Big Chill (1983), there’s neither sentimentality nor nostalgia for the past.  Most of their lives haven’t worked out the way they thought they would, but that doesn’t really come out until the end and it’s not the reason they behave the way they do.  The one really successful couple, which has been more recently added to the mix, is cold, narcissistic, and single-minded.

The Pool Scene
     The acting ensemble – stars in Australia, but little known here – possesses a force that reminded me of really good American movie acting from the ‘40s or ‘50s.  The rhythm felt partially improvised and the primary emotions of lust, frustration, and anger roll in waves.  Neil thought it looked like 1969, though I was somewhat unsure.  Director Beresford made more movies in Australia (including the great war tragedy Breaker Morant in 1980) before following Hollywood’s siren call in the 1980s.  

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