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Brian McFarlane

Brian McFarlane

Brian McFarlane’s latest book is Four from the Forties: Arliss, Crabtree, Knowles and Huntington, Manchester: MUP, 2018. He has had three overlapping careers, as teacher, academic, and writer. He is the author or editor of over twenty books and hundreds of articles and reviews on film and literature and related matters. He co-edited The Oxford Companion to Australian Film and was compiler, editor and chief author of The Encyclopedia of British Film. His most recent books include: Twenty British Films: A guided tour, Double-Act: The remarkable lives and careers of Googie Withers and John McCallum, and The Never-Ending Brief Encounter. He is currently serving as Adjunct Professor at Swinburne University of Technology and as Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University.

Brian McFarlane reviews 'The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert' by Philip Brophy and 'The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith' by Henry Reynolds

July–August 2008, no. 303 01 July 2008
Possibly inspired by the British Film Institute’s ‘Classics’ texts, the ‘Australian Screen Classics’ series is not only downright valuable but also looks good. The latest two, in their smart black covers, each adorned with a striking still from the relevant film, confirms the importance of having such detailed attention paid to key films in our history. It was enterprising of the series ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'I Peed on Fellini: Recollections of a life in film' by David Stratton

March 2008, no. 299 01 March 2008
The tasteful title of this autobiography echoes the story once told of how the ebullient Italian producer Filippo Del Guidice performed the same disservice to J. Arthur Rank and survived to become a force in the British film industry. David Stratton, after looking sideways in a Venetian toilet, never looked back – despite Fellini’s understandable choler. ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews ‘Leo ‘Rumpole’ McKern: The accidental actor’ by George Whaley

April 2009, no. 310 01 April 2009
To become associated, even identified, with a role or a certain kind of role may ward off the financial uncertainties of an actor’s career, but it undoubtedly also brings its limitations. Remember how ineffably lady-like Greer Garson appeared in her MGM heyday: I recall watching her narrow her eyes in Mrs Miniver and thinking that she could play Lady Macbeth if someone gave her the chance. No on ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'Arthur Miller' by Christopher Bigsby

May 2009, no. 311 01 May 2009
If you felt there was a touch of hubris in Baz Luhrmann’s naming his movie Australia, you may think the opening sentence of Christopher Bigsby’s biography of Arthur Miller even more startling in its pretensions: ‘This is the story of a writer, but it is also the story of America.’ Not, observe, ‘a story’, but ‘the story’. This grandiose proposition helps to account for nearly 700 d ... (read more)

'Resisting Tarantino' by Brian McFarlane

December 2009–January 2010, no. 317 01 December 2009
In 2004, Somersault, a drama of youthful coming to terms with life’s challenges, scooped the pool at the Australian Film Institute’s annual awards. It was a melancholy comment on the state of the local industry that no other films could compete with this affecting but scarcely remarkable work. How different the situation will be in 2009. Whether one film walks off with all the major awards or ... (read more)

'Finding ourselves in Australian films' by Brian McFarlane

July–August 2010, no. 323 01 July 2010
Why on earth should Australian filmmakers want to try replicating Hollywood? No one can do Hollywood as well as Hollywood can, and the attempts to emulate it have usually, perhaps inevitably, led to flavourless or otherwise misbegotten enterprises. I know that this is the era of international co-productions, and that where the money comes from is undoubtedly influential, but where the creative per ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'Myth and Meaning' by Peter Malone

September 2001, no. 234 01 September 2001
The title of this book suggests that it will be less concerned with industrial aspects of Australian cinema than with ideological, but, as if this might limit its scope and resonance, Peter Malone’s subtitle suggests that other lines of inquiry and response might be accommodated as well. This proves to be the case. Such interview books – and I know this from experience – throw up certain in ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'The Cinema of Australia and New Zealand' edited by Geoff Mayer and Keith Beattie

September 2007, no. 294 01 September 2007
The Cinema of Australia and New Zealand is the thirteenth of Wallflower Press’s ‘24 frames’ series, but there is no need for the editors to feel superstitious on that account. This is a series which presents certain problems. It requires the editor(s) of each volume to choose twenty-four films that are, in some degree, representative of the titular country, or, as the case sometimes even mor ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'A Little Rain on Thursday' by Matt Rubinstein

June 2007, no. 292 26 August 2022
I realise it is a stretch, but imagine The Da Vinci Code with brains. No, that’s not fair: it obviously takes brains of a kind to top best-seller lists for several years. So try thinking of how a serious intellect, as distinct from a facility for page-turning compulsiveness, might have gone to work on it. Such effort won’t tell you all you need to know about Matt Rubinstein’s new novel, but ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'The Spoken Word: British Writers'

March 2010, no. 319 01 March 2010
Reviewing is normally a pleasurable activity, but it’s not often so absurdly enjoyable as listening to the three CDs at issue here. These are a treasure house of British writers whose lives span 150 years. Authors from Arthur Conan Doyle to Muriel Spark, to name the first and last interviewees (1930 and 1989), can be heard talking about the art and craft of their profession. Perhaps because we n ... (read more)