David Stratton – along with erstwhile companion Margaret Pomeranz – was instrumental in shaping my love of cinema. I couldn’t go out to the movies often as a teenager, but a weekly appointment with The Movie Show kept me informed of the on-goings at the box office.
I first saw Stratton in person introducing a screening of Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself; fittingly, a few years later, Australia’s equivalent to Ebert has his own doco. Much like that film, A Cinematic Life aligns its subject’s biography with cinematic history; for example, Stratton’s fractious history with his father plays alongside clips from Careful, He Might Hear You.
Those connections are often strained – there’s quite a few clumsy segues – though that’s like a consequence of the film being a truncated edit of a longer television series to air on ABC later in the year. A Cinematic Life is arguably more successful as a brief history of Australian cinema rather than a portrait of Stratton, but that feels fitting. Stratton’s always been more of a conduit to great movies than a personality himself; in that respect, the documentary succeeds. It’s hard to watch and not want to flesh out your knowledge of Australian cinema immediately.