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Australia, 1990 (MIFF 1991)

Director: Ross Gibson

From its striking opening sequence of (seemingly) casual observations from a bus window, Dead To The World looks, feels and sounds different from any Australian film we've seen. It bravely and successfully sweeps aside Australian cinema's traditional predilection with naturalism, in favour of a bold and genuinely original style.

it's a finely crafted work from Sydney based collective Huzzah Productions (Cruthers, Parr, Plain and Gibson), who share creative credit alongside their individual contributions.

The setting is the inner-city Sydney suburb of Newtown, the centre of a property redevelopment boom. The warehouse building that includes the once lively Newtown Boxing Gym is now ripe for redevelopment and the scent of money has lured out a colourful collection of vermin keen to change tum-of-the-century-sweatshops into loft apartments for the burgeoning yuppie class. The struggle to retain the gym from the encroachment of corrupt capital is the moral axis on which the film turns, but this is no sentimental, nostalgic longing for a bygone era and its associated values - Dead To The World looks the present day straight in the face, and it's not pretty.

It's a classic post-modernist piece, combining numerous influences into a fresh, original whole: imagine a cocktail of Johnny Guitar, Jacobean drama, Blue Velvet, the tough Hollywood 'problem' films of the 30's and 40's.

There is so much to admire about Dead To The World, chiefly Jane Castle's astounding cinematography which is always inventive, but crucially, always serving the film rather than merely some visual whim. The soundtrack has also received special attention in production. In an unusual move for an Australian feature, every sound, every line of dialogue, has been recreated in the studio, resulting in a state-of-the-art feel that turns the aural into a vital element of the film's rich texture; in Dead to the World it fairly leaps of the screen at us. Look, listen, learn and laugh. (T.B.)

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