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They’re A Weird Mob

Post-Peeping Tom brush-off, the itinerant Michael Powell fetched up in Sydney to create – what else? An Italian neo-realist romantic comedy. The result as great as it is bizarre – an Italian journalist emigrates to the You Beaut Country to become a journalist at the behest of his cousin, only to find the promised job waiting for him has vanished, as has the cousin, and he’s left with debts that have to be met by taking gruelling work on a baking hot construction site – cue a strange and wonderful silent sequence of frenzied earth digging in full suit, tie and hat, and a slow-mo, Kurosawa-style exhausted collapse. Romance ensues with one of his cousin’s creditors, who gradually falls in love with him, though her cantankerous, dagophobe dad – played by, natch, the man Chips Rafferty – proves a tougher hurdle. It’s a brilliant film, setting the ‘fair go’ idealism of the country against its latent xenophobic streak to brilliant effect, and broke box office records for a native film. Powell later made Age of Consent (1969), in which globetrotting aussie artist James Mason finally returns home, and hooks up with dodgy old pal Jack MacGowran and very young muse Helen Mirren on remote Dunk Island. Meanwhile Walter Chiari, the journo from …Weird Mob, became a down under-bound Italian monk relocating his vineyard for wine comedy Squeeze a Flower (1970), featuring a host of latterly big Aussie names as well as Dave Allen.

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