773-774 Breaker Morant & Mister Johnson

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LQ
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773-774 Breaker Morant & Mister Johnson

#1 Post by LQ » Sun Apr 05, 2009 10:03 am

Breaker Morant

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At the turn of the twentieth century, three Australian army lieutenants are court-martialed for alleged war crimes committed while fighting in South Africa. With no time to prepare, an Australian major, appointed as defense attorney, must prove they were just following the rules of war and are being made into political pawns by the British imperial command. Director Bruce Beresford garnered international acclaim for this riveting drama set during a dark period in his country's colonial history, and featuring passionate performances by Edward Woodward, Bryan Brown, and Jack Thompson; rugged cinematography by Donald McAlpine; and an Oscar-nominated script, based on true events.

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION:

• New 4K digital restoration, supervised and approved by director Bruce Beresford, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• Audio commentary featuring Beresford from 2004
• New interviews with Beresford, cinematographer Donald McAlpine, and actor Bryan Brown
• Interview with actor Edward Woodward from 2004
• New piece about the Boer War with historian Stephen Miller
• Trailer
• PLUS: An essay by film scholar Neil Sinyard


Mister Johnson

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A decade after he broke through with Breaker Morant, Australian director Bruce Beresford made another acclaimed film about the effects of colonialism on the individual. In a performance that earned him the Berlin Film Festival's Silver Bear for best actor, Maynard Eziashi plays the title character, a Nigerian villager eager to work as a civil servant for the British authorities, including a sympathetic district officer (Pierce Brosnan), in the hopes that it will benefit him in the future. Instead, his ambition leads to his tragic downfall. Mister Johnson, based on a 1939 novel by Joyce Cary, is a graceful, heartfelt drama about the limits of idealism, affectingly acted and handsomely shot.

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION:

• New 4K digital restoration, supervised and approved by director Bruce Beresford, with uncompressed stereo soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• New video interviews with Beresford, producer Michael Fitzgerald, and actors Maynard Eziashi and Pierce Brosnan
• Trailer
• PLUS: An essay by film scholar Neil Sinyard

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Re: Breaker Morant (Bruce Beresford, 1980)

#2 Post by paczemoj » Sun Apr 05, 2009 11:17 pm

LQ wrote:I had the pleasure of watching Breaker Morant yesterday with an old military enthusiast friend of mine (the perfect companion, for I ended up getting a extras-worthy commentary on the intricacies of the Boer War!)

I absolutely loved this movie. Complex, troubling, well-acted and extremely well-edited. The exploration of moral ambiguity in war is certainly a well-worn subject, but I can't recall enjoying a film dealing with such more than this one. I'm sure there are some fans here, and I'd very much like to read others' thoughts on the film!
I wish I had something more concrete to say, but: I saw this a few years ago, by chance, no expectations, and thought it was great. Engaging narrative, handsomely-made, smart, deliciously pessimistic. Would make a good companion-film to Pontecorvo's Algiers, and I like it much more than Peter Weir's better-known Aussie efforts from around the same time.

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Re: Breaker Morant (Bruce Beresford, 1980)

#3 Post by Polybius » Mon Apr 06, 2009 12:07 am

A long time favorite. A worthy companion piece to Paths of Glory or Ken Loach's thematically similar The Wind That Shakes The Barley and Land and Freedom.

Beresford balances a great courtroom drama, an exploration of the ethics of war (the way they are temporarily issued rifles to help fight off the Boer attack, then herded back into their cells after performing bravely is surreal), a detailing of how real people get ground up in the machinery of politics, irrespective of their guilt, if it serves what someone in power sees as a greater purpose (which is it's main similarity to Paths) and even some moments of mordant humor (Brown's "I reckon they don't get many complaints" and Woodward's "Shoot straight, you bastards! Don't make a mess of it!") It's really a tremendous achivement.

