(1944- ) Australian movie director and occasionally screenwriter, some of whose early work is of distinct fantasy interest. Homesdale (1971), a short, is an Absurdist fiction set in what may be either a lunatic asylum or a country club. The Cars that Ate Paris (1974), which he co-wrote, his first feature, is a striking piece of paranoid Technofantasy: a pair of outsiders come to a remote Australian town, Paris, and slowly discover that the town's economy is based entirely on scavenging from passers-through, whose cars are deliberately wrecked by local yobs driving cars souped-up to represent Monsters. It was with Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), however, that PW really hit his stride: the cinematic equivalent of Magic Realism, it is paradoxically so powerful a work of fantasy because one is never quite sure whether or not it is fantasy, the ambiguity being redolent of full fantasy while at the same time all could be rationalized. The Last Wave (1977), also co-written, depicts a white Australian lawyer who has precognitive Dreams which relate both to a second Flood and to the Aboriginal Dreamtime; in waking life he is persuaded by Aborigines that the Apocalypse is indeed nigh – and the movie's ending shows what is either the "Last Wave" or his precognitive Perception of the oncoming End of the World. The Plumber (1979 tvm), which PW also wrote, is a fringe Urban-Fantasy exercise in paranoia. Gallipoli (1981) is a powerful movie about WWI. The Year of Living Dangerously (1982) is a journalist thriller set in Indonesia. Witness (1985), PW's first Hollywood movie, is an exceptional thriller, and also directly pertinent to Fantasy, even though there is nothing of magic or the supernatural: a hard-boiled US cop enters an Amish community which is, in effect, an Otherworld. In most Hollywood outpourings such a figure would introduce the pacifists to the merits of American-as-apple-pie violence; here, though – although at last he must resort to violence to beat off destroyers – it is the "otherworld" which changes him.
PW has veered away from the fantastic. It is hoped he will return. [JG]
other works: The Mosquito Coast (1986); Dead Poets Society (1989); Green Card (1991).