Lee Rogers, spouse of popular Aussie warbler Kate Ceberano, enlisted his wife and a number of friends to appear before the camera in this independently produced first feature, which was snapped up by UIP for Aussie release later this year. “Dust Off the Wings,” a study of sexual relationships within the world of surfers in and around Sydney’s celebrated Bondi Beach, explores a specific milieu with conviction and winds up as a cautionary, if at times indulgently told, tale aimed at the youth market. Southern Star should have no trouble securing video sales for this one, with theatrical release in some territories also possible.
Bondi in summer is a mecca for youthful, and some not-so-youthful, hedonists from all over the South Pacific. The closest beach to downtown Sydney, and famous for its bars and eateries as well as for its somewhat tatty old apartment buildings and free-and-easy lifestyle, Bondi is, above all, a great surfing beach. Rogers not only takes his camera onto the surfboards of the serious wave riders, but he also intimately explores the reckless lifestyles of a core group of Bondi residents.
Rogers himself plays Lee, who has decided to settle down and marry his girlfriend, Jo (Alana Ross), a move his friends and confidants consider pretty bold. But until the wedding, he’s not averse to the occasional sexual encounter with an old flame (Kate Fischer, a knockout). Nevertheless, he’s horrified to learn from his friend Ward that another close friend, Phil, had sex with Jo while both were drunk a few nights earlier.
While Lee grapples with the old double-standard dilemma, he gets advice from various people, including Jenna (Ceberano), who seems to be everyone’s best friend.
Pic’s nominal star, Ceberano here quite effectively plays a marginal earth-mother character. Rogers, who demonstrates a potent screen presence, avoids the home-movie route by taking film in some interesting dramatic directions. But there are still indulgent sequences in which the director allows aimless conversations and arguments to run on long after the point has been made. Two bachelor parties, a rowdy one for the groom involving a vastly fat stripper, and a more demure one for the bride, are excessively long.
On the other hand, Rogers convincingly captures the lifestyles of his fun-loving characters, and spectacular scenes shot in the surf convey the thrill of the sport as few films have since John Milius’ “Big Wednesday” almost 20 years ago.
“Dust Off the Wings” (the title refers to the mating of butterflies) was shot by Jeff Malouf on video using a Sony DVN 700WSP system. The transfer to 35mm is, on the whole, extremely successful, with the video source of the image apparent in only a few scenes.
Numerous songs, including Ceberano’s “Living With Lies,” augment the soundtrack. The actors, many of them non-pros, are mostly convincing.