DAVID STRATTON: A CINEMATIC LIFE | REVIEW
Thankfully Kernel Jack volunteered to review DAVID STRATTON: A CINEMATIC LIFE. While I consider him a talent and walking encyclopaedia of all things movies I find him an arrogant pompous ass who I detest. As you may have gathered I was always a Margaret sided film lover. I was always a lover of AT THE MOVIES so I give him huge credit for that but if Margaret wasn’t sitting beside him the show wouldn’t have lasted as long as it did. Making a documentary of the man is something that should appeal to fans of his, it will air in a much longer version later in the year on ABC TV but this is a theatrical cut for cinematic release. All the details of its release and screening locations are down below. DAVID STRATTON: A CINEMATIC LIFE releases this Thursday 9th March in Australia from Transmission Films, it will be rated PG I would think and runs for 1oomins. Enjoy Jack’s thoughts……..all the best……JK.
At one point during DAVID STRATTON: A CINEMATIC LIFE, Australian actress Jacki Weaver states, and I’m paraphrasing here, “there’s too many people reviewing films online who have no idea what they’re doing.” She said it with a smile, a playful comment to emphasize her point that David Stratton is the only man qualified to review films. As I was watching this film at an early screening, the room full of online critics, her comment was met with nervous laughter. Her joke aside, Weaver raises a good point. David Stratton, the subject of this documentary, is a walking film encyclopedia. He’s over qualified for his job in the best way possible, and as it turns out, his life story makes for fascinating entertainment.
A REFLECTION OF THE PAST:
Englishman David Stratton is one of Australia’s most iconic film critics, his reviews gaining him plenty of awards and international attention. Born during World War 2, it’s here that his love of film begun. It served as an escape from the horrors of the outside world, resulting in a lifelong infatuation with the art. The documentary spans the many decades of his life, covering his estranged relationship with his family, finding a career down under, and a love affair with Australian cinema. It’s a look back at his past, as narrated by the man himself, but what may come as a surprise is that this documentary isn’t just about David.
Once initial introductions and backstories are covered, flashing back and forth through time with very little focus, it becomes clear that this documentary serves two purposes. This is, as it turns out, also a reflection on the history and evolution of Australian cinema. The journey begins with David advocating for the local craft, followed by its evolution throughout the years. Both narratives intertwine, mirroring each other in a strange way. While they’re equally interesting, at times they do feel separated. Australia’s film history is a topic I’d love to hear more about, but perhaps a second documentary could’ve covered that in further detail. This film shouldn’t have spent as much time on it as it did.
Film criticism comes with its perks, there’s no denying that. For David Stratton, perks come day after day, elevated by his local celebrity status. But what also came with the perks and public recognition was backlash from certain celebrities. Everyone knew him. Celebrities, such as George Miller, even have David to thank for helping get them noticed while serving as director of the Sydney Film Festival. Large handfuls of Australian celebrities give their input to the story, however there’s one that stood out the most.
ROMPTER STOMPER director Geoffrey Wright has very few positives to say about David Stratton. Released in 1992, the neo-Nazi centered film caused a lot of controversy. Stratton, who had already become an influential critic at the time, hated the film yet appreciated the craft. He refused to give it a rating. His decision made headlines, and it’s the dueling perspectives of Wright and Stratton that served as the best part of this documentary. I won’t spoil the outcome for those who don’t know it, but their story is hilarious, comments from At The Movies co-host Margaret Pomeranz adding further levity.
THE BIG QUESTION:
After watching this documentary, the big question does remain… Would David have given it a positive review? His life story is shockingly moving, especially when it comes to the relationship with his parents. An interview late into the documentary leaves David on the brink of tears, recapping an endearing moment from his life. The overall film paints an excellent picture of who he is and his relationship with cinema. It just could’ve used more of that, constantly floating away into a plethora of other topics and interviews. Still, everything relates back to him. This is his story. And it’s one I most certainly enjoyed.
David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz were a big influence on my film critic career, serving as the first real critics I looked up to. I watched At The Movies every week for so many years, saddened by its eventual conclusion. This documentary was one I was looking forward to, without really knowing what to expect from it. As a fan of David, I was satisfied. If I’m being honest, the documentary itself is nothing special, but if the topic sparks your interest like it did me, it’s certainly worth giving a watch. (Side Note: If you like this film, definitely check out 2014’s LIFE ITSELF).
DAVID STRATTON: A CINEMATIC LIFE – TICKETS ON SALE NOW FOR Q&A TOUR
David Stratton will be in attendance at select Q&A sessions in cinemas across the country. Click on the links below to secure your tickets.
Palace Balwyn – 6:30pm, Monday 6 March (Intro only)
Palace Como – 7:30pm, Monday 6 March SOLD OUT
Cinema Nova – 6:45pm, Tuesday 7 March
MOUNT VICTORIA (NSW):
Mount Vic Flicks – 4:45pm, Sunday 26 March (with producer Jo-anne McGowan)
IN SELECT CINEMAS FROM MARCH 9:
NSW: Palace Verona, Palace Norton St, Dendy Newtown, Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace Cremorne, Ritz Cinema
ACT: Palace Electric
VIC: Palace Como, Palace Brighton Bay, Palace Balwyn, Kino Cinemas, Cinema Nova, Sun Theatre Yarraville, Classic Cinemas Elsternwick
TAS: State Cinema Hobart
SA: Palace Nova EastEnd
QLD: Palace Centro, Palace Barracks, Regal Twin Graceville, The Arts Centre Gold Coast, New Farm Cinemas
WA: Cinema Paradiso
When he’s not spending an embarrassing amount of hours browsing through Netflix, Jack Dignan dedicates his time to reviewing movies of all genres and languages. He has done so since 2012. He also maintains a website of his own – www.directorscutmovies.com – and ever since their interview, he’s been best friends with Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino just doesn’t know it yet.
** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.