Unknown Pleasures:
Australian independent cinema


A series of regular screenings curated and presented by Chris Luscri & Bill Mousoulis, featuring the best of Australian independent cinema, both classic and contemporary, with discussions with the filmmakers.

read more



Upcoming screenings for 2021

INFO FOR ALL SCREENINGS:

Our venue is the Thornbury Picture House,
at 802 High St, Thornbury.
Tickets are at regular house prices,
and must be booked online at the venue's website.
Check particular info for each session down the page.

Facebook Unknown Pleasures page




DATE TO BE CONFIRMED, time TBC.
Thornbury Picture House, house prices. Book tickets soon.

Dreams for Life
(2004, 76 mins, Anna Kannava)

Q&A with Maria Mercedes (lead actress) and Aanya Whitehead (producer), moderated by Bill Mousoulis.

The debut feature of the late Anna Kannava (1959 - 2011), Dreams for Life is an accomplished work about a woman in her late 30s (Maria Mercedes) recovering from trauma. Minimalist and everyday, the film is poetic and elegant, delving deep into its troubled but beautiful heroine, as she grapples with her past and is challenged by a surprising present, the appearance of a young man (Dai Paterson). (Bill Mousoulis)

Anna Kannava was (and continues to be) an inspiration to many in the Melbourne film scene and also many in the broader community. Born in Cyprus in 1959, she migrated to Australia in 1974, and found her niche at Deakin University (then Rusden College) studying film, acting, fine art. She settled on directing films, and made a number of short and medium-length works in the '80s and '90s, quirky shorts but also personal and inventive documentaries. Two features followed in the '00s, Dreams for Life in 2004 and Kissing Paris in 2008, but her life was tragically cut short at the age of 51 in 2011. She battled with a health condition (scleroderma) for the last 20 years of her life, and when she developed cancer in 2010, it was too much for her body. But what will be remembered forever, by those who knew her, was her passion, determination and her penetrating but generous personality. And she made exquisitely beautiful films, brimming with life (both joy and pain).

Her debut feature Dreams for Life was a surprising work when it came along in 2004, shifting away from the personal and quirky nature of her previous films, and delving into a more controlled art cinema terrain. In a native and intuitive way, she came up with a quintessential "women's film", like the Sydney films featuring voice-over narration (such as Gillian Leahy's My Life Without Steve [1986] or Susan Dermody's Breathing Under Water [1993]}. But her concerns were never feminist or post-feminist. She was an explorer of humanist and existential states, her cinema one of pain and longing, and the joy that can be found in love and adventure. We here at Unknown Pleasures have celebrated her before (we screened Kissing Paris in 2019) and we will continue to celebrate her. – Bill Mousoulis.

“What lifts Kannava's work beyond a kind of suburban neo-realism is a strongly lyrical aura, and an investment in the realm of transfiguring desire. Her films are built on dream-sequences, paintings, music, dance, and a whole, sensual experience of fabrics and textures – a special and intimate 'female aesthetic' proudly claimed .... Kannava is concerned with the small tremors in Ellen's life, the barely noticeable but internally powerful transformations of the spirit. Her solitary gestures of swimming or walking are just as significant as the decisions she must make about relationships. And the film, in its quiet but confident style, embodies this character's 'visionary' experience. Dreams for Life richly extends and fulfils the promise of Kannava's previous work. Cheekily taking its title from a self-help book, Dreams for Life is not afraid to confront the ersatz wisdom of the New Age movement in order to dig deep into the emotional truth of slogans about loving yourself, or coming to the peace with the past. ” Adrian Martin, Dreams for Life review, Film Critic, June 2004.

Anna Kannava interviewed about Dreams for Life, by Simon Sandall, Reader's Voice, September 9, 2005.

Dreams for Life info page, Melbourne Independent Filmmakers, 2005.

Kannava Essence: A Tribute to Anna Kannava, Pure Shit: Australian Cinema, November 30, 2018.



