After a fight with other inmates, Carrie (Kim Krejus) and Jeannie (Sonia Peat) escape from a girl's reformatory, and meet Serge (Sergio Frazzetto) and Tim (Ian Gilmour), country boys looking for work in the city. 

The four homeless kids set up house together in an abandoned industrial site, a warehouse near a shunting yard, with Serge forming a relationship with Jeannie, while the hesitant, uncertain Tim becomes involved with the alienated Carrie. But things go badly, with the girls moving from counter service to shop-lifting to escort services as a way to survive. 

A friendship with an alcoholic philosophical "derro" bum (Walter Pym as Fred), who also lives in the warehouse and scribbles 'Eternity' graffiti on the walls, also ends in tears, while the return of Carrie's abusive lover (Michael Carman) poses a threat not just to Tim, but to the group. 

Jeannie can't bring herself to keep doing the escort service work, but Carrie defiantly keeps working, and it begins to tell on her emotionally, with drinking and drugs a rough kind of solace.

The group begins to disintegrate, though some of the characters emerge strengthened by the shared experience of love and life in the rough and the raw …

 

Writers:
Exec producers:
DOPs:
Production Designers:
Art Directors:
Composers:
Editors:

Production Details

Production company: Vega Film Productions

Budget: A$129,000 (including $44,000 in crew deferments, with a straight cash budget of A$85,000 which also included the cost of blowing up the image)

Location: around Melbourne, and along the Great Ocean Road - there's a squat near a shunting yard, a park near the Carlton football ground, Winlaton Girls' Home, and other typical inner city Melbourne locales inclined to the seedy.

Filmed: June-July 1977, four week schedule

Australian distributor: Greg Lynch Film Distributors/Australian theatrical Roadshow

Theatrical release: Melbourne 20th July 1978 at Village East End 2; Sydney August 24, 1978 at Village Cinema City; other cities later.

Original video release in Australia: Greg Lynch/Roadshow

Rating: M (May 1978, 2,633m). TV: AO (adults only)

16mm, blown up to 35mm      Eastmancolor

Running time: 96 mins. (Murray, Australian Film), 90 mins. (Cinema Papers)

Off air/TV screening timing: 1'32" with music overhang

Umbrella DVD timing: 1'33"09

Box office: For reasons that are unclear, the film didn't make it into the Film Victoria report on Australian box office.

But for a low budget inner urban arthouse downbeat film about the young unemployed (even then demonised as dole bludgers) the film did good business, helped by favourable reviews.

The film ran for nine weeks in Sydney (some other Australian films at the time were lucky to last a week), and over ten weeks in Melbourne. It was also a big hit as a discussion starter for students, and director John Duigan has claimed that some 130 schools visited the show in its initial Melbourne run. The tickets might have been discounted, but it all helped box office and the buzz of word of mouth.

A quick tally of box office figures in Cinema Papers suggests that at a minimum, the film did approx. A$110,000 in its initial limited capital city release, and eventually it did go into net profit. 

Being of a parochial nature, concerned with Melbourne's urban underbelly, the film didn't travel internationally except as a cult arthouse festival piece. It did however pick up a sale to the new fourth TV channel in the UK, courtesy of buyer Derek Hill, with the channel targeting 12 to 18 year olds, Britain's ethnic population and women. It also picked up a sale to domestic television and aired on the 0-10 Network in Sydney on Wednesday 1st November 1979 in an 8.30 pm slot, and in Mebourne on ATV-O on 8th October 1979, also in an 8.30 pm slot.

It couldn't have done that badly because in the DVD interview Ian Gilmour notes that while the cast and crew worked for scale and deferrals, in the end they were paid all the deferrals (for a long time afterwards, Sonia Peat says, residuals cheques kept arriving).

Gilmour even proudly produces an uncashed residual cheque for $1.84, dated 24/7/91, a rare moment for the revival days of Australian cinema, with everybody getting their deferments and the film making a profit.

 

Opinion

Awards

The 1978 AFI Awards were held in Perth and featured Britt Ekland and Fred MacMurray. They were hosted by Noel Ferrier, and this 21st anniversary year is the one where Hollywood delusionalism might well be said to have taken hold of the 'Ozcars'. The awards that year were designed by English silversmith David Watkins in gold, silver and transparent plastic.

