Dir: Alena Lodkina | Cast: Kate Chile, Justin Cortin, Daniel P Jones | Australia | Drama | 85′
Another film from Australia had its debut in the Biennale College sidebar selection where budding filmmakers have a chance to shine away from the main competition. STRANGE COLOURS is beautifully captured mood piece directed by Alena Lodkina who co-scripts with Isaac Wall in this unsettling tale of a young woman returning to see her hospitalised father Max in the remote opal-mining outback of Lighting Ridge, near Alice Springs.
Milena (Kate Cheel) arrives in the hostile terrain after a day-long journey to get short shrift from her cantankerous dad (Daniel P Jones) who merely comments: “you’re not bouncing around like a tennis ball, are ya?”. This is macho man territory and the terse locals see her for her feminine charms rather than personal attributes, a dishevelled older man invites her to a party to meet other drifters: “Even if you’re broke, you can live here”. But she declines and gets an early night in her father’s ramshackle pad. The following morning reveals this as a backwater for single male bottomfeeders, who drink and chat to pass the days. But one of them, in the shape of mine-worker Frank (Justin Courtin), seems more intriguing, leading to the enigmatic second act of this well-paced feature debut.
There’s a cinéma vérite quality to STRANGE COLOURS which indicates Lodkina’s documentary background in a style that associates well with the local flora and fauna of the region adding textural richness to this rather mournful, elusive narrative. There’s gorgeous sequence that shows the glowing irridescent quality of the opals and brings an otherworldliness to the feature that is heightened by Mikey Young’s eerie occasional score.
Suddenly the pace seems to quicken as Milena pursues Frank across the bleached out landscape and the two end up sharing a night together, but Milena promptly decides to leave the following day, a decision that feels prescient considering the facts that slowly emerge. This is a seductive and weirdly beguiling feature that tells the tale of lost souls and those waiting to be found in a distant country forsaken by time. MT
VENICE FILM FESTIVAL 30 AUGUST – 9 SEPTEMBER 2017