Before success in Hollywood, director Philip Noyce was already a veteran of The Australian New Wave. Newsfront, his first full length feature (1977’s Backroads was only 60 mins) would lead in the next decade to the acclaimed Dead Calm (with Nicole Kidman) and eventually to a Hollywood career with such films as Harrison Ford’s vehicles Patriot Games and its follow up Clear and Present Danger.
Newsfront is a chronicle about a team of newsreel reporters, from 1948-56, dedicated to shoot opening programs for A-pictures shown in Aussie theaters, as they stop at nothing to capture footage of breaking news in their hazardous weekly assignments. The home arrival of television with its near instant dailies, in 1956, would be a major blow to their work by taking its place.
Fascinating because it depicts a particular era (and its sad end), Newsfront joins the list of films on film but in focusing on this specific aspect of the old movie experience while it offers a portrait of postwar Australia with the occurring nostalgia illustrated by the use of real archive footage. From natural disasters to political and social turmoil, the real footage is beautifully inserted thanks to Noyce regular, John Scott on editing and the sharp photography of Vincent Monton (of director Richard Franklin’s team) who was in for a busy year with the cult film Long Weekend also to his credits.
Probably due to low budget limitations, the major flaw of Newsfront is that it takes a bit of time to really take off. Because we are within the medium of film we are used to things being fully recreated and illustrated, especially for a period piece, and it can be deceptive by falling short on the descriptive side. It gets more visually-wise in the second part, raising questions about a few inadequacies from its first half where it spends too much time on the love interests.
Still, Newsfront is filled with good acting from veteran Bill Hunter, a young Bryan Brown (F/X) and even Bruce Spence (the Gyro Captain of the Mad Max series), all supported by a great ensemble cast that helps to offer a pretty honest and interesting fare.
Yours to discover.