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An often-repeated assertion in the body of film criticism I have written is the assertion that movies do not just mirror the culture of any given time; they also create it.’ – Bell Hook
Written and directed by noted documentary director, Sally Aitken (Getting Frank Gehry, Streets of Your Town), who provides a personal look into the history of David’s life and the influences that embody his lifelong passion of film and specifically Australian film. Aitkens methodically weaves in the integral effect that the Australian film industry had on the film efficinado’s life and his contribution to its growth. She begins his story with a look through his trusted, but antiqued method of documenting his film reviews to his days at the Sydney Film Festival and then systematically showing how an Australian film reviewer’s Australia dedication to the field changed the landscape of cinema.
To critique a film of a fellow critic seems a bit odd, but thankfully it is not solely a celebration of David’s life as it is a timeline of the rise of Australian cinema. Very few critics would get the respect and accolades from stars ranging from Russell Crowe to Nicole Kidman or accepting praises from directors like George Miller and Gillian Armstrong, who have not always received favourable reviews from the senior statesman. The genuine esteem given to David’s contribution to the world of cinema encapsulated his value to the development of Australia’s voice in the international market. The overall experience of the documentary became a fascinating historical journey through the unique style and viewpoint of this sunburned country.
This documentary was made for the viewing pleasure of the fans of Australian film or At the Movies. It can be a bit disjointed at times and potentially paints David Stratton as one-dimensional, but it does satisfy the cinephile’s need to know more about the critic with the white beard. Australians may consider it to be a bit too self-gratifying, but it contains enough of a focus on the industry to keep it from merely being ‘legend building.’ Also, at this stage in life and with all he has done for Australian film, Stratton will most likely shrug off most of the critiques from his fellow critics and will quietly go to enjoy another film. Hopefully, A Cinematic Life will provide a positive perspective on this field and help us all to relish in the rich history of our country’s cinematic contribution to the world.