Ironically considering its low budget urban underbelly profile, Mouth to Mouth managed a Jury gong and a creditable number of nominations up against much better financed films:

Jury prize, sponsored by the Victorian Film Corporation (Producers John Duigan, Jon Sainken, director John Duigan) 

Nominated, Best Film of the Year, sponsored by the Australian Film Commission and the South Australian Government (John Duigan, Jon Sainken) (winner, David Elfick for Newsfront)

Nominated, Best Achievement in Directing, sponsored by Village Theatres and the New South Wales Film Corporation (John Duigan) (winner, Phillip Noyce for Newsfront)

Nominated, Best Original Screenplay, sponsored by the Greater Union Organisation (John Duigan) (winners, Anne Brooksbank, Bob Ellis, Phillip Noyce for Newsfront)

Nominated, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, sponsored by Hoyts Theatres (Kim Krejus) (winner Angela Punch for The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith)

Opened the 19th Adelaide International Film Festival at 6 pm on 22nd September 1978; screened at other festivals on the circuit.

Availability

Unfortunately, for a long time, the show was only available via rips from old VHS releases or off air recordings, generally of poor quality. 

Fortunately, even though DVD is now a fading format, the film eventually made it to disc in 2012 courtesy of Umbrella, with a decent number of extras.

The film is presented in its 1:85:1, 16:9 enhanced original theatrical release format. Picture quality is reasonable, remembering that this was a very low budget 16mm shoot, and the sound has also scrubbed up as well as could be expected.

The film is cropped, and loses information at the top and the bottom of the frame compared to the 16mm open matte version that was screened on television, but the improvement in presentation more than compensates.

The extras include interviews with cast members Kim Krejus (9'26"), Sonia Peat (5'42", conducted by Duigan), and Ian Gilmour (7'29", conducted by Duigan). 

There's also a more extended group chat with Peat, Gilmour, director John Duigan and DOP Tom Cowan, which runs 26'41" - awkwardly posed and with the odd whisper on the soundtrack - but with Duigan reminiscing about life in the Carlton movie and theatrical push.  All the extras were done by Umbrella for the 2012 DVD release.

There is also a fairly battered theatrical trailer, worth a look for the way it shows how the film was sold.

The DVD answers the old question "whatever happened to", with Krejus explaining how she went to acting school in London (in part thanks to the film), then continued acting internationally, and then returned to Australia and started to teach. She ended up as creative director, running an acting studio in Melbourne.

After the great adventure making the movie - something she least expected doing - Peat was picked up by Hilary Linstead at M & L Casting, but then she decided to do a real job, got married, had children, did a teaching degree and ended up a primary school teacher.

Gilmour stayed in the industry, first as an actor - helped by the momentum Mouth to Mouth generated (Linstead also approached him) - then he went to the AFTRS to study directing, and thereafter he spent his time directing television (series such as Phoenix for the ABC, and children's series, mainly Nine and Seven). He says he hasn't acted since 1989.

Duigan went on to a long career as a feature film and television director.

The one person not mentioned is Sergio Frazzetto, and there's a mysterious silence about what happened to him after the film.

This is a welcome release for Oz movie enthusiasts, and anyone interested in the 'realist' strand in the Carlton film-making push, and the career of John Duigan. It is his most successful early work, and this DVD release serves it well.

 

1. Source:

After the dull, middle class philosophical and sexual exchanges in John Duigan's feature The Trespassers, he decided on something of a sea change with another original screenplay:

… It began with the idea of four teenagers spending the night on the town, and just extended from that. I decided to try and make a film that would involve a fairly wide-ranging audience in the experiences of four sympathetic characters who are battling to get some kind of life going at the lower end of society. Characters whom the middle-class audience generally reads about as numbers in the unemployment figures, or kids in the juvenile courts. In all, I did 14 drafts of the screenplay …

… Almost all the assessments I received were very positive, but the assessors at the Australian Film Commission felt that while it was a good script, it had limited financial potential. I think the film was knocked back three times on those grounds.

The Victorian Film Corporation, on the other hand, was very helpful; I had several long and useful discussions with people there.

The material I write probably needs a lot of rewriting, and I believe The Trespassers could have done with another rewrite. (Cinema Papers April- June 1978)

Duigan worked on a radio program for six months in which young unemployed people talked about their experiences and this helped shape his screenplay.

