Oz new wave director Tim Burstall died April 19 in Melbourne following a stroke. He was 76.
Burstall arrived in Australia as a 9-year-old from his native Blighty. Before embarking on his helming career, he worked as a journalist, editor and PR flak for the Australian government’s Antarctic division.
Winning a prize at the 1960 Venice Film Festival with his short film “The Prize,” Burstall was one of the early proponents of that decade’s Oz new wave.
After a few years making docus and a stint as a UCLA student assistant on Martin Ritt’s “Hombre,” Burstall made “2,000 Weeks,” forgoing the standard government funding. Although the pic kickstarted the Oz film revival in 1968, the arthouse pic was savaged by crix.
Teaming up with emerging local legit scribe David Williamson in 1971, Burstall helmed the first locally made box office hit, the ribald social comedy “Stork.” He followed up with bawdy “Alvin Purple,” which took full advantage of Oz’s increasingly lax censorship rules, and achieved even bigger B.O.
Producer Phillip Adams told the Australian newspaper that Burstall “proved to some of us in Australia that Australians might actually be able to make films.”
Subsequently venturing into other genres with pics like “Petersen,” “End Play” and “The Last of the Knuckleman,” Burstall failed to find a new audience despite, in some cases, creating quality films.
His film career concluded in 1986 with an adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s “Kangaroo” featuring a young Judy Davis, although he directed some TV projects thereafter.
His last pic was 1987’s TV movie “Great Expectations: The Untold Story.”
He is survived by his wife, Betty who founded Melbourne’s seminal La Mama Theater, and their two sons, Tom, a producer, and Dan, a cinematographer.