Popular Modernism, Neoliberalism and Nationalism in the Australian New Wave: The Cars That Ate Paris (1974) and Gallipoli (1981)

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Abstract

Dominant narratives of the Australian New Wave tend to frame the efflorescence of national filmmaking in the 1970s through the lens of Gough Whitlam’s brand of cultural nationalism. The narrative usually runs as follows: state-funded films tended to favour a conservative, genteel and respectable aesthetic that came to be known as the “Australian Film Commission genre”. This article uses Mark Fisher’s concept of “popular modernism” to challenge this dominant account of the Australian New Wave first put forth by Susan Dermody and Elizabeth Jacka, outlining the ways in which social democracy and state funding provided the conditions that allowed filmmakers to produce radical films that were anti-nationalist in character. As we will argue, when national film production deviated from this configuration and became circumscribed by neoliberal restructuring and economic rationalism in the 1980s, the New Wave took on an increasingly nationalist impulse. The article will trace this trajectory through a narrative analysis of two films from lauded Australian director Peter Weir: The Cars That Ate Paris (1974) and Gallipoli (1981).

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Australian Studies
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Feb 2024

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