Duigan also tackled issues related to prostitution (he would go on to explore this theme again, coloured by drugs, with Judy Davis in Winter of Our Dreams):

… A friend of mine worked in a massage parlor for six months: I talked to her a lot about here experiences, and I suppose the events in the film have been colored by this.

In no way was I attempting to make value judgment points on prostitution - I wouldn't want to. The events that occur in the film, and the characters' reactions in them, are generated by the momentum of the characters as I saw them.

When asked in a Signis interview (done on two separate dates, 28th April and 16th May 1997) whether Mouth to Mouth (and Winter of Our Dreams and One Night Stand) had a spiritual dimension, Duigan responded appropriately:

I hope so. Certainly by implication I think they do. They're all dealing with the complexities of human interactions and often the complexities posed by the tension between the individual and society, between people who find themselves on the fringes of society. But I hope that the human beings in them are treated with dignity. I try always to give due complexity to the various aspects of the characterisations.

Mouth to Mouth was probably, in my early period of film-making in Melbourne, the film that I value most. I feel it is closest to what I set out for - and probably was the first film that I got close to achieving what I set out to do. (the invaluable Signis interviews are now available on Peter Malone's website here).

2. Production:

The casting took Duigan about a year, and was done in a way that was eccentric and alternative. He spotted Sonia Peat (Jeannie) in a Sydney pub:

She knew most of the people there and was buzzing around with this endless, speedy energy - she seemed just right for the part. On closing time I found out she was living in a nurses' home. Without using the line, "Do you want to be in a film?", I contacted her the next time I was in Sydney and we did a bit of testing.

Sergio Frazzetto (Serge) was working at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology as a van driver:

… he had never done any acting, but has great vitality, like the others, which was one of the prime things I was looking for. I thought I would try to get that onto film.

Duigan's six month radio program featured unemployed self-help groups, and the groups often questioned leading political figures.

It was done for the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology's FM radio station, which helps explain how Duigan initially came to meet Frazzetto.

The other two main characters came through more traditional film ways:

The other two people came from agencies and they had some acting experience. Ian Gilour (Tim) had done a television series nine months before and has done bits and pieces since. Kim Krejus, who plays Carrie, did a year at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts and is now doing some television work. They have impressive futures.

In her DVD interview Krejus notes that she'd been kicked out of NIDA because she was judged a rebel who had difficulties with authority, and it was therefore interesting to get a role where the character shared these traits.

Duigan:

So, it was a combination of two totally inexperienced actors and two with some experience. They were great to work with and worked very hard. We had a two-week rehearsal period, and during the first week we went down the coast, to get to know one another. We worked intensively in the quiet, and it was very useful. I believe all four performances are really terrific. (Cinema Papers, April/June 1978)

The group went to a house in Torquay (Krejus - Peat thinks it was at Anglesea) for the rehearsals, which according to Krejus "felt like a lifetime" in which many things were discussed and discovered.

When she discovered that others film-makers didn't do rehearsals and workshopping the way Duigan had done, it became one of the reasons she gave acting away.

During rehearsals, Peat and Krejus talked to girls at a training school, and experienced their despair at getting a job. Peat remembers the place - Winlaton Girls' Home - as very confronting, cold and desolate and alienating.

Duigan makes the point that the film wasn't improvised though some people looking at the film might think that it is, but that he and the cast followed the script (he thinks that with improv you can often spot the moments where actors are thinking of something to say).

Duigan had originally intended to film on 35mm using an Arri BL, allowing the same sort of speed and jarring movement as 16mm, but in the end the budget determined that 16mm was more feasible - as shooting on 35mm would have cost an extra $25,000. Timing and availabilities dictated that Duigan shoot the film rather than look for additional finance for 35mm.

The crew was minimal, with only eleven crew on location, as opposed to the 13 on The Trespassers. Duigan was defiant about the low budget:

Provided that a film is competently made, and its story doesn't demand a lot of money, it doesn't matter how much it cost. Audiences are not looking for hairs in the gate, nor do they notice that there are only six extras in a pub scene instead of 50. A good subject will carry tthem along.

True to his word, the crowd for the anti-freeway demonstration staged in the film features many of the film crew, their partners, children and dogs.

Director Duigan paid particular attention to the soundtrack, placing his characters in a warehouse near a shunting yard, and so allowing plenty of chances for jarring sounds (they also head off to pubs with "grinding" music in the background).

