Dogs In Space

Dogs In Space


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Few films connect with the punk experience like Dogs In Space, a slice of life in Seventies Melbourne that brings together all the major concerns of its era. Recognised by locals for featuring, at least in a cameo, pretty much everyone who was anybody at the time (a friend of mine was asked to star but couldn't get out of school), it features a stunning soundtrack with contributions from The Boys Next Door, Gang of Four, Iggy Pop and more. There's sex, beer, drugs, television, chainsaws, shopping and even a lost sheep (literally). It's a carefree life lived on the fringes of a hostile society, getting by on borrowed time, waiting for a satellite to fall and point the way to the future.

Dogs In Space are the band whose singer, Sam, is at the heart of the film. Though the guy on whose life story it was based rejected him and the rest of it as a distortion of his now painful memories, the film has succeeded in forging a very real connection with the wider Australian punk scene.

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Michael Hutchence is remarkable in the lead role, inhabiting his character completely, all the more poignant now because of his own tragedy. Alongside him, Saskia Post is a potent force as Anna, the girlfriend who has to put up with rehearsals in the house all night and then drag herself to work in the morning to earn a pittance that will be squandered before they've made the rent. They share their home with an assortment of flatmates and hangers-on, including Tim (superbly played by Nique Needles), Sam's bandmate, and earnest student Lucio (Tony Helou) who is working frantically to try to pass his exams even as everything around him falls apart.

Into the midst of all this comes an unnamed girl (Deanna Bond), quietly observant, at once removed and eager to take part. Her outsider status provides an in for the audience, who are gradually introduced to the residents and their friends through an endless stream of parties and other social gatherings. The narrative builds almost accidentally amid the incidents and accidents of their day to day lives. Some viewers find this difficult to engage with, but patience will be rewarded.

Superbly scripted and played with conviction by every member of its sprawling cast, many of whom were local punks recruited on the streets, it engages first with the heart and only later with the head; it's intuitively compelling, no more rational in structure than the lives of its protagonists. Despite the doom hanging over everyone, what comes across most strongly is the warmth of this community, the friendliness - and the unapologetic directness - that enable them to do their own thing despite desperate poverty and alienation from mainstream civilisation.

Dogs In Space is less of a film and more of an experience, a poem rather than a conventional story. It's a remarkable testament to a piece of Australian history most people prefer to ignore. Some people don't get it at all, but this is the sort of film that, if it works for you, you could find yourself falling in love with.

Reviewed on: 04 Feb 2009
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Kitchen sink drama with a difference, set in a Melbourne punk commune.
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Director: Richard Lowenstein

Writer: Richard Lowenstein

Starring: Michael Hutchence, Saskia Post, Nique Needles, Deanna Bond, Tony Helou, Chris Haywood

Year: 1987

Runtime: 103 minutes

Country: Australia


Australia 2010

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