• Adam Elliot with some of his creations. (QUT)Source: QUT
Need some help deciding what to watch while you're stuck at home? We ask Australian directors, whose films are streaming at SBS On Demand, for five movie recommendations.
Richard Harris

21 May 2020 - 9:52 AM  UPDATED 21 May 2020 - 9:52 AM

Independent stop-motion animation writer, director and producer, Adam Elliot made a number of stunning, award-winning short films, including Uncle, Cousin and Brother before eventually winning an Academy Award for Harvie Krumpet.

Impressively to say the least, his five films have collectively participated in over 700 film festivals and received over 100 awards, including his Academy Award as well as five Annecy Cristals (pretty much the Oscars of the short animation world). His touching feature film Mary and Max was released in 2009. 

Tell us a little about your film at SBS On Demand. 

Mary and Max

Mary and Max is my fifth clay-animated film of a planned nine films that I need to make before I die. Based on the pen-friendship I have been having with a man in New York for the last thirty years, the film took five years to produce (from script to screen) and involved the talents of over 120 artists, animators, set designers and sculptors. Like all my films, every prop, set and character is a real miniature tangible handcrafted object. Voiced by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette, Eric Bana and Barry Humphries, the film recently celebrated its tenth birthday and is currently being developed into a Broadway Musical out of New York.

Watch Mary and Max now at SBS On Demand.


What are you currently working on?

I am now in preproduction for my next feature film, having spent the last four years writing and developing the screenplay. It is another massive undertaking and will take several more years to complete; don’t hold your breath! Apart from making my clay films, I love to sculpt, read dusty old books, and write bad poetry while drinking cheap red wine.


How are you coping with self-isolation?

As a confirmed hypochondriac, I have misdiagnosed myself as having the virus several times. Like most writers and artists, self-isolation is quite normal and necessary. Bouts of melancholy, self-pity and loneliness are all just par for the course. I have learnt over time to not let my isolation fester into something ugly and miserable. I often break the monotony with long walks in the Melbourne Botanical Gardens, or when it’s raining, dance around the lounge in my underpants to stirring versions of the 1812 overture.


What are your 5 favourite films at SBS On Demand? 

1. Border

Director: Ali Abbasi
Cast: Eva Melander, Eero Milonoff
Country: Sweden
Language: Swedish

Weirdly delicious, visceral and enthralling. I accidentally found this film on SBS and it immediately became my favourite film from recent years. Like most people I have come to love all things Nordic, and this gentle, beautiful and palpable film is simply sublime. But I’d say it’s not for everyone and has one of the most bizarre and stunning woodland sex scenes you’ll ever see! Full of glorious twists and revelations, it superbly and proudly celebrates the beauty in ugliness, and the ugliness in beauty.

Watch Border now at SBS On Demand.

2. Delicatessen

Director: Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Cast: Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Dominique Pinon, Marie-Laure Dougnac
Country: France
Language: French

I first saw this film when I was a young, stupid and impressionable teenager about to enter art school. On a rainy winter’s afternoon at the Kino cinemas here in Melbourne, I fell in love with Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s first film. I became an instant and pretentious Francophile and loyal fan to everything he was to henceforth direct. The dark humour, rich production design and fabulously eccentric characters, make this film as fresh today as it was in the nineties. I have had the pleasure and honour to have met Jean-Pierre several times and have enjoyed discovering that we have similar tastes and sensibilities when it comes to our love of cinema. 

Watch Delicatessen now at SBS On Demand.

3. Anomalisa

Director: Charlie Kaufman
Cast: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan, David Thewlis
Country: USA
Language: English

I’m not sure why, but most of my favourite films are not animated. I have never gravitated to Hollywood or Disney’esque animation, preferring the darker styles of animation from Europe. Once every few years, however, something wonderful emerges from America that upturns all my biases and generalisations. Written by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich), this is the most adult and sophisticated stop-motion film I have encountered. Look out for the stop-mo puppet sex scene; creepily erotic, in a latex, plasticine and rubbery type of way.

Watch Anomalisa now at SBS On Demand.

4. A Ghost Story

Director: David Lowery
Cast: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Kenneisha Thompson
Country: USA
Language: English

I saw this film slightly drunk and bloated on a plane home from Mexico. I’m not normally into the horror or ghost-story genres, but this clever and original film really took me by surprise, especially by its existential tone. Shot in the old and almost square aspect ratio of 4:3, the story is at times incredibly slow and ponderous, yet never dull. Casey Affleck whom I normally find annoying, uses his strange raspy voice sparingly and to full effect. Maybe it was the inflight food and wine that made me feel unnerved, but the deep impression this film left on me has made it my go-to when I’m feeling lost, soulful and teary.

Watch A Ghost Story now at SBS On Demand.

5. The Straight Story

Director: David Lynch
Cast: Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Jane Galloway Heitz
Country: USA
Language: English

I suppose everyone has one David Lynch film they enjoy or at least don’t find incredibly annoying. Unlike Lynch’s other films which are mesmerising but at times hard to fathom, this film (no pun intended) is fairly straight forward. Starring the late great Richard Farnsworth and the iconic Sissy Spacek, this film can make you feel like you are watching grass grow (or be mowed). There’s no complicated plot or hidden symbolism, just a good old story about a man who rides his lawnmower across America (almost in real time).

Watch The Straight Story now at SBS On Demand.

Special mentions

A Single Man. I have probably watched Tom Ford’s A Single Man about half a dozen times. Like one of his perfect bespoke suits, his debut feature is stunningly crafted and almost anal in its production design. The strong visual style, however, never overrides the substance of the story. Colin Firth’s performance is finely tuned and endearing. This film is for every gay man (or woman) who has ever suffered horrific loss and feels the need to indulge in the sublime world and soothing aesthetic of Tom Ford. Like one of his expensive seductive perfumes, this film lures you in and rouses your senses till you feel like you have been gently rogered.

The Piano. Another all-time favourite, The Piano hasn’t aged a bit. This is one of those films that is driven by the music, and without Michael Nyman’s superb score, this film would be much the lesser. The silent and strong protagonist of Ada is played beautifully by Holly Hunter and is set against Sam Neill’s emotionally stunted and often brutal character of Alisdair Stewart. Anna Paquin in her Oscar-winning role of the little girl, is often annoying but eventually steals your heart, as does Harvey Keitel who like every other film he’s ever been in, does a wonderful job of playing himself.


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