Saturday, February 21, 2009

Josh Jarman

Josh Jarman (Pip Mushin, Australia, 2004)
I love ACMI's Australian Perspectives series, screening Australian films most Saturday afternoons at 4pm. Today, a little known gem, Josh Jarman, was co-presented by AFCA, the Australian Film Critics Association. As an AFCA member, I got in for free, but I also brought along the family and we all enjoyed the screening. Mind you, ticket prices are all a very low $8, close to the best value cinema in town. Australian audiences seem to have a reluctance supporting local films but these ACMI selections really are worth checking out and I highly recommend them. That some of them are accompanied by Q&A's with those involved in the films is an added bonus.

The film was written, directed and co-produced by Pip Mushin, who I recognised as an actor from one of my favourite Australian series of all time, Frontline. It's about a struggling playwright, Josh Jarman (played against type by Marcus Graham), who finally hits the big time, but at a cost. With obvious parallels to the film industry, the film has a strong underlying truth and uses humour to good effect. It had the potential to appeal to a broad audience but unfortunately, was released in only twelve cinemas Australia-wide.

The film has a strong line-up of support actors, including Kim Gyngell as Stan Billows, the unprincipled theatre producer, and two spunky performances from Kestie Morassi (as Stan's daughter Sasha and Josh's girlfriend) and Daniella Farinacci (as Maxine, Josh's neighbour). The film works well as a satire, critiquing the quandary of being a struggling artist and what it takes to get so-called success. It also works well as a story in its own right, with the situations that the eponymous character finds himself in, largely concerned with sex. My eight-year old son asked me during the film, "what's an orgasm"? I told him later.

The Q&A panel included Pip Mushin, Marcus Graham, co-producer Eva Orner via phone link-up from Los Angeles and, from AFCA, Peter Krausz and Greg King. As well as discussing how the film got made and other background info, it was discussed in the context of the struggles of getting Australian films made, a pet subject of mine at these Q&A events. The turnout wasn't huge, but the questions just kept coming and in the end, we went over-time and had to be cut short.

See also, film notes by the director.

ACMI's Australian Perspectives are curated by James Nolen. Upcoming screenings include John Hillcoat's The Proposition on 28 February, Baz Luhrmann's Australia on 7 March and Jasmin Tarasin's Flight of the Obüs Bird - Winter 2009 on 14 March.

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