Matching Jack

Reflective moments at a premiere


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David Tiley Screen Hub

Nadia Tass and David Parker must be one of the Australian industry’s most enduring and fertile partnerships, and they put their passionate hearts on their sleeves as Matching Jack premiered at MIFF.

The launch was a pretty amazing moment. Fred Schepisi was there, looking like a mobile homage to Serge Leone, celebrating his daughter’s lovely cameo piece. Jacinta Barrett, a tall woman in very high heels who came back from her good career in the US to play the lead, made everyone else look like hobbits. And Tom Russell, the boy who plays Jack, first seen as Chook in The Last Ride, was tiny and honest about his mixture of fear and excitement.

I sat next to veteran sound recordist Lloyd Carrick, who started on The Pudding Thieves in 1967, and went on to be a key crew figure in Melbourne through pictures like Pure Shit, the later Mad Max films, and right through to Underbelly. I was a bit embarrassed because he has a fabulous sense of hearing, even now, and I am a noisy spectator with a terrible snuffling weep. And we all knew to pack our Kleenex, because this film has children and cancer.

David Parker shares a producing credit with Nadia Tass and Richard Keddie, and his speech was a lovely evocation of the role. I snatched it from him afterwards, as he nodded in a moment of euphoria.

Here it is:

“… So you’ve got to love the film business – here in Australia we fund films in a particular way. Generally we get a bit of money from the bloke who knows a bloke who has a service station who has a son who grows pot in his old man’s back garage and is good for fifty grand.

You get twenty of them together and you’re nearly ready to go, except, two days before you start pre, the kid goes to jail and the rest of the investors suddenly get paralysed right hands and can’t sign a cheque.

There is another way – just as tortured which involves going to Film Victoria, Screen Australia and MIFF, then asking every high worth individual you know for some dollars – we had a number of those – except along came the GFC and all that remained were empty offices with answering machines sitting on the underfelt taking calls from trophy wives who had only just learnt that Lynch’s had closed forever…

But fortunately Film Victoria, Screen Australia and the Melbourne Internation Film Festival hung in there, along with a number of investors and Twentieth Century Fox. We are eternally grateful.

It’s a funny business, this caper – here we are now – the premiere of Matching Jack. It’s sitting up there in the projection box, all 9,280 feet of film, the result of a lot of work. Now it will be threaded into a projector and it will run – images changing at 24 frames a second, scenes cut together, music playing, actors acting. All those ten years that it took – sitting up there.

From Lynne Renew’s script to Nadia Tass’s directing to Jacinda Barret’s and Tommy Russell’s acting and their fellow cast as well,to Jon Dowding’s production designing, to Paul Grabowski’s music and Mark Werner’s editing. It’s about to unfold for the first time.

How do I feel? As nervous as when Malcolm opened in a theatre on Third Street in New York City, because no-one in Australia wanted it… thank God, times have changed.

And now, minister, chair, ladies and gentlemen, Ms Nadia Tass..”

Nadia Tass paid tribute to the ensemble cast, which was completed by Kodi Smit-McPhee, Richard Roxburgh and the Irish actor James Nesbitt, and to the original writer, Lynne Renew; David said that, although they moulded the script and made it their own, the final film is very close to her original vision.

Premier John Brumby and his minister Gavin Jennings are learning the realities of film financing. Brumby said that the opening night film, The Wedding Party, is close to a distribution deal. Jennings said that Matching Jack opens on 181 screens in the middle of August. In retrospect, it is pretty obvious that these Melbourne films should have been swapped in the schedule, particularly since both showcased the MIFF Premiere Fund.

Matching Jack turned out to be a terrific, passionate, sobby, craftful heartgrabber, a grown up film about a vast and honest emotional arc. Apparently straightforward, it runs on clever but near-run stylistic collisions which work the world of children and adults together, and mixes its rage and despair with humour, a gentle sense of the ridiculous, and the power of fantasy. It is about love, and betrayal, and the trust between adults, and how an adult responds to the trust of a child who is going to die. Oh shit, you are thinking, this is a tough one. But in truth it ends with a sense of healing, and says that we are not trapped, and can move on with love and honour.

Lynne Renew was there too, and gathered her own entourage afterwards, taking group photographs of a magic moment, though she will star in her own parade when she introduces the film at the local cinema in Avoca Beach, her home town, just before “Fiacre’s Distillery brings some of their Award Winning Australian Fruit liquors for you to taste!”

Though the picture sounds like a difficult ask for general audiences, the Avoca describes it as “a powerful emotional drama… we were blown away at the preview.. about the unbreakable bond between parent and child..”

After the film, I turned, snuffling, to Lloyd Carrick. “Did you like that?” I asked him. He said, “I worked on it.” I apologised for not noticing and he said, “It was the last film I worked on before I retired.”

Way to go, Lloyd, to end a fine career.

David Tiley

David Tiley is the editor of Screenhub, and can be contacted at or 03 9690 6893.

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