The simple gesture of them joining hands as they walk toward the chairs is one that stays with you long after the film is over.
Last edited by Polybius on Mon Apr 06, 2009 12:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Breaker Morant (Bruce Beresford, 1980)

#4 Post by Fiery Angel » Mon Apr 06, 2009 12:08 am

I've always enjoyed Beresford's and Schepisi's Aussie work far more than Weir's. In addition to Breaker Morant, Beresford also made Don's Party and The Getting of Wisdom, which may be his best films; Money Movers and The Club, both taut and skillfully-made; and Puberty Blues and The Fringe Dwellers, which have some strong moments, if not entirely successful. There are also the two Barry McKenzie films, which are goofily funny if you love Dame Edna. (I have all of these on R4 discs, some of which are out of print.)

Too bad Beresford moved to Hollywood, although he did make some good pictures after leaving Australia, most obviously Tender Mercies, Mister Johnson and Black Robe.

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Re: Breaker Morant (Bruce Beresford, 1980)

#5 Post by Polybius » Mon Apr 06, 2009 12:13 am

Black Robe and Tender Mercies would each be the crown on many Director's careers.

I haven't seen Don's Party in 20+ years. I remember enjoying it at the time, but I'm guessing I would get a lot more from it now.

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Re: Breaker Morant (Bruce Beresford, 1980)

#6 Post by menthymenthy » Mon Apr 06, 2009 1:02 pm

I haven't seen Breaker Morant in years, but yes, I remember liking it a lot.

Don's Party is really great though, and is probably my favourite from Beresford. I rewatched it recently, and it's as good as ever - Hilarious. Money Movers was good fun too.

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Re: Breaker Morant (Bruce Beresford, 1980)

#7 Post by HistoryProf » Sat Apr 11, 2009 9:30 pm

A great great film. I showed this in a class on the British Empire last fall actually, and the students responded quite well to it. It's one of the best meditations on colonialism ever put to film imo...

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Re: 773-774 Breaker Morant & Mister Johnson

#8 Post by jorencain » Tue Jun 16, 2015 5:36 pm

I caught "Breaker Morant" for the first time last year on TCM. I loved it, and I'm very excited to see this release. How does "Mister Johnson" compare?

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Re: 773-774 Breaker Morant & Mister Johnson

#9 Post by Randall Maysin » Tue Jun 16, 2015 6:31 pm

Well at least Mr. Johnson indicates that Criterion are still in the business of releasing films that no one is going to buy. So that's a good.

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Re: 773-774 Breaker Morant & Mister Johnson

#10 Post by TraverseTown » Tue Jun 16, 2015 9:33 pm

Mister Johnson reminds me exactly of a film that would be released at Criterion's lower $29.99 SRP, but I'll never complain about new video interview supplements.

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Re: 773-774 Breaker Morant & Mister Johnson

#11 Post by swo17 » Wed Jun 17, 2015 2:00 pm

I'm only now piecing together that Breaker Morant, Tender Mercies, and Driving Miss Daisy were all directed by the same person. Weird.

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Re: 773-774 Breaker Morant & Mister Johnson

#12 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Jun 17, 2015 2:29 pm

swo17 wrote:I'm only now piecing together that Breaker Morant, Tender Mercies, and Driving Miss Daisy were all directed by the same person. Weird.
Throw into that the Adventures of Barry McKenzie films, featuring Dame Edna Everage!

Fred Schepisi also has a similarly weirdly disparate career with an arc from The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith and The Devil's Playground, through the Meryl Streep era of Plenty and A Cry In The Dark (with Roxanne in between) to strange outliers like Mister Baseball and Last Orders!

