Australian film celebrated at Cannes

Australian film celebrated at Cannes

Suze Metherell | AAP | May 24 2017

Some of Australia's finest cinema is on display at the Cannes Film Festival, despite there being only one film selected for official screening.

The documentary David Stratton: A Cinematic Life was selected to screen in Cannes Classic, and it is as much a celebration of Stratton's career as it is Australian cinema.

"I thought it was a very warm reaction," Stratton told AAP. "People came up to me afterwards saying we have to try and see some of these films, and that's what it is all about really, that's what we always wanted."

It charts his arrival in Australia in 1963 as a young Englishman in love with film who went on to become one of Australia's best-known critics, particularly for his on-screen partnership with fellow reviewer Margaret Pomeranz in their weekly review program which appeared on SBS and the ABC between 1986 and 2014.

The documentary features scenes from some of Australia's most iconic films, including Strictly Ballroom, Muriel's Wedding, Lantana and Wake In Fright as well as interviews with Australia's best-known directors, actors and producers.

Its screening brought Stratton back to Cannes, who took a two-year break from the festival following three decades worth of pilgrimages starting in 1984.

"I didn't actually expect to come back, the only reason I came back was because of the documentary," he said.

"The last two years when the festival was on and I knew all my friends were here and getting all excited about the new films, I sort of felt 'oh I am missing this' but to be honest now I'm here I don't mind if I don't come again. It's getting so crowded and so difficult."

A Cinematic Life's screening also coincides with a year when Australian-made productions are absent from the prestigious Palme d'Or competition, but local talent is still making waves.

Nicole Kidman has two films in the running: The Killing of a Sacred Deer and The Beguiled. The Academy Award winner also stars in the first television offering to screen in the festival's 70-year history, Jane Campion's Top of the Lake: China Girl, which is set in Sydney.

"I've always thought Nicole was a very underestimated actor. I think she has courageously gone out and sought really interesting roles in a wide variety of films," Stratton said.

Kidman, who has been dubbed the Queen of Cannes, also appears in Stratton's documentary and another out-of-competition film, How to Talk to Girls at Parties.

But where are the Australian films of yesteryear, which make Stratton's own documentary such a nostalgic joy to watch?

"It's not a very good year for Australian films as far as Cannes is concerned but then that could just be a question of timing," Stratton said. "These things do come and go a bit you find ... It's just a questioning of everything aligning."

But Stratton is confident the Campions, Peter Weirs and Gillian Armstrongs of tomorroware out there.

"The secret is to find them and nurture them," he said.

* An edited three-part series version of A Cinematic Life will air on ABC next month.

* Cannes Film Festival runs until May 28.

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