The NFSA has completed a digital restoration of Sunday Too Far Away, starring Jack Thompson.
In this scene, a defiant Miss Dawson (Lisa Peers), the station owner’s daughter, claims her reward for keeping quiet about Foley’s unauthorised raid on kitchen supplies, when he stole some lemon essence. She wants to watch the shearers at work, but women are not allowed in the shed.
Summary by Paul Byrnes
Gives a good sense of the rigidity of boundaries within a heavily unionised profession, especially those dealing with gender. 'A meeting’ consists of the men gathering round for a perfunctory discussion, which is quickly resolved. The girl’s presence leads just as quickly to the men showing off. Note the extraordinary beauty and power of the long travelling shot as the camera glides past all the shearers at work. Compare this with the Tom Roberts painting 'Shearing the Rams’.
On an outback station in 1956, hard-drinking shearers battle the clock, the sheep and each other for the position of 'gun shearer’, the one with the highest tally. Foley (Jack Thompson) has not been beaten in ten years, but he knows the day will come. A disastrous strike looms as he considers his future.
Sunday Too Far Away had many of the elements that defined a great Australian film in the 1970s, both for local and international audiences – enormous, empty, confronting landscapes, beautifully photographed, a cast of funny, laconic, rough-hewn Aussie blokes who worked hard and drank harder, a sense of fun and physical prowess, but also a sense of 'the great Australian loneliness’. The film is about work, endorsing the hard-won benefits of unionism versus capital, but it foreshadows threats to that system. It also implies a larger criticism of the pioneer mythology, with a bleak vision of the human cost of an industry that made Australia rich. Emotionally, it’s a powerful film about men without women, and codes of masculine behaviour. It was the first production of the South Australian Film Corporation, set up in 1972, and it was a great popular success. Geoff Burton’s superb cinematography was heavily influenced by Australian painting – notably the outback landscapes of Russell Drysdale and 'Shearing the Rams’ by Tom Roberts.
Curators Notes by Paul Byrnes