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Re: 773-774 Breaker Morant & Mister Johnson

#13 Post by whaleallright » Wed Jun 17, 2015 4:53 pm

Seems an appropriate moment to share this letter that Beresford wrote to the Guardian in 2012:
The writer of the obituary for Richard Zanuck (17 July) – who won a best picture Academy Award for Driving Miss Daisy – commented that the director (myself) was not nominated in the best director category as "the film did direct itself. The right ingredients were there from the start". This comment is quite accurate. My contribution, as director, was negligible, just as it was in the other 27 films I have directed to date. Luckily for me the "right ingredients" were present in films such as Tender Mercies, Breaker Morant, Black Robe, Double Jeopardy, etc, so that I had little to do but stand by and watch. My involvement was also minimal in the nine operas I have directed.
Bruce Beresford
London

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Re: 773-774 Breaker Morant & Mister Johnson

#14 Post by cdnchris » Wed Jun 17, 2015 6:12 pm

No shame in mentioning Double Jeopardy, but too ashamed to mention Silent Fall?

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Re: 773-774 Breaker Morant & Mister Johnson

#15 Post by Dr Amicus » Thu Jun 18, 2015 5:08 am

cdnchris wrote:No shame in mentioning Double Jeopardy, but too ashamed to mention Silent Fall?
I'd completely forgotten watching Silent Fall - indeed, all I can remember about it is that it was a vaguley twisty thriller with Linda Hamilton. Whether that makes it better or worse than Double Jeopardy which I do remember actively disliking and being really annoyed by is another matter...

I've always found Beresford to be a perfectly solid director, fine with actors but generally unexciting. Fred Schepisi on the other hand I like a lot more, I've always found he had a feel for composing in a scope format - if my memory serves me after 20 years IQ was especially striking. And I love Last Orders!

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Re: 773-774 Breaker Morant & Mister Johnson

#16 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:12 pm

Dr Amicus wrote:I've always found Beresford to be a perfectly solid director, fine with actors but generally unexciting. Fred Schepisi on the other hand I like a lot more, I've always found he had a feel for composing in a scope format - if my memory serves me after 20 years IQ was especially striking. And I love Last Orders!
I wasn't too fond of I.Q. as it seemed strange to reduce some of the greatest thinkers of our time to just romantic matchmakers! (And a bit too obvious an attempt to re-capture the magic of Roxanne) Though I wonder how it would play in a post Imitation Game/Theory of Everything climate! Perhaps the greatest mystery of the universe is the human heart!

My favourite (and probably most Criterion-worthy if they can do a deal with MGM) of Schepisi's 'late period' would have to be Six Degrees of Separation, a film that I couldn't help thinking back on fondly while watching Will Smith in that recent con-artist film Focus!

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Re: 773-774 Breaker Morant & Mister Johnson

#17 Post by GaryC » Thu Jun 18, 2015 6:41 pm

colinr0380 wrote:
swo17 wrote:I'm only now piecing together that Breaker Morant, Tender Mercies, and Driving Miss Daisy were all directed by the same person. Weird.
Throw into that the Adventures of Barry McKenzie films, featuring Dame Edna Everage!

Fred Schepisi also has a similarly weirdly disparate career with an arc from The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith and The Devil's Playground, through the Meryl Streep era of Plenty and A Cry In The Dark (with Roxanne in between) to strange outliers like Mister Baseball and Last Orders!
Just as an incredibly nerdy nitpick, but anyone who wants to set an Australian film trivia quiz, please note... She's actually Mrs Edna Everage in those films. She doesn't become Dame Edna until the end of Barry McKenzie Holds His Own, and the title is bestowed on her by one of the two Australian Prime Ministers to appear in a Bruce Beresford film, Gough Whitlam. (John Gorton appears as himself in Don's Party. David Williamson wrote a sequel to his stage play, Don Parties On, set on election night in 2010. I've wondered if there any plans to film that, though Jeanie Drynan is the only castmember playing a returning character who is still alive. Maybe they could get Julia Gillard to cameo in it?)

And yes, Schepisi does make very good use of Scope, even in his salvage job of Fierce Creatures. All his features except The Devil's Playground and his segment of Libido have been in Scope.

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Re: 773-774 Breaker Morant & Mister Johnson

#18 Post by Numero Trois » Sat Jun 20, 2015 1:04 am

Dr Amicus wrote:I've always found Beresford to be a perfectly solid director, fine with actors but generally unexciting.
I remember liking The Fringe Dwellers quite a bit. His rapport with the actors felt especially sharp with that one. Plus the film itself was much less commercial than his usual fare.

