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Nino Culotta is an Italian immigrant who arrived in Australia with the promise of a job as a journalist on his cousin's magazine, only to find that when he gets there the magazine's folded, the cousins done a runner & the money his cousin sent for the fare was borrowed from the daughter of the boss of a local construction firm. So Nino tries to get a job & finishes up ... laying bricks. Nino works hard & makes friends with lots of locals, Nino & Kay argue a lot, Nino & Kay fall in love ... Kay takes Nino to meet 'Daddy' but daddy hates journalists, immigrants and bricklayers (he's now BOSS of a construction firm). Nino starts to win him over with his charm & determination to marry Kay. Written by
Steve Crook <firstname.lastname@example.org>
'THEY'RE A WEIRD MOB' tells the story of an Italian's migration to Australia during the 1960's and his effort to adapt to this unusual breed of Englishmen living on the opposite side of the world that he soon comes to love.
The film is one of few Australian films made in the 1960's, and therefore given its subject matter, one of the most important time capsules of that era. 'THEY'RE A WEIRD MOB' was also probably the first Australian film made with a realistic eye to international distribution, not only because much of the movie seems to delight in explaining and translating many examples of Aussie lingo, but because it takes delight in simply showing Australians being Australians and "them being a weird bloody bunch!" Technically, it is well-made movie and the acting quite decent. I was actually surprised by the number of shots achieved with hand-held cameras and steady-cams. Perhaps for what it is, it is a little too long, but no matter.
The movie paints an extraordinarily funny picture of how the ordinary Australian viewed himself in the 1960's: optimistic and belonging to an overwhelmingly cheery, egalitarian community. The working-male is presented not as a bludger, but as a generally reliable worker who enjoys nothing more than indulging in leisure activities with either his family or his mates. Upon finding work on a construction site in suburbia, Nino works diligently under the sun oblivious to his colleague's slower pace. He is told by his "mates" in a sympathetic tone to take a break: "there's plenty of time mate, she'll keep...roll yourself a smoke, mate / come and have a cuppa".
The movie almost seems like a propaganda movie for prospective immigrants, as Australia paints itself a destination inexhaustive of employment opportunities and as the land of opportunity, which in all truth it was. For instance, not only does our Italian protagonist find a job on his first day in the country, but even his future father-in-law - a prosperous building company magnate - started out from humble beginnings as a bricklayer upon his family's migration to Australia the generation before. For a learned critique of how Australia enjoyed "such a good lot" in the 1950s and 1960s, read the book 'The Lucky Country' (1964) by Donald Horne. 'THEY'RE A WEIRD MOB' paints ordinary Australian's as being overwhelmingly receptive of `New Australians' to such a point that they delight in submersing immigrants in the full extent of their customs and traditions which they relish as the best in the world.
More than anything else, the movie is a testament to the policy of assimilation during the post-war boom. As Nino makes a sturdy effort to adapt himself to the customs of the new country, most of the people he comes across display nothing if not their utmost admiration and respect for him becoming an Australian. On a ferry in the Sydney harbor, however, Nino comes across a drunkard who, after witnessing another group of New Australians' having a lengthy exchange in their mother tongue exclaims "Bloody dagoes, why don't you go back to your own country?!" Sitting down, he asks Nino for a light of his smoke, to which Nino reluctantly but politely obliges in almost natural English. When he subsequently affords more hostility to the family, Nino consoles them in Italian to which the drunkard demonstrates his utmost surprise. This latent premonition of multiculturism that is, that a New Australian could maintain links with his native country and its culture, yet still behave in all manners like an 'Australian' - was, for then, too much to ask of a previously insular, overwhelmingly Anglo society. Surprisingly, the drunkard is the only person in the move to adopt an outwardly racist tone, the movie generating the feeling that Australia is accepting of all immigrants who take a dedicated effort to assimilate.
Predating Bazza McKenzie and Paul Hogan by some years, the movie could legitimately be described as a document of propaganda, though this definition should not detract from its historical or artistic merits. Most Australian's would enjoy watching this movie for the parodies of Australian speech and lifestyle. For instance, a national in-joke is realized with Graham Kennedy playing himself in a hilarious cameo that serves to reveal the traditional Sydney-Melbourne rivalry. Asking for directions, he is given the cold shoulder by a loyal Sydney-sider to which he responds: "You're a Sydneyite?...I thought so. You're a weird mob up here, you don't appreciate art" to which he is told that it "must be a bloody weird mob in Melbourne if they keep watching you on TV." In any event, Australians would no more cringe at this film than they would at their parents' or grandparents' generation who actually had the privilege or misfortune - depending on how critical you are of the times and its achievements - of living in the time we see on the screen.
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