The Tracker

It’s been almost a year since Rolf de Heer’s 2002 western was screened as the opening-night attraction at the Melbourne film festival, but it’s lodged in my memory as the best Australian feature I’ve seen in years. Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil (Walkabout, Rabbit-Proof Fence) gives the performance of a lifetime as a tracker helping three mounted police find a murder suspect in 1922, and though the film recalls Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man in its grim tale of pursuit, its poetic feeling for both history and landscape, and its contemporary score (by aboriginal singer-songwriter Archie Roach), it has an identity all its own. (One of its most original moves is cutting to paintings by Peter Coad, specially commissioned for the film, at every moment of violence.) The film’s U.S. distributor, hoping for a wider release in Chicago, hasn’t screened it for the local press, which is why I’m not writing about it at length. But it may never return, so catch it while you have the chance. With Gary Sweet and Grant Page. 102 min. Facets Cinematheque.

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