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Re: 773-774 Breaker Morant & Mister Johnson

#19 Post by Tuco » Sat Jun 20, 2015 3:44 am

Since Fred Schepisi has been brought up - BARBAROSSA, his first American film, is absolutely wonderful. It appears it is only available on a full screen DVD (if it's still in print). I hope for a blu ray someday. Great screenplay by William Witliff, superb performance by Willie Nelson. Sample dialogue courtesy of IMDB:

"Always stand still until you're done shooting. Nothin' scares a man more than for you to be standin' still when you should be runnin' like a spotted assed ape."

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Re: 773-774 Breaker Morant & Mister Johnson

#20 Post by Grand Wazoo » Sun Jun 21, 2015 3:12 pm

Tuco wrote:Since Fred Schepisi has been brought up - BARBAROSSA, his first American film, is absolutely wonderful. It appears it is only available on a full screen DVD (if it's still in print). I hope for a blu ray someday.
It's coming from Scorpion Releasing.

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Re: 773-774 Breaker Morant & Mister Johnson

#21 Post by Buttery Jeb » Sun Jun 21, 2015 10:19 pm

At some point, they added another supplement to the Breaker Morant disc:
1974 documentary The Breaker, profiling the real Harry “Breaker” Morant, plus a 2010 statement by its director, Frank Shields

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Re: 773-774 Breaker Morant & Mister Johnson

#22 Post by Minkin » Sat Aug 29, 2015 6:40 pm

Blu-ray.com on Breaker Morant

So how might some of you consider/compare this to Paths of Glory? I know that the soldier's trial is based on brutality here, rather than lack of courage, but I wonder if this is as effective as an antiwar film (I assume Beresford's frame of reference is Vietnam)? Or might there be a film on colonialism that would be better served for a comparison?

This is another film where the history and its continuing impacts seem more interesting than the film itself. Perhaps Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends on Boer Separatism would be a great companion to this film.

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Re: 773-774 Breaker Morant & Mister Johnson

#23 Post by Minkin » Sun Sep 20, 2015 5:56 pm


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Re: 773-774 Breaker Morant & Mister Johnson

#24 Post by knives » Fri Apr 01, 2016 2:14 pm

It really is crazy that Mister Johnson is the first film Beresford directed after Driving Miss Daisy as this is the complete opposite of that failure focusing in on the life of its professional black character and what it means for his identity to have this bizarre inbetween status as African of body, but English at heart as he puts it. There's even a subtle joke at how no one, not even seemingly his wife, cares about the interior of the man to know him as any more then Johnson. It's a tough piece of characterization that is always running the tightrope between being racist or dead accurate to what a person like Johnson may have been. The film is also insanely beautiful. This is the best transfer I've seen of a Beresford film so I don't know how much this is unique to the film and how much it is just getting to see one of his movies respectfully, but it breathes with a brilliant imagination showing in a naturalistic fashion the sweltering heat in a way that is reminiscent but not plagiarizing Dickerson's work on Do the Right Thing. This is probably going to remain in the dustbin of discussion despite Criterion's best efforts (maybe if they had included a few relevant shorts by Beresford that would add to some excitement) but at least they took the chance.

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Breaker Morant (Bruce Beresford, 1980)

#25 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Jan 29, 2018 6:34 am

DISCUSSION ENDS MONDAY, FEBRUARY 12th.

Members have a two week period in which to discuss the film before it's moved to its dedicated thread in The Criterion Collection subforum. Please read the Rules and Procedures.

This thread is not spoiler free. This is a discussion thread; you should expect plot points of the individual films under discussion to be discussed openly. See: spoiler rules.

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I encourage members to submit questions, either those designed to elicit discussion and point out interesting things to keep an eye on, or just something you want answered. This will be extremely helpful in getting discussion started. Starting is always the hardest part, all the more so if it's unguided. Questions can be submitted to me via PM.

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