LFF Review: David Stratton: A Cinematic Life

In my humble opinion, Australian cinema is one of the most singular, gritty and strangely self-deprecating the world has to offer. Whilst in many ways it’s all so familiar, there’s a certain brutality and dark humour which sets it apart from their British or American counterparts. Films like The Castle, Wake in Fright, Mad Max, Wolf Creek and Picnic at Hanging Rock could have only been made in the land of Oz. With such a wide breadth and richness of cultural filmmaking, it seems entirely in keeping with the Australian sense of humour that it’s an Englishman who became its biggest champion.

Whilst he was born in the UK, David Stratton is now a proud Australian. As a child Stratton was taken to daily matinees at local cinemas by his grandmother and began keeping his own critiques of films at the age of seven. He was all-set to take over the family business when a trip Down Under became permanent after becoming involved in the local cinema society movement. Subsequently he went on to direct Sydney Film Festival for seventeen years, was a celebrated film critic for Variety and became a household name as co-host of The Movie Show and At the Movies with Margaret Pomeranz.

Written and directed by Sally Aitken, David Stratton: A Cinematic Life is a colourful portrait of his life and the evolution of Australian cinema. Film clips are used cleverly to highlight points and inject humour, whilst there’s a menagerie of Australian A-list talent (Kidman, Crowe, Miller, Davis Rush, Neill etc) on hand to add their anecdotes and appreciation. Stratton is a charismatic and personable character and Aitken cutely edits things together to produce a fascinating, educational, lively and fitting portrait of a loveable cinephile.

David Stratton: A Cinematic Life screens at London Film Festival on 7 & 8 October.

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