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LOVELL, PAT: Picnic at Hanging Rock

A FRESH PICNIC
It's about eight minutes shorter but several degrees better, with a stereo soundtrack it never had, as well as a re-colourgraded look. Picnic At Hanging Rock, Peter Weir's 1975 movie has been recut and mastered for the 1990s, and producer Pat Lovell tells ANDREW L. URBAN it's set for another 25 years of acclaim.

On December 2, 1999, Picnic At Hanging Rock is re-released theatrically for limited seasons in Sydney and Melbourne, prior to a new video re-issue, in its new Director's Cut version - the one that impressed Melbourne Film festival audiences this year, including producer Pat Lovell and Anne-Louise Lambert, (Miranda in the film), who joined Lovell in the stalls - and wept with her as the film's final act played out.

"this is like a last hurrah for me"

After 23 years of administering it, says Pat Lovell, "this is like a last hurrah for me, and very pleasing." Lovell, who is currently Head of Production at the Australian Film Television and Radio School, has also shown Picnic to the students, who gave it "a very warm welcome," reinvigorating interest in a new generation of Australians.

The film's re-release has been triggered by a new sale to US distributor Janus Films, which paid far more for the rights than the original distributor's US$60,000 20 years ago. "That was a bit if a disaster," Lovell recalls, "and Peter Weir has been wanting to re-cut the film ever since." The film seemed plagued with distributor problems: the original US distributor went bankrupt and it has taken a decade to extract the rights from the legal mess.

The UK distributor also went bankrupt in the 1980s, and the film had to be rescued; it was also in trouble with the French distributor, and it had to be "levered away" from it, says Lovell. "But Peter Becker at Janus is impeccable to deal with and it's a real delight to see the film being treated with such care and attention."

Lovell also praises the Australian Film Commission, whose assistance in recovering the US rights was instrumental in getting the film out of the quagmire, and to Atlabd and Spectrum, where Weir did much of the re-cutting and colour grading.

"this has enhanced the film no end"

"Peter has been keen to cut the third act a bit," says Lovell, "and this has enhanced the film no end. The final act now goes like a rocket and it has become exceptionally moving. It's more accessible now, and we're not taken aside by pretty little romances."

Roadshow Home Video is re-issuing the new cut on video in the wake of its theatrical re-release, but the DVD rights for Australia are still available.

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Picnic at Hanging Rock is based on a 1967 novel by Joan Lindsay. Three students and a school teacher disappear on an excursion to Hanging Rock, in Victoria, on Valentine's Day, 1900. One of them is found a week or so later, but can remember almost nothing. The others are never found. Says US critic Roger Ebert: "On this foundation, Peter Weir constructs a film of haunting mystery and buried sexual hysteria. It also employs two of the hallmarks of modern Australian films: beautiful cinematography and stories about the chasm between settlers from Europe and the mysteries of their ancient new home."

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