Production company: self-produced by Antony I. Ginnane
Budget: A$5,000 from Melbourne University Film Society (Oxford Australian Film), starting at $2,000 and mushrooming to $7,000 (Eric Reade) (metaphorical $1.50 and a doughnut - producer Antony Ginnane)
Locations: Melbourne, Sydney, Luna Park, Wilson's promontory
Filmed: 1968, scripted 1967
Australian distributor: self-released
Theatrical release: 15th March 1971, the Grand Footscray and other Melbourne suburban cinemas, including the usual indie Carlton theatre starting 18th March, and other four wall cinemas.
16mm black and white
Running time: 88 mins, cut to about 62 minutes for theatrical release as a supporting feature.
Box office: minimal. The film got a small art house release around Melbourne, but didn't travel well, and never moved beyond the alternative circuit.
Film historian Eric Reade lists an alternative working title for the production, We are None of us Perfect.
NB: The title used as the hero image for this site is not the film's actual main title, but the one used as a stand-in on the Nigel Buesst DVD compilation of Carlton films.
Currently the only way to view a sampling of footage from the film - outside of the archive - is the very grainy and washed material available on the Nigel Buesst compilation Carlton + Godard = Cinema. (Buesst acted as DOP on the film).
As a compendium of the Carlton scene, this two disc edition is well worth hunting out for Carlton or exotic Aussie movie buffs. It was, at time of writing, available direct from the film-maker at the Sunrise Picture Company catalogue here, for thirty dollars, packing and postage included.
Director and producer Antony I. Ginnane wrote the script in 1967, inspired by the release of Godard's Alphaville and other French new wave films, such as those by Truffaut and Resnais.
According to some reports, the Melbourne University Film Society assisted in the financing of the film, though the nature and size of the assistance is not known.
Because of the ambition of the project and the extremely low budget, and editing and sound issues, it took a major reduction in length, and some polishing and enhancing before the film achieved a limited release in Melbourne. The edited film was finally completed and the film released in 1971.
Director Antony I. Ginnane was a law student at the University of Melbourne when he shot Sympathy in Summer in 1968.
"He had been a key figure in the Melbourne University Film Society for a brief and stormy period in 1968 when he produced the only two issues of a monthly magazine, Film Chronicle". (Oxford Australian Film).
Ginnane reflected on the film for Nigel Buesst's compilation in relation to the Carlton crowd who were active in Melbourne in the late 1960s:
Sympathy in Summer was a 16mm home movie, in a sense, almost like most of the other Carlton movies that were made in the sense that er, that one used largely non-professional actors, one shot on 16, it was done for the metaphoric equivalent of a $1.50 and a doughnut. It was really done because like most of the films that were made at that time somebody, in this case me, wanted to make a movie, so you know we begged, borrowed and stealed to effect that process. I guess at that time in my own life I wasn't sure whether I wanted to pursue a career as a writer/director or as a producer or producer financier. And through a variety of circumstances, again largely serendipitous, I wound up going down the producer financier road rather than the directorial road.
When I look back at Sympathy in Summer today, um I think it was, it's a pretty self-indulgent piece of work, and er you know it tends to trot out somewhat unregurgitated, you know, reactions to um the French New Wave cinema, Godard, Truffaut, their film-making style, um, and their film-making ideas. I think its intellectual content is you know rather naive, but it has a certain sort of primitive charm about it and one can't sort of completely, er, I can't dislike it."
Sorry, to say does it stand up? I mean stand up to what? It's a little film that today, in the context of today, would have been a, you know, second year film school student movie, but which at that time, because we wanted to use it as a tool to also learn about production, and not just learn about production but learn about distribution, etc, we went through the exercise of actually running it at the Carlton and running it at the Dendy Brighton and running it at the Palais St Kilda … and I got so attached to Godard that when I actually started to buy films which was one of the other things that I did during university, which was to set up a little distribution company, um, I brought into Australia half a dozen Godard films progressively, um, Made in USA, The Little Soldier, the film on Algeria, and then I guess culminating with the Wind from the East, the Danny Cohn-Bendt Marxist Western, Letter to Jane, and Tout va Bien, the two Jane Fonda political tracts …
But Godard was a primary influence on everybody in Carlton, not just Godard but some of the other French new wave directors as well ... Jacques Rivette obviously ... a movie like Paris Nous Apartient ... Paris belongs to us ...Truffaut of course. Indeed in Sympathy in Summer I mean the sequence that we borrowed from Bande a Part where Karina and Frey run through the Louvre and try to get out of the place in ... break a world record for getting in and out of the Louvre. We riffed on that. I guess we riffed on Alphaville ... in Sympathy in Summer in terms of the slightly film noir look to the piece. We riffed on Truffaut and Farenheit 451 with the absence of written credits and the voice over credits rather than written credits. And I'm only talking about my own movie. I think if you looked at anything, from you know Brian's movie, if you looked at Dave Minter's Hey Al Baby, the thing Alan Finney's in, a number of the other movies that were there, and indeed you know probably in your own way one or two of your own movies, um I think we were all heavily affected by that moment ...that moment in French cinema which we were catching up on of course five, seven years later. It wasn't CNN and Entertainment Tonight where you were getting that material instante. We were waiting for the Cahier du Cinema to arrive in the mail or the Positifs to read and find out what was going on. So we were behind but we embraced it enthusiastically and we tried to stay as au courant as we could. (Producer Tony Ginnane, transcribed from the Buesst compilation).
The hero in Sympathy in Summer delivers his thoughts in a voice-over monologue - also a way to help with sound issues - and the credits are delivered in voice over rather than written in the usual way, as Ginnane notes, as a homage to Truffaut's Farenheit 451, and also no doubt as a way to save on lab costs.
Ginnane went on to develop an import business called Studio Films, which imported many European art house films, including some by Godard.
The footage available from the Buesst compilation is now most interesting - and for some amusing - for the way it shows how far Ginnane strayed from his original filmic inspirations.
Ginnane went on - with his foreign cast imports, and his relentless Ozploitation genre pictures - to become one of the most controversial figures in the industry during the 1970s and heady 10BA tax rort days of the 1980s.
Ginnane then moved on to a slate which largely consisted of crime and horror material, such as Richard Franklin's Patrick. He also made more dubious films such as Harlequin and The Survivor, and in the 1980s, he used federal government tax breaks to help finance a string of B grade horror and genre-driven shows. Ginnane, and his Ozploitation films, would only return to critical favour with cultists thanks to the celebrations begun by the likes of Quentin Tarantino, and Mark Hartley's documentary compilation Not Quite Hollywood.