Oct. 24, 2010

Walkabout (1971)
Grade: 56/100

Director: Nicolas Roeg
Stars: Jenny Agutter, Luc Roeg, David Gumpilil

What it's about. This curious, atmospheric adventure movie has attractive cinematography and a hottie teenage lead. It is set in the Australian wilderness, a mixture of semi-arid plains and mountains. A plot contrivance strands whites Jenny Agutter and first-grader Luc Roeg in the remote outback.

After a brush with dehydration and exposure, the two are saved by a lone Aborigine male young adult (David Gumpilil). The three become friends, while the Aborigine gradually leads them toward civilization.

How others will see it. This film is popular with three mostly distinct audiences. The director, Nicolas Roeg (The Man Who Fell to Earth) has a cult following. The nature cinematography and the depiction of aboriginal culture will also appeal to some. However, most viewers, especially men of any age, will enjoy the comely presence of Jenny Agutter, whose several nude scenes are confined to the later reels. You may recognize Agutter from Logan's Run, where she played Michael York's love interest.

The imdb.com user ratings are high and fairly consistent. Men enjoy it to a slightly greater degree than do women, presumably due to Agutter.

How I felt about it. We know why she was cast. The boy was cast because he was the director's son. No one will complain, however, since the boy is a natural actor. The plot is a different matter, with more unexplained loose threads than 2001: A Space Odyssey.

To begin with, there are the actions of John Meillon, the presumed father of Agutter and Luc Roeg. Meillon is familiar due to his role as the dorky-looking Aussie sidekick in the first two Crocodile Dundee films. First, no one will buy Meillon as the biological father of Agutter. Then there's the matter of his outback picnic gone wrong. He drives his two children many miles to nowhere, tells them to get out, waits until they are a football field away, then tries to shoot them. Certainly, the task would have been easier had the kids still been inside the car.

Proving himself to be a bad shot, Meillon torches the car, then shoots himself. No shred of evidence is ever presented why he does any of these things. He does them only to strand Agutter in the outback, so we can enjoy her peril for the remainder of the film.

It is fortunate that Agutter and Roeg encounter the aborigine, who promptly takes a family interest in them. The two have bad luck encountering whites, however, missing out on 1) a weather expedition that consists of one clueless meteorologist, his hottie presumed wife, and four men idlers who constantly check her out to her silent amusement; 2) a tourist trap supplier and his dozen aborigine child employees; and 3) a mining ghost town with perfectly manicured lawns and a reclusive, unhelfpul caretaker that couldn't care less that Agutter is a teenage perfect 10 in peril.

Agutter spends an indeterminate amount of time spent swimming naked in idyllic ponds with Roeg, while the aborigine hunts and kills various fauna to feed them. The director reveals an obsession with carrion, especially if it is teeming with ants or maggots. Finally, the aborigine becomes the film's second unexplained suicide, following his lengthy and equally unexplained dance wearing white chalk makeup.

The film ends with abrupt cuts between Agutter blissfully tuning out her company ladder-climbing young husband, and Agutter in the wild with the man that perhaps she'd rather have, the late and virginal aborigine.