Stay tuned for details of further screenings in 2021/2022


The following 2 screenings (originally scheduled for 2020)
will happen at some point in 2021 or 2022, along with others:




NOTE: The HD-restored screening of Margot Nash's
VACANT POSSESSION that we had planned
(see the program notes we published about it originally),
did not go ahead by us, as it was screened by the
Melbourne International Film Festival this year
(a screening that had our blessing).
We hope to have Margot Nash present
another film or films of hers for us later this year.



Screening postponed, for La Mama

Our December 12 La Mama Cinematica! screening
has now been postponed to 2022 sometime.
We will play several retrospective films
with a connection to Carlton and/or La Mama.
More details in early 2022.

 



Past screenings in 2021







Tuesday, May 25, 8:00 pm.
Thornbury Picture House, house prices. Tickets here. SOLD OUT

Clay
(1964, 80 mins, Giorgio Mangiamele)

Q&A with Ettore Siracusa and Rosemary & Claudia Mangiamele.

One of the great pioneers of the Australian cinema, the late Italian-Australian film-maker Giorgio Mangiamele (1926-2001) stands as a kind of tabula rasa of the paths untaken in our national film culture. In Clay, a man on the run from police falls in love with the woman who shelters him. Increasingly fractured and enchanted, the film quickly loses any sense of narrative propulsion in service of pure atmosphere and environment. A visually ravishing film. (Chris Luscri)

With special thanks to Andrew Pike, Ronin Films.

Chris Luscri talks with Peter Krausz about Clay, Movie Metropolis radio show, May 22, 2021.

One of the great pioneers of the Australian cinema, the late Italian-Australian film-maker Giorgio Mangiamele (1926-2001) stands as a kind of tabula rasa of the paths untaken in our national film culture. Giorgio’s work exemplified the startling possibilities inherent in a visionary and poetic cinema, one that began in a lyrical style that drew from Italian neo-realism to comment on the complexities and traumas of Italo-Australian migrant life (Il contratto, 1953; The Brothers, 1958; The Spag, 1960-62; Ninety-Nine Percent, 1964) to later works that became increasing mythological in dimension, dense and dream-like. With Clay, one can see a shift from the social realist concerns of earlier works marked no doubt by the experience of personal trauma (racial and cultural), towards a fuller investigation of the film-maker’s interests in psychoanalysis, jazz, the avant-garde, experimental theatre and – peculiar for a first-wave European migrant – Eastern spiritualism. Shot over a seven-week period at Montsalvat artists’ colony in the Melbourne suburb of Eltham, Clay employs the simple narrative armature of a man on the run from police who falls in love with the woman who shelters him. Increasingly fractured and enchanted, the film quickly loses any sense of narrative propulsion in service of pure atmosphere and environment – as if a lost, silent classic of French Impressionism from the 1930s somehow collided with the more absurdist and surrealist wing of the Czech New Wave of the 1960s. Selected to compete for the Palme d’or at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival (only the second Australian film to receive that honour), Clay did more than just prefigure the Australian film revival of the 1970s – it paved a path for the notion of the director as artist within a particular cultural context that has always struggled with this notion. It is no surprise then to find that Clay has never received its proper due in Australia, from first release to the present, even with a beautiful full 35mm restoration by the NFSA in 2010, and subsequent retrospective screenings and DVD release through Ronin Films at MIFF in 2011. The truth of the matter is that Australian cinema does not quite know what to do with a film object like Clay, so rarefied, complex and troubling are its investigations of art-making, gender, sex, violence and the interior life of dreams and the Shadow that it remains somehow poised, frozen on the precipice of comprehension, like a waking dream, like a promise. This was clearly Giorgio’s design, and no one who has seen the film can forget its rhythms and textures, it's energies and vibrations. Quite visually ravishing like no other Australian film before or since. – Chris Luscri.


