1971, NR, 100 min. Directed by Nicolas Roeg. Starring Jenny Agutter, Lucien John, David Gumpilil, John Meillon.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 25, 1997
Director Nicolas Roeg's second film Walkabout, which was first released in 1971, has become something of a cult classic. Made in between his memorable directorial debut, Performance, and his two subsequent films, Don't Look Now and The Man Who Fell to Earth (which have come to be recognized as his signature works), Walkabout is a bit of a lost work. At the time of its release, five minutes were cut from Roeg's film to spare audiences a few fleeting shots of full frontal nudity (considerably tepid by modern standards). Neither the edited version nor the director's cut have ever been transferred to video, so this re-release is the first opportunity many will have to see the film for themselves. And although that's good, in a way it's also too bad because Walkabout will never achieve the same cultural impact it had 25 years ago. The story centers on two British children - a teenage girl (Agutter) and her young brother (played by Roeg's son Lucien John) - stranded in the Australian desert after their father chillingly commits suicide (after trying to kill them). They are led back to civilization by an Aboriginal male who appears to be about the girl's age. The fascination of the movie comes from the cultural collision that also carries a sexually charged undercurrent. The stunning camerawork reminds us of Roeg's early years spent as a cinematographer, although such things as lingering shots of desert wildlife and the shock edits that intercut scenes of Aboriginal kills with Western butcher shops tend to seem more naïve and intrusive than they did back in 1971. Roeg's points about the contrasts between noble savages and civilized effetes don't stand up terribly well over time. Still, much of the film does hold up, and opportunities which come around only every 25 years should not be passed up.