Some Advice On How To Be The Next David Stratton, From David Stratton

David Stratton and myself

If you grew up in Australia anytime in the past half-century and have a passing interest in movies, chances are your tastes were shaped by David Stratton. As director of the Sydney Film Festival during its formative years and — of course — a host of The Movie Show and then At The Movies alongside Margaret Pomeranz, Stratton has had an immense influence on Australian film culture without ever making a movie himself.

Well, until now. Sort of. Stratton is the star of David Stratton: A Cinematic Life, a documentary which just hit Australian cinemas (it’s also getting an extended, three-part version hitting ABC in the near future). The film, directed by Sally Aitken, acts as a biography for Stratton — covering ground from his fraught relationship with his father to the time he was under ASIO surveillance for programming movies from the USSR at the Sydney Film Festival — while doubling as a compact history of Australian cinema.

The release of A Cinematic Life sees Stratton on the other side of the media fence; rather than conducting interviews and Q&As, he’s the interviewee. A tricky interviewee, it must be said. With a biography — I Peed on Fellini — published, and now a biographical film, most of Stratton’s best stories have already been told. And the obvious questions about films he’s liked seem a bit pointless when you take into account he’s still an active critic nowadays, despite his retirement from television.

So I decided to try a different tack. Rather than rocking up with a list of pre-prepared questions designed to elicit slender variations on the answers given to a host of other publications, I opted for something more casual: a chat about the state of Australian criticism with someone who’d know more about it than practically anyone else. I wanted to plonk myself down next to him and assume the role of Ms Pomeranz (even if, with the beard and name, I’m perhaps better suited to sitting stage right).

Continue reading my interview at Junkee.

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