TILL THERE WAS YOU
Australia, 1990, 90 minutes, Colour.
Mark Harmon, Deborah Unger, Jeroen Krabbe, Shane Briant.
Directed by John Seale.
Till There Was You is a glossy Australian American co-production, directed by cinemaphotographer John Seale (Witness and many other Australian and American features, including his Oscar win for The English Patient). The film seems to be a throwback to the B Budget action adventures from Warner Bros and RKO of the early 50s. However, there is no homage in this screenplay - it rather seems an anachronistic screenplay. An American comes to Vanuatu looking for his brother, he encounters racist colonials as well as sympathetic natives (all decked out with bows and arrows - certainly no the reality of the 1980s or 90s). The screenplay uses a number of cliches and expected phrases which makes the whole venture quite predictable. Mark Harmon is the American star. Debra Unger is a rather uncharismatic heroine. Shane Briant snarls like a Nazi. The best performance comes from Jeroen Krabbe, the Dutch actor in many international films. While the film is beautiful to look at, has many attractive shots of Vanuatu and its islands, the screenplay and the acting let the production down.
1. Glossy American Australian co-production, an action romance of the 90s, a throw back to the 50s?
2. The New York locations, the Vanuatu locations and their beauty? The travelogue touch? The musical score ? and especially the theme song?
3. The boys own adventure style of the story, the characterizations? The lack of realism in the plot and the behaviour of the people of Vanuatu?
4. The title, the theme, the romance?
5. Mark Harmon as Frank Flynn, saxophone player, the bar and its closing down, performing, breaking off relationships? His callow attitude? His brother and trouble, going to Vanuatu ? the American presence and presumptions? The rain, passport and visa difficulties, playing the saxophone? Being used by the police? The rain, Anna, the ride, in jail? His beginning of his enquiries? The polo club, Vivaldi and the locals? The bars, being bounced out, the gold? The hints about his brother? The race and his being pushed by Vivaldi? Anna’s bet? Flying to the island, the house and its hospitality, tensions? Search for information, the gold? The escape, flying the plane the crash landing? With the natives, the ceremonies, the discovery of his nephews.
6. Vivaldi as tough, racist, greedy, jovial manner, public behaviour with Anna, private brutality? The race and his cheating? The humiliation? Flying to the island? The house, the weapons man, Rex? The pursuit of the plane, the attack on the house, his desperation with the gun, death?
7. Rex, the nasty Nazi style, caricatured? Pursuing Anna, his disdain, the game with the little boy and being shot by him?
8. The weapons man, slightly mad, the weapon cache? The pursuit, death?
9. Anna, her story, marriage, life on the island, lonely, tension, trying to escape, the public bet, the humiliation, escaping with Frank, with the natives, the attack on the village? Her going to New York?
10. The portrayal of the Vanuatu authorities, shrewd, tough? The night clubs, the bars? People giving clues?
11. Life in the village, testing Frank, the ceremonies, the fall? The rituals and the dancing? The wife and the nephews? The brutality of the Vivaldi's attack?
12. The serious tone of the film, when a light touch was required? An anachronistic adventure movie for the 90s?