On Clay --

“In 1965, Clay was selected for Competition at Cannes, but that achievement was ignored in the headlong rush to promote the young and new. This haunted Mangiamele all his life. Of Clay, Variety wrote that ‘Visually it’s frequently a poem brought to life with some breathtakingly poignant and arty shots’, while La Cinématographie Française argued ‘Mangiamele has painted in his visual poem the story of an impossible love.’ In Australia, The Advocate said, ‘Mangiamele is one of the world’s master craftsmen in the art of film, a man who really knows how to use a camera to tell a story and whose photography is a joy’, and The Australian wrote, ‘Clay is a film of singular visual beauty, there is a poetry in the treatment, tact and sensitiveness in the direction’.”, Giorgio Mangiamele – Passionate Filmmaker, Scott Murray, Senses of Cinema, June 2001

“It’s Clay, I would suggest, that really embodies this different—and Mangiamele’s very characteristic—approach to cinema. Indeed, as soon as one begins to look more closely it becomes clear that, leaving to one side the migrant and social themes which he had treated in the earlier films, Mangiamele was here attempting quite self-consciously to create something analogous to that “cinema of poetry” that Pasolini was theorising (and practising) in this very same period.”, Giorgio Mangiamele’s Clay and the Beginnings of Art Cinema in Australia, Gino Moliterno, Screening the Past, Issue 32

“Opening with images of swamps and bushland processed in black-and-white negative and a dreamy voice-over by central character Margot – ‘why do I feel as though time has become crystalline … past, present, my own being; everything loses meaning’ – Clay has much more in common with European cinema of the time than mainstream English language movies. This is not surprising given Mangiamele’s background. Its gritty study of a fugitive on the run bears the hallmarks of Italian neorealism and the love story recalls the existential French cinema of directors such as Alain Resnais (who directed Last Year at Marienbad, 1962).”, ASO Notes on Clay, Richard Kuipers

"The intensity of Mangiamele's breathtaking vision recalls the work of Jean Cocteau and other French romantic poet/filmmakers, and signifies the appearance of a major art cinema talent, imbued with European cinema culture, who tragically never found an opportunity to find full expression of his vision after this one extraordinary feature.”, Ronin Films DVD Notes

Clay’s profile on OzMovies


Photo gallery of the screening (on Facebook)


Video of the Q&A discussion at the end:

 


Tuesday, April 27, 8:30 pm.
Thornbury Picture House, house prices. Tickets here. SOLD OUT

Boundless
(2018, 70 mins, Mark La Rosa)

Intro and Q&A with Mark La Rosa, by Jake Wilson (The Age).

This criminally neglected film from a couple of years back is the debut feature (after a number of mini-features) from the modest and underrated Melbourne indie filmmaker Mark La Rosa. A fascinating and beautiful film set in the Australian outback, it has a jigsaw narrative reminiscent of modernist directors like Resnais and Roeg (and indeed thematic parallels with Roeg's Walkabout). There is an understated joy but also sadness in this quite unique film. (Bill Mousoulis)

Starring Ciume Lochner and Jordan Fraser-Trumble

Boundless is a deceptively good film. It is an experiment of sorts, in line with various modernist films of the '60s and '70s by directors such as Nicholas Roeg and Alain Resnais, where the film would set something up, only to disrupt the flow with time-shifts or narrative-shifts. Boundless revels in such cinematic and formal play. On the one hand, the narrative of a young couple getting lost in the Australian outback is simple and clean, but on the other hand, La Rosa reconfigures it constantly as the film goes along. So we are left scratching our heads, as we follow the ambiguous narrative, with the main question "do they get found or do they remain lost?" hanging, and then, transcendentally, resolved in a metaphysical and cosmic way. Parallel stories? Alternate stories? Dream/nightmare flashes? In the end, it doesn't matter, as the film hits magnificent moments of beauty, joy and sadness, rich in their individual resonance. We may all end up specks of dust in this infinite universe, but each speck is a wondrous world in itself, in its brief flourishing. Bill Mousoulis.

DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT: A few years ago, I began reading about the odd behaviour of the smallest observable things, how they can exist in multiple locations at the same time, and follow multiple paths at the same time. Since we are comprised of such particles, it follows that these bizarre goings on may be happening with our own lives, perhaps across multiple dimensions or universes. I began to wonder how a simple story could then be reshaped to reflect this new reality. Film lends itself to this theme particularly well, and there have been many fine examples over the years. Boundless is my contribution, something lyrical and mysterious, made with minimal means.Mark La Rosa.

