Monday, August 31, 2009

Happy Birthday Jack Thompson

One of my favorite actors for years, Jack Thompson turns 69 today. The Australian actor first came to my attention years ago in Bruce Beresford's Australian football film The Club. Shown on a seemingly continuous loop on Showtime back in the early eighties I must've watched it a dozen times. Up There Cazaly is as familiar to me now as any movie song out there. And Jack Thompson made a hell of an impression: Strong, rugged, commanding. His was a presence that did not go unnoticed. It's currently available as an import DVD in the PAL format but I'd love to see it get a full release here in the States by Criterion, a wish I'm sure will go unfulfilled.

The very same year Thompson made The Club with Beresford the two worked together on the more notable effort Breaker Morant, for my money every bit as good a film as Paths of Glory, Stanley Kubrick's examination of military justice meted out in war that mirrors many of the same themes. Breaker Morant is a stunning film that rewards the viewer upon multiple viewings with a depth not normally present in courtroom dramas, in part because it resists many of the standard cliches associated with the genre. And again, Thompson as the courtroom defender of three Australian officers (two of which are played by Edward Woodward and Bryan Brown) is simply terrific, displaying the same strength he had in The Club.

Thompson never became the star in America or Europe that he was in Australia but his career never lagged as a result. He's made dozens of films and if you're unfamiliar with his work I heartily recommend both The Club and Breaker Morant. You won't be disappointed. So Happy Birthday once more to Jack Thompson. Here's hoping there are many to follow.