Brilliant Creatures is a two-part television series that celebrates four iconic Australians. Feminist and libertarian,Germaine Greer;writer/broadcaster/memoirist and poet, Clive James; the late firebrand, art critic, Robert Hughes; and savage satirist Barry Humphries all share things in common. The most important thing is that they left Australian in the fifties and sixties in order to make their marks on the world. This show gets the icons and their friends to talk about the journey and their influence with a great sense of celebrating history and nostalgia.
The show is hosted by Booker prize winner, Howard Jacobson. He begins by talking about James’ childhood in an unassuming house in Kogarah and Hughes’ schooling at Riverview College. Both Greer and Humphries shared a mutual disdain for Melbourne and this sowed the seeds for their escape. Once they were overseas, these tall poppies were liberated and they eventually flourished by finding stiff competition in the likes of London and New York and expressing their intellectual prowess with a great sense of bold, Australian uncouthness.
A lot of archive footage including clips and photographs are used to set the scene and provide both historical and cultural context. Australia was considered by many to be a blessed land for making it out of World War II relatively unscathed. But for these big fish, this pond was simply too small for them and they were bored living here.
It is fitting that Jacobson interviews James, Greer and Humphries, enabling them to reminisce and offer their own personal recollections of the different periods. Among this history lesson is also a series of interesting talking head interviews with a long and industrious cast including: Eric Idle, Michael Parkinson, Phillip Adams, Kathy Lette, Bruce Beresford, Melvyn Bragg, Martin Amis, Thomas Keneally and Grayson Perry.
Ultimately, Brilliant Creatures is an interesting and evocative look at the Australian invasion of England and beyond. It is non-linear and could have been improved if it were a little more ordered. But one thing is for certain this is a worthy historical chapter and a great romp through the virtual verbosity of our very own Fab Four.
Originally published on 17 September 2014 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2014/09/17/tv-dvd-review-brilliant-creatures-australia-2014/
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