Jake Wilson interviews Mark La Rosa on Boundless, published in Pure Shit: Australian Cinema.

Bill Mousoulis talks with Peter Krausz about Boundless, Movie Metropolis radio show, April 2021.


Photo gallery of the screening (on Facebook)


Video of the Q&A discussion at the end:



Tuesday, February 23, 8:20 pm.
Thornbury Picture House, house prices. Ticket booking here.

Four of a Kind
(2009, 115 mins, Fiona Cochrane)

Intro and Q&A with Fiona Cochrane

Fiona Cochrane directs this dense and edgy psychological thriller with intelligence and clarity, making the wordy script (by Helen Collins, adapted from her own stage play called Disclosure) come alive in unexpected ways. Greatly assisted by the cast, Cochrane creates chilling portraits of sophisticated but ruthless women. Four of a Kind is an unusual mix of realism and dramatic subject matter, and is bold formally (a narrow structure) and thematically (breaking cliches). (Bill Mousoulis)

Hear Fiona Cochrane speak to David Griffiths on Heavy Cinema website, Feb 20, 2021.

Hear Fiona Cochrane speak to Peter Krausz on Movie Metropolis radio show, Feb 20, 2021.

“The actors — Louise Siverson, Leverne McDonnell, Gail Watson and Nina Landis — make the most of strong but demanding roles. There is something naturalistic about the surface of Four of a Kind, but it is also quite stylised, with a quietly dark vision of human capacities. A dialogue-driven work made on a low budget, there is nevertheless something effective about these constraints; Cochrane has used and embraced them to bring out the disturbing implications that underpin the tales.” Philippa Hawker, Four of a Kind review, The Age, June 11, 2009.

“The narrative structure starts to interweave flashbacks into what happened (or what the characters claim happened) and a gradual slow-burn develops, making for intriguing watching, as we try to piece together the truth. As each scene leads cleverly to the next, showing the characters in a different role, the threads entwine and add layers to the story."Bernard Hemingway, Four of a Kind review, Cinephlia website.

“Performances are all excellent, especially McDonnell's Gina who allows us to understand the journey from victim to perpetrator with great clarity. Universal in its appeal, but with special resonance to women, this seemingly simple film is deceptively complex, and lingers accordingly."Louise Keller, Four of a Kind review, Urban Cinephile website.


Photo gallery of the screening (on Facebook)




Coming in 2021


Date (2021 sometime) to be advised.
Stay tuned for venue, ticket & booking info.

Short films by Mischa Baka & Siobhan Jackson
(2007-2016, total duration 87 mins)    MA15+

Intro and Q&A with Mischa Baka & Siobhan Jackson

Before they co-directed the low-budget feature You Can Say Vagina in 2018, Mischa Baka and Siobhan Jackson had made numerous short films, separately. Their work is refreshingly individual, in turns experimental, quirky, surreal, edgy, emotional, musical. You won't know what's coming next. A number of their shorts will screen, including Jackson's Donkey in a Lion’s Cage (2013, 13 mins) and Baka's Last Beautiful Friend (2009, 25 mins). (Bill Mousoulis)

This session is MA15+, persons under 15 to be accompanied by an aduit.
Warning: explicit nudity in the short film I like to photograph girls naked.

Part 1: Siobhan Jackson

Burn  (2016, 1 min)
Sweet Beast  (2014, 3 mins)
Night Night Pretty  (2014, 7 mins)
Float  (2016, 3 mins)
1, 2, 3  (2009, 15 mins)
Donkey in a Lion’s Cage  (2013, 14 mins)                TOTAL duration 42 mins

Siobhan Jackson: Burn / 1, 2, 3 / Donkey in a Lion's Cage

Part 2: Mischa Baka

Walking Shadows  (2014, 4 mins)
Gestures   (2014, 6 mins)
Always, so suddenly, all the time (2015, 4 mins)
I like to photograph girls naked  (2007, 4 mins)
Clothes Dance   (2014, 2 mins)
Last Beautiful Friend  (2009, 25 mins)                    TOTAL duration 45 mins

Mischa Baka: Clothes Dance / Always, so suddenly, all the time. / Last Beautiful Friend



Date (2021 sometime) to be advised.
Stay tuned for venue, ticket & booking info.

