Unknown Pleasures:
Australian independent cinema


A series of regular screenings featuring the
best of Australian independent cinema,
both classic and contemporary,
with discussions with the filmmakers.
Curators/presenters: Chris Luscri, Bill Mousoulis
Assistant/videographer: Colin Hodson


read more


Upcoming screenings for 2023


INFO FOR SCREENINGS:

Our main 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





Tuesday, Feb 7, 8:30 pm
Thornbury Picture House, house prices. Book tickets here.

Senses of Cinema
(2022, 89 mins, John Hughes & Tom Zubrycki)

Intro and Q&A with John Hughes and Ivan Gaal

Over a decade in the making, John Hughes and Tom Zubrycki’s Senses of Cinema is a vibrant, essential document of Australian independent film practice that doubles as a comprehensive overview of over 60 years of Australian socio-political life, from the 1960s to the present. At its centre is a long overdue investigation of the important role the Australian film co-operatives played within the cultural upheavals of the Left in the period of the '60s to the '80s. (Chris Luscri)

Thanks to Gil Scrine, Antidote Films


Over a decade in the making, John Hughes and Tom Zubrycki’s Senses of Cinema is a vibrant, essential document of Australian independent film practice that doubles as a comprehensive overview of over 60 years of Australian socio-political life, from the 1960s to the present.

 

At its centre is a long overdue investigation of the important role the Australian film co-operatives played within the cultural upheavals of the Left, a movement that spurred by similar (if better known) interventions in London, Vienna and San Francisco included the Sydney Filmmakers Co-op and Ubu Films, the Melbourne Co-op, the Sydney Women’s Film Group and the LGBT-focused One in Seven Collective. Driven by intersecting forces all at once collectivist, experimental, radical and interventionist, the Co-op movements captured vital events in our history, including worker’s rights, the women’s (We Aim to Please!), LGBTQIA+ (Homosexuality: A Film for Discussion) and Aboriginal (Ningla A-Na, Two Laws) rights movement, and the first ever Mardi Gras that culminated in violent police attacks on peaceful citizen protest (Witches and Faggots, Dykes and Poofters).

 

The roll call of film-makers involved in the Co-op movement is formidable film-makers like John and Tom, Phillip Noyce, Gillian Armstrong, Essie Coffey, Margot Nash, Martha Ansara, Christine Johnston, Gillian Leahy, Bert Deling, Kit Guyatt, Peter Tammer, Ivan Gaal, Pat Fiske, Alessandro Cavadini and Carolyn Strachan, and producers including Jan Chapman. Challenging orthodoxies about the role of film-making in Australian society before being cruelly and deliberately quashed by reactionary forces (not least the state and federal screen agencies) in the late '80s and early '90s, the Co-ops speak to an ideal of what Australian cinema once was, and perhaps could be again.

 

As John Hughes himself says — A study of these collectivist institutions unsettle received narratives that tend to focus on feature films and prominent individuals. More granulated cultural memory can have a strategic impact. As we reformulate the past through presentation of forgotten and buried objects and re-examine the material culture – the films, technologies and political practices of an activist underground – these newly discovered pasts vie for a place in history. 

 

Long overdue, Senses of Cinema is, in many ways, the culmination of two lifetime’s worth of investigation, study and reflection, crystallised in a primary document that is or should be utterly necessary viewing for anyone interested in the future of Australian film. [Chris Luscri]

Further reading —
https://www.sensesofcinema.com/2015/australian-film-history/australian-filmmakers-co-operatives/

“A powerful capacity of documentary film is remembrance. For us, a guiding imperative of the Co-op has been to set out for emerging generations of filmmakers a history of Australian independent film culture in Australia that is a radical tradition, characterised by critical and compassionate creative ambition. If Senses of Cinema arouses curiosity among younger filmmakers of the digital era about the ‘invisible archive’ of analogue film and video made and distributed by dedicated and passionate young filmmakers around the Filmmakers Co-ops from the mid ‘60s to the mid ‘80s, the struggle over ten years to get the work out there will have been very worthwhile.”
John Hughes and Tom Zubrycki, Senses of Cinema Press Kit

“Before the Co-op people thought: ’no one wants to see these films; there is no market for them'. What the Co-op proved was that they did, and that there was a market for them and people did want to see those films and I think still do.”
Margot Nash, Senses of Cinema Press Kit

