The story of how Wake in Fright came to circulation is a fittingly strange one. It debuted at Cannes in 1971, then had a limited run through America (under the name "Outback") and its native Australia. But after that, it vanished.
Martin Scorsese was at that Cannes screening, and called the Australian story "a deeply - and I mean deeply - unsettling and disturbing movie." But violence is integral to its grotesque architecture, and a heavy pour of the stuff tells the tale of one man's chaotic unraveling. "Visually, dramatically, atmospherically and psychologically," says Scorsese "it's beautifully calibrated and it gets under your skin one encounter at a time, right along with the protagonist played by Gary Bond."
Wake in Fright is a story about a slightly polished, very waylaid teacher. He's off to see his girlfriend in Sydney, but first he'll need to kill a day in the outback's wildest reaches, the Yabba. Genuine kangaroo hunts, vomit sex and booze-soaked gambling are on the local itinerary, and our teacher's along for the ride.
So why haven't you seen the film Nick Cave calls "the best and most terrifying film about Australia in existence"? Well, it took forty years to unearth the original negative, which was holed up, oddly, in Pittsburgh, destined for cinematic euthanasia. Fortunately, the footage was restored and then picked up for US distribution by Drafthouse Films. This weekend, Texas Theatre gives Dallas its chance to see the cult favorite, on the big screen, in 35mm.
Just to be even nicer, they've offered up two pairs of tickets (take a first date, naturally) for lucky, Mixmaster contest winners. Email me at [email protected] with the subject line "Sounds Brutal, Mate" by 4 p.m. Thursday to make the cut. I'll draw the names randomly and alert winners via email.