Duigan wanted to evoke a world dominated by trains and other machines "a world inhabited by generally anonymous people and machines".

In his DVD interview, Duigan remembers that Carlton push film-maker Nigel Buesst acted as Cowan's assistant, and Gilmour points out that Buesst can be briefly sighted as a body asleep on a bed, surrounded by appliances, when Peat comes into the room. This invites a game of "spot the Buesst", but other members of the crew also pop up as extras, including Vicki Molloy, the production manager.

In what was often the way in the early days of the revival, permissions for locations weren't sought and certain scenes involving running through the streets involved "actuals", startled to be caught up in the filming.

For trivia buffs, Walter Pym was a character actor first on view in Chauvel's The Rats of Tobruk in 1944. He died several years after making the film - he had also appeared in Patrick in 1978 (director Richard Franklin recalls picking Pym up from a run-down boarding house).

Pym's character - painting Eternity on city walls - is a direct reference to well known reformed alcoholic Arthur Stace, who spent some 35 years writing the word in chalk on Symdney footpaths, thereby ensuring himself a place in folklore, and the long standing fascination and interest of a diverse range of Australian film-makers. Stace has a wiki here.

3. Release:

The film didn't make it into the Film Victoria report on Australian box office, but for a low budget inner urban arthouse downbeat film about the young unemployed (even then demonised as dole bludgers) the film did good business, helped by favourable reviews.

The film ran for nine weeks in Sydney (some other Australian films at the time were lucky to last a week), and over ten weeks in Melbourne. It was also a big hit as a discussion starter for students, and Duigan claimed that some 130 schools had visited the show in its initial Melbourne run. The tickets might have been discounted, but it all helps word of mouth.

A quick tally of box office figures in Cinema Papers suggests that at a minimum, the film did approx. A$110,000 in its initial limited capital city release, and eventually it did go into net profit.

Being of a parochial nature, concerned with Melbourne's urban underbelly, the film didn't travel internationally except as a cult arthouse festival piece. It did however pick up a sale to the new fourth TV channel in the UK, courtesy of buyer Derek Hill, with the channel targeting 12 to 18 year olds, Britain's ethnic population and women.

It also picked up a sale to domestic television and aired on the 0-10 Network in Sydney on Wednesday 1st November 1979 in an 8.30 pm slot, and in Melbourne on ATV-O on 8th October 1979, also in an 8.30 pm slot.

It couldn't have done that badly because in the DVD interview Ian Gilmour notes that while the cast and crew worked for scale and deferrals, in the end they were paid all the deferrals (for a long time afterwards, Sonia Peat says, residuals cheques kept arriving).

Gilmour even proudly produces an uncashed residuals cheque for a $1.84, dated 24/7/91, a rare feat in the revival days of Australian cinema, confirming everyone got their deferments and the film made a modest profit.

4. Music:

The music was by Sydney-based composer Roy Ritchie, who died too young a few years after the shoot was finished.

There are no credits for the vocalist who sings the lyrics over the end scenes and credits. The lyrics, and the song were sometimes criticised at the time for being too emotionally explicit and plaintive, but it was a ploy typical of Duigan's early films:

You say you'll always need me

But that's easier said than done

You say you laid it on to me

'Cause I don't have to come

You say you've seen it in the movies

But this movie's just begun

You say you won't sit still for me

I've got you on the run

Faaall guy, 

The more you love, the harder you fall

The more you love, the harder you fall

The more you love, the harder you fall

The more you love, the harder you fall

The more you love, the harder you fall

The more you love, the harder you fall

The more you love, the harder you fall

Let me love you, you said

Let me please you, you said

Head over heels

Falling for you

Falling in love with you

The more you love, the harder you fall

The more you love, the harder you fall

The more you love, the harder you fall

(voice singing against the main melody

"don't want to be a fall guy",

and repeat against each main melody line)

The more you love, the harder you fall

The more you love, the harder you fall

The more you love, the harder you fall

The more you love, the harder you fall

The more you love, the harder you fall

The more you love, the harder you fall

The more you love, the harder you fall

The more you love, the harder you fall 

The more you love, the harder you fall

The more you love, the harder you fall

The more you love, the harder you fall…

(and so on, image to black and voices fading to silence)