“Hughes and Zubrycki’s documentary borrows its name from the more recent and groundbreaking online film journal, Senses of Cinema. In so doing, it recognises a shared connection between the various facets of non-mainstream, activist, grassroots and experimental screen culture in Australia. It sits alongside the extraordinary group of documentaries devoted to leftist film history Hughes has completed over the past 40 years, as well as the more observational and deeply committed works Zubrycki has created over the same period… Senses of Cinema speaks, in every way, to the importance of collaboration and the necessary recognition and resurrection of often-forgotten parts of our film history and culture.”
Adrian Danks, The best films at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival, The Conversation 2022



Ivan Gaal
Albie Thoms
Alessandro Cavadini & Carolyn Strachan

Albie Thoms Sydney Co-op meeting 1973
(still Matt Bulter)
Sydney Filmmakers Coop Banner 1986

Margot Nash / Susan Lambert / Megan McMurchy
editing For Love or Money (still Sandy Edwards)






Past screenings in 2023



Tuesday, Jan 10, 8:30 pm
Thornbury Picture House, house prices, book tickets here.

Other Zones: Works by David Cox
Guest programmed by Dirk de Bruyn

Intro and Q&A with David Cox (from USA),
moderated by Dirk de Bruyn

As David Cox is in Australia briefly in January, we are taking the opportunity to engage with this unique migratory talent that continually tests the boundaries of emerging technologies and Cinema to kick off the new year.

David Cox profile on
Melbourne Independent Filmmakers website.

Films in screening order:

 

PART I: Super -8 & 1980s
Onus on Us
(excerpts 7 mins) (1988, 90 mins, Super-8)
Panoramicon
(excerpts 4 mins) (1989, 25 mins, Super-8)

PART II: Film animation & puppets
Monuments Far and Strange
(1989, 4 mins, 16mm, B&W, experimental)

Tatlin (1990, 1 min, 16mm)
Puppenhead (1990, 7.5 mins, 16mm, B&W)

PART III: Cyberculture & 1990s

Bureau of Inverse Technology (1992, 7 mins, SD video, Betamax)

Otherzone (1998, 15 mins, 35mm Dolby Surround Sound)

PART IV: Immersive & virtual spaces
The Secret History of Brisbane (2001, 7 mins)
and other works (post 2000), some co-directed by Molly Hankwitz

 


This series of short films maps his trajectory through four phases of work from Super 8 through object animation, cyberculture and right into the cutting edge of Immersive 360
° technologies in his settled family life with partner Molly Hankwitz in San Francisco and productive relationship with Craig Baldwin’s Other Cinema. During the screening, each phase of this four-phase trajectory will begin and end with a running live commentary in typical David Cox style to contextualize the work. There will also be a Q&A at the end of the screening.

 

Of course, from a Melbourne perspective both Puppenhead and Otherzone are of unique interest. Puppenhead because of John Flaus and Heinz Boeck’s participation and its opening up of an international audience through its break-out into the international film festival circuit that enabled Cox’s eventual move to San Francisco. The sci-fi Otherzone, is populated with luminaries from the Melbourne alt-art scene, a work predicting the digital future, in which Cox has actively participated through his research into immersive technologies.

 

As Philip Brophy describes: "Otherzone is a short film based around ideas of speculative sci-fi, cyber-culture and techno-visions of a dystopian future. Written and directed by David Cox, it incorporates David's ideas along these lines and issues, culminating in a rhetorical/allegorical narrative. The film also experiments with contracted narrative form as inspired by computer games (a theoretical area in which David works and researches). Added to this is his early tests of how to integrate computer imagery and computer generated sequences into a filmed environment."

 

 

In preparation for this event we recommend the interview recently published in Senses of Cinema to annotate this Journey: A Joyride Through Technological Change

 

That interview ends with a comment on Julian Assange by Cox “The films of mine that resonate, resonate for the same reasons what he’s done has resonated. People feel they want to reveal what’s behind the curtain. And that’s really what we’re all doing. The films are there to make the world clearer, not more opaque, even if the methods they use are opaque.

 

I end this introduction with a textual quote David and Molly inserted into The Secret History of Brisbane (2001)

 

Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

First time tragedy, second time farce.

                                                          Karl Marx

 

Dirk de Bruyn, guest programmer

 


David Cox and Dirk de Bruyn radio interview

by Peter Krausz, Movie Metropolis, WYN-FM, January 5, 2023.

 


Puppenhead

Monuments Far and Strange
Panoramicon

Otherzone

Otherzone


Photos of the screening (full gallery on Facebook)



Video of the Q&A discussion at the end:

 





Stay tuned for details of further screenings in 2023


The following screening (originally scheduled for 2020)
will happen at some point in 2023, along with others:


Date (2023 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 / 2021 / 2022