Two films by John Ruane
Queensland (1976, 52 mins) & Feathers (1987, 60 mins)

Intro and Q&A with John Ruane and editor Ken Sallows

Two of the quintessential, widely acclaimed Australian films of the '70s and' 80s, John Ruane's superb diptych Queensland and Feathers builds upon the structures and possibilities of the miniature to ultimately craft something more mysterious and radically open-ended. Linked across the span of almost a decade by the presence of legendary actor, broadcaster and critic John Flaus, Ruane adeptly uncovers everyday drudgery and quiet desperation. (Chris Luscri)


Two of the quintessential, widely acclaimed Australian films of the '70s and' 80s, John Ruane's superb diptych Queensland and Feathers builds upon the structures and possibilities of the miniature to ultimately craft something more mysterious and radically open-ended. Linked across the span of almost a decade by the presence of legendary actor, broadcaster and critic John Flaus, essaying the same role across both films (a lead in one and a cameo in the next), Ruane adeptly uncovers the peculiar sense of everyday drudgery and quiet desperation that characterise the lives of many working men and women. Tonally precise yet seemingly affectless, the films indelibly capture through recurrent, attenuated detail what the director has called a ‘vanishing breed of Australians', a world more rigid, less bound to happenstance and chance than they are to the vagaries of the almost invisibly oppressive Australian cultural logic. From fractured affective relations to the lure of the big, coastal city with its promise of endless sunshine and a laidback lifestyle the struggles of Ruane's characters are eminently relatable. To seek an 'elsewhere' however tenuously is ultimately an heroic-pathetic goal. Theirs are as much acts of hope and defiance as they are silent, desperate screams against the unyielding, punishingly cyclical train of life. It is no coincidence that Feathers is based on a 'minor' Raymond Carver short story Ruane seems to have learnt that the smaller the scope, the more pronounced the sense of existential anomie. Chris Luscri

 

 

On Queensland --

 

"Ruane's characters are familiar Australians on the screen, acted upon rather than acting, waiting for something to happen: Doug and Aub, sad workmates dreaming of making the break from the Melbourne grind to Queensland sun. It is the romantic lure of escape that occupies so many '60s and '70s "road" films... Ruane's wistful theme is the fragility of relationships, goals and dreams. With the help of some excellent playing by John Flaus, Bob Karl, Alison Bird and others, he touches his people with a quality almost Chekhovian at the no-hopers' end of the social scale. We are actually made to care." Colin Bennett, The Age, 26th July 1976

 

"A great example of down-beat everyday realism, of struggling ordinary people. Made by the then student John Ruane (who went on to make Death in Brunswick and other films), this also set the template for the "hour-long" indie films that existed in Australian cinema for the next 20 years or so. The actor John Flaus would also continue to work on student productions after this one as well, generously." Bill Mousoulis, The alternate canon of "great Australian films", Pure Shit: Australian Cinema, 2018.

 

Queensland's profile on OzMovies



On Feathers --

 

"The latter [FEATHERS] achieved mini-cult status after the AFI Award screenings in July and is already sharply dividing audience opinion. The former is a Film and Television School graduation film. While from very different sources, the two films have a number of common threads — a concentration on the most ordinary and seemingly insignificant moments of life, an exploration of the possibilities of love and of the thousand small accommodations that love demands, and unexpectedly similar versions of a form of masculinity that is locked partly into eternal boyhood." - Liz Jacka, Filmnews, December 1987.

 

"The invisible structures of society lurk in the sub-text of Raymond Carver's American short story, now a short (48 minutes) Australian movie. Writer-director John Ruane preserves the insights, cultural relevance and sardonic tone of the original in his translation to another country and another medium, with fine performances from his principals." - John Flaus & Paul Harris, The Age, 5th February 1988.

 

Feathers' profile on OzMovies



 


Archive of previous programs - 2018 / 2019 / 2020