Dogs in Space

Year: 1986
Production Co: Central Park Films
Director: Richard Lowenstein
Writer: Richard Lowenstein
Cast: Michael Hutchence, Saskia Post, Chris Haywood

Years ago I was introduced to the concept of a movie that doesn't really tell a story so much as form a visual background you don't have to concentrate on very hard, like a painting in a gallery that just happens to move.

I was interviewing Rachel Lucas, the director of a 2005 Australian flick called Bondi Tsunami, a story about a Japanese guy and his friends making his way from the surf breaks of Sydney north to the Gold Coast in search of the perfect wave. She made a comment about how she made it so you can just have it on in the background while you're doing housework and it's just as effective.

And it always stuck with me. I never understood there was such a thing. To this day when I watch a movie I sit down, start it from the studio idents and opening credits and concentrate on it completely (interruptions for household or family duties notwithstanding).

But since that conversation, I've been more appreciative of the intent of a movie like Dogs in Space, even if it bored me so much I turned it off. I don't think it was ever meant to be a story, just a fly-on-the-wall, day-in-the-life-of about a bunch of young Melburnians and the music, relationships, living arrangements, drugs and sex that filled their days in the late 1970s.

Like most people at the time I took notice of it because it had a big name rock star in Michael Hutchence, but like Mariah Carey, the Spice Girls, Beyonce and any number of other singers who've tried since, he can't act. Even so, while I and the rest of my contemporaries were lined up to see Top Gun, Aliens and Crocodile Dundee, we resoundingly ignored this film.

But any Aussie film from the early 80s is something of an anachronism, so I gave it a whirl. Directed by longtime INXS video director Richard Lowenstein, it's very evocative of the time and place as various people come and go amid a share house in inner city Melbourne, muddling through their lives and responsibilities (or lack of them) and nobody making any real impact.

After checking how long there was to go far too many times I turned it off after nearly an hour, but I'm completely prepared to admit the problem is with the way I approached it (ie as a story) rather than the way Lowenstein intended, which was a time capsule/art installation.

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