David Stratton is quite possibly the most well-known Australian film critic of all time. With his fatherly charm and encyclopaedic knowledge of movies, he entertained TV audiences for almost three decades with his lively movie debates with fellow film critic Margaret Pomeranz on ‘The Movie Show’, SBS, and later ABC’s ‘At the Movies’. Now, the man who has devoted his life to discussing film gets to be in one: a documentary of his life and, more prominently, his relationship with Australian cinema.
75% of the film is Stratton and other Australian film royalty discussing culturally and artistically significant Aussie films. Highlights include the section on ‘Romper Stomper’, a controversial 1992 film about neo-Nazis, where it is revealed that the film’s director throw a glass of wine at David due to the latter’s refusal to rate the film out of moral indignation, and the section on 1982’s ‘Turkey Shoot’, an exploitation picture that is so violent, David finds himself unable to even adequately voice how much the film revolts him.
The other 25% is spent outlining some basic biographical information on Stratton, as well as showing his thorough and endearingly crazy filling system for all the films he has seen and reviewed. However, as pleasant as ‘A Cinematic Life’ is, it suffers greatly from a general lack of focus. The film’s status as a biography seems wholly unnecessary, considering how little time is spent on Stratton himself, and the sections that explore great Aussie movies are more stream-of-conscience style, than anything else. You skip from Ozploitation to Australian New Wave to The Castle and then back again with little rhyme or reason.
It’s a good film to check out if you want to hear some smart and talented people talking about good Australian movies, but it’s a poorly structured documentary and sub-par insight into a very interesting and charming man.
By Samuel Inglis.