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Saturday, 22 May 2010

Love, Lust & Lies

In 1976 Gillian Armstrong was a fresh young filmmaker just out of school. Commissioned by the South Australian Film Corporation to make a documentary about what it’s like to be a 14-year-old girl, she made Smokes and Lollies, a portrait of three naughty working class girls. Kerry, Josie and Diana proved to be funny, honest and spirited, and so a series of films were made, following them at 18, 26 and 33. Now the girls are 47-year-old women, and in some cases, they’re grandmothers. It’s been 14 years since we last caught up with them, and this instalment proves to be highly entertaining and revealing – as the title suggests.

Comparisons are bound to be made with the British 7-Up series, and it’s true there are similiar voyeuristic pleasures in seeing lives fast-forwarded and rewound. But Armstrong is warm and generous, with a unique focus on love, sex and mothering. She’s never condescending, even as she charts lives that have been constrained by early parenthood and lack of education. The resulting film is a beautiful and inspiring tribute to family, and to the universal yearning to create a better life for one’s children.

Rochelle Siemienowicz
(This review appeared in #354 of The Big Issue, Australian edn.)

To read my interview with Gillian Armstrong at the Australian Film Institute click here.

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