The last wave

Over at Homo Ludens Paddington wallows in the British floods and evokes great watery apocalypses of myth and literature.

Speaking of Dreamtime floods… a great cinematic rendering is Peter Weir’s The Last Wave [1978]. The premise is ever-so-slightly cliched: modern civilisation with its delusions of linear progress runs up against an Aboriginal vision of a cycle (and, of course, civilisation is on the down-stroke). But the execution is wonderfully creepy. Check out Pitt Street under water:

Shamefully, The Last Wave is out of print in Australia, and you can’t find it in the video store. I had to import the US Criterion Collection version.

Another great literary flood is in Wakefield’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which my evil twin blogged here.

Published in: on 31 July, 2007 at 9:05 pm  Comments (5)  

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  1. I love The Last Wave, even though it’s a bit romantic (why can’t Weir just deal with real-life Aboriginal culture and Aussie history, instead of inventing weird stuff about a messiah from South America?). You can get hold of the DVD pretty easily in New Zealand -is its non-availability on your side of the ditch another case of the great Aussie cultural cringe?

  2. Hmmm, I don’t know… It may also reflect that I have yet to find a good video store here, nothing like Videon in Auckland. Now that this Criterion Collection version is out it may become more available, I saw it in the window of Gleebooks the other day, when last year I had to order it especially.

    The other big Aussie film in the Criterion Collection (besides Weir’s Hanging Rock) is Walkabout, which is also mystical about indigenous culture, though quite a beautiful film. Ten Canoes is a genuinely good take on Aboriginal culture, but pre-invasion.

    I have yet to see a realist take on actually-existing Aboriginal life. The Last Wave deals a little with urban Aboriginality but from the viewpoint of a white lawyer. But the real point seems to be that there is something mystical in the essence of an Aboriginal. Cf: One lawyer to the hero: “There just like depressed whites.” Then the rest of the film attempts to show that they’re not.

  3. You want to read Martin Edmond’s Luca Antara Mike – an ode to and quest through the second bookshops of Sydney, amongst other things:
    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20915644-5003900,00.html
    Pipped at the Montana Book AWards a couple of weeks ago, I think…

    What about Aboriginal life in Australian Rules, Beneath Clouds, and (a very early one) Nomads? I found all of them interesting, but I’m not exactly in a position to judge how realistic they were/are.

    Did you know that Marx studied the Australian Aboriginals intensively in the last years of his life? There’s loads of stuff about them in his Ethnological Notebooks – the odd note on the life of the Maori, via Governor Grey’s tomes, too.

  4. I haven’t seen any of those movies, should check them out. Will have a look for that book too. Sydney does have some great second-hand bookshops.

    I haven’t read any of that late Marx stuff either. I do use the E.G. Wakefield stuff from Capital v1 in teaching Marx to first-years, a good way to introduce ideas about class and primitive accumulation.

  5. Try this on the Notebooks:
    http://www.geocities.com/cordobakaf/marx_iroquois.html


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