Australia, 1971, 109 minutes
Mon, Apr 26 / 9:45 / Kabuki / WAKE26K
Fri, Apr 30 / 9:45 / Kabuki / WAKE30K
Sun, May 02 / 6:00 / Clay / WAKE02Y
“All the little devils are proud of Hell,” scorns a steely-eyed Donald Pleasance to the civilized schoolteacher stranded in a barbarically inhospitable mining town, deep in the sweltering Australian Outback. Having premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971, Wake in Fright, Ted Kotcheff’s once-lost Australian masterpiece based on Kenneth Cook’s 1961 novel of the same name, initially failed to resonate with native audiences who shied away from its appallingly frank and confrontational depiction of rural tendencies. The cult film was thought to have vanished forever until an exhaustive search spearheaded by the editor Anthony Buckley turned up a deteriorated print in Pittsburgh stamped for destruction. The find reveals a skillful study in repulsion that’s begging to be seen. John Grant, stuck teaching in a remote outpost, stops for the night in the fictitious town of Bundanyabba (affectionately called “The Yabba”) on his way to Sydney for school holidays. Though contemptuous of the simple-minded ritualistic debauchery displayed by the locals, he is quickly taken in by its sinister pleasures and thrust into a lost weekend of relentless repercussions. His dehumanization isn’t so much a downward spiral as a swift, ugly plummet. To that end, Kotcheff’s expressive camera thrashes about wildly, catching each and every carnal speck of grit and primal masculinity, now with more clarity than ever before. The painstaking two-year restoration by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia can at last be unleashed upon the unsuspecting public, projecting its maniacally seductive unease on new generations of wide-eyed cinephiles.
Presented in association with Advance – Global Australians. Global Networks.