MILESAGO - Film
|TWO THOUSAND WEEKS|
Production Year: 1969
Synopsis: A struggling writer has a life of crises: choosing between family and mistress, struggling with the Australian cultural wasteland and seeing a boyhood friend become a success overseas.
Production company: Eltham Films
Productions / Senior Films
Release Date: 27 March 1969
Although panned at the time and largely unseen ever since, Two Thousand Weeks (aka 2000 Weeks) was a major landmark for the Australian film industry. Incredibly, it was the first all-Australian feature film released to local mainstream cinemas since Chauvel's last film, Jedda, in 1958. It was also the feature debut both for its director Tim Burstall and its star, Scots-born actor Mark McManus, who later became famous in the title role of the popular Scottish detective series Taggart.
Many of the supporting cast including Graeme Blundell were members of the Australian Performing Group. The APG was based at the La Mama theatre in Melbourne, which had been founded in 1967 by Burstall's then wife Betty, after a trip to New York where they had been inspired by the "off off Broadway" independent theatre of the same name.
Naturally enough, Tim Burstall was closely involved with the APG from its earliest days. The innovative Melbourne theatre collective was also the training ground for playwright David Williamson, and Burstall's next mainstream feature, Stork was an adaptation of Williamson's play The Coming Of Stork, which had its premiere at La Mama.
Burstall made 2000 Weeks after returning from a two-year sojourn in the United States studying film-making in Hollywood and New York on a Harkness Fellowship. Working with his Eltham Films partner Patrick Ryan, they wrote a script based on comtemporary Australian themes.
They were able to raise a generous budget and convinced Senior Films (an established commercials and documentary producer) to provide studio facilities, crew and equipment. They also secured the services of Robin Copping, one of Australia's best cameramen, as cinematographer for the project. The making of the film was widely covered by the media with articles appearing in many newspapers and magazines, as well as TV coverage that used some of the 'rushes' from the film.
Regrettably, the film failed to connect with local audiences, who were apparently put off by its rather mannered 'art house' style; it was reviewed scathingly by local critics (although some overseas reviewers were more impressed) and it died commercially; according to John Baxter, this was largely due to a combination of negative word-of-mouth publicity and apathy on the part of the distrubutors, Columbia.
Ironically, Baxter blames the film's artiness for its failure, yet only five years later, another Australian film which was unequivocally 'art house' in style -- Peter Weir's Picnic At Hanging Rock -- was being hailed as the saviour of the local industry by many of the same critics who had blasted Burstall's films and others -- in spite of the fact that two of these films (Alvin and Barry MacKenzie) were the biggest commercial successes in the history of Australian film before 1975.
The harsh critical reception of 2000 Weeks affected Burstall strongly. It's clear that its failure, combined with his close contact with the APG, were instrumental in changing his approach to film-making, and led directly to the choice of his next two features, Stork and Alvin Purple, which was a hit with audiences and a breakthrough commercial success, in spite of negative reviews. It was also an important example for other film-makers like John B. Murray and Philip Adams, and helped steer them away from serious art-house features towards the more popular comedy fare of Barry MacKenzie and other so-called 'ocker' films.
A soundtrack LP featuring the music composed for the film by Don Burrows, was released on the EMI Columbia label. Now very rare and highly collectible, it is in its own right a very fine set of late Sixties Australian modern jazz, performed by the cream of Sydney's jazz and studio session scene of that time including Burrows, George Golla, Graham Lyall, Ed Gaston and John Sangster.
Trivia note: Mark McManus (who died of cancer in 1996) was the half-brother of the late Brian Connolly, former lead singer of Seventies UK glam rockers The Sweet.
|REFERENCES / LINKS|
All Movie Guide
Australian Cinema: Historical Perspective
Australian Performing Group (Pram Factory) Research