Australia, 1979, 89 minutes, Colour.
Nat Young, Ken Brown, Bryan Brown, Julie Mc Gregor, John Flaus, Amanda Berry.
Directed by Albie Thoms.
Palm Beach is a feature by experimental writer-director Albie Thoms. Noted for shorts and a feature about the artist Marinetti as well as an experimental feature about Sydney beaches and the way of life there, Thoms has also worked in commercial television in Australia. Using professional actors but allowing them to improvise from the basic story, he has created an interesting experimental feature. With a great deal of thought and themes, the film portrays the way of life around Palm Beach and Sydney's North Shore - the surfers, the unemployed, the drug scene, the police, the runaways etc. Authentic location shooting adds to the effect of the film. It is not the kind of film that wide audiences enjoy, it is also quite experimental and with some of the improvising uneven and at times tedious. However, on reflection the film has a great deal to say about the way of life in Sydney in the '70s. It is an example of the potential of experimental film-making which can communicate with a wider audience than those involved in experiment.
1. For what audience was the film made? The response of the popular audience? Student audience? Film makers?
2. The backing of an experimental fund - the type of film that should be made by this fund? The attitudes of the maker towards his subject. style, actors? The importance of improvisation? The camera styles, the quality of the film stock, its graininess? The various shots and their impact?
3. Colour photography, Sydney locations and the atmosphere of the North Shore? The great prominence on sound: the radio stations and the variety of their programmes, the disc-jockeys and the playing of music, comments, current affairs, news. advertisements? How well placed were these radio sounds? Topical information? The styles of the music played? The use of television for illustrating urban life., information, atmosphere? Bill Collins and his questions about the film 'Deep In My Heart'? The effect of the immersion in the sounds of Sydney.
4. Palm Beach as an environment? Its being part of the city of Sydney, the environment of the water, the sun, the surf? The people living there and the time available for water sports especially the surfing? Surfing and its skills, pleasure, as a sport? The corresponding idleness of people who watch? This environment and affluence. a place for drugs., a haven for dropouts, casual relationships.. sexual encounters, drinking, crime? What was the film saying about the influence of environment on situations and characters?
5. The importance of structure within the plot: the introduction to Palm Beach as a place, an environment? The introduction of each of the main characters? The establishing of the various strands of the stories? The plot's skill in weaving their interplay? The ironic comment on the other? An establishing of a moral point of view, values point of view? The film's comment on each of the characters. their situations and choices, decisions?
6. The film's portrait of an aspect of Sydney: the North Shore, the beaches, the suburbs, the shopping centres, the various houses and their affluence? The people who live there and their occupations - shops, film projectionists etc.? The High School? The cars, the police? How well pictured was Sydney in the Nick and Joe strand of the plot with their going around to find sources of L.S.D.?
7. Nick and Wendy and their lifestyle? The contrast with the visit from Joe and his background of the southern beaches, the comments on Maroubra? Their swim, introduction to the house, the arrangement of Nick and Wendy. The importance of their tour and the continued talk, the sharing of experiences, the establishing of their values? Information about the way of life? The various types of people they met with their co-operation, fears, attacks? The party and the drug scene? The irony of Joe being in league with the police and his giving information? The visualising of his return to Maroubra and the pool scene?
8. Mrs. Adams and her emotional telling of the story of Leilani? How well did she represent the ordinary middle class middle aged woman concerned about her daughter, unable to cope? The hiring of Larry Kent? Kent and his interrogations, walking the beaches, the people that he asked and his manner? (The presentation of himself as the equivalent of the American private eye - seeing him at home, his hairpiece, his estimate of himself -a lonely American style detective in Australia?) The places that he searched - the High School and the information given, the background of the school as a scene for drugs, the art class, the beaches?
9. Leilani and her running away from school, her setting up with the artist? The reasons for her dropping out, her search for kicks? The encounter with the American sailor and drug runner? As an adolescent, her age, her way of life? Her being at the party, her night with Joe and the giving of information? Her future - especially when information got round that she was the source for the police raid? A good sketch of the way of life of this kind of teenage drop-out in Sydney?
10. The contrast with the Kate and Paul story? Kate and her relationship with Paul, living on the North Shore, their domestic set-up? The significance of her going to Macquarie University, attending the course on women and the content of the lecture? Her personality, love for Paul, the details of home life? The preparation for the outing, her dance at the club, her presence at the party? Her reaction to Paul's shooting the policemen, supporting him?
11. How central was Paul to the film? As a character in himself, the importance of his being out of work, at the beach, his need for drugs, seeing him seeking work? His serious approach to life but inability to cope? Dependence on Julie? Getting ready for the party, his presence at the party, finding the gun and taking it? What motivated him to rob the supermarket? The reaction of the people there, his running, shooting the policeman? His reaction after the shooting, fear, disguising himself as a woman to leave? His hiding out on the rocks and being caught? A credible presentation of an unemployed middle-aged man trying to support himself but being weak and turning to crime?
12. The presentation of the officials, the ordinary police and their coping, the high officials especially those concerned with narcotics? The narcotics officer in his affluent office over the harbour and his link with Joe? The ordinary police and their interrogations and searches of houses in trying to find Paul?
13. How well did the film present the range of people who lived in the area, especially the shop assistants, projectionists, people at the supermarket?
14. The drug way of life and people's needs, the turnover of money, the links, the taken for granted attitudes about drugs?
15. How well did the film immerse the audience in the way of life of the area? How much knowledge at the end, how much sympathy? Sharing the point of view of the people, differing? The aerial entry to Palm Beach, the aerial exit? The value of this kind of film experience?