peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2023 02 16 ATownLikeAlice

A Town Like Alice (1956)

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A black-and-white "based on a true" story about some English women-and-children in Japanese-occupied Malaya in World War II, adapted from the Nevil Shute novel of the same name. In essence it's a long walk, tedious and trying for all, including the audience, and unlike Rabbit Proof Fence (for instance) the cinematography is mostly stodgy and there's no cracker soundtrack. Wikipedia suggests the book is a bit Great Expectations.

The plot has lead English Rose Virginia McKenna meet Australian mechanic Peter Finch (later Oscared for Network) and fall into histrionics. I wasn't persuaded by her: she's no Julie Christie. The novel's narrative is (apparently) greatly truncated (where did her money come from? how did they get repatriated? what has the title got to do with anything? etc. etc.) with what remains going in obvious directions. There is some brief archive footage of Alice Springs and Tennant Creek late in the piece. Alongside this is the thoroughgoing and oblivious classism, racism and mostly one-sided storytelling (the Japanese have little interiority, only Maureen Swanson is subject to sexual exploitation, and only then with her consent, etc. etc.) of the imperial sunset.

A. H. Weiler at the New York Times. Ozmovies observes it's not much of an Oz movie. Later given the Bryan Brown treatment at length in 1981.