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Friday, September 4, 2009

In Memoriam: Mister Percival

One of Australia's most loved feathered film stars has died. Mr Percival - one of the pelicans in the 1976 film Storm Boy - died of old age at Adelaide Zoo on Wednesday, aged 33.

Storm Boy, based on a novel by Colin Thiele, is one of the most cherished of Australian classic films. It has a deep emotional clarity that appeals to children and adults alike, making it timeless. The landscape of the Coorong wetlands, bleak and beautiful and windswept, becomes a refuge for the broken, the loveless and the outcast – an alternate Garden of Eden, in which a different version of Australia might seem possible – a kind of hermit’s utopia.

The film is clearly about much more than the boy’s love of the pelican, which he calls Mr Percival. It touches on race relations, ecology, the breakdown of families, white and black law and questions of prior ownership, but the themes are seamlessly woven into the story. Much of the power comes from the elemental beauty of Geoff Burton’s camerawork (his work on Sunday Too Far Away, with a different colour palette, has a similar expressiveness), and from director Henri Safran’s sensitive handling of the performances. The film was made for $260,000 and was a success at the box office, both in Australia and overseas, where it sold to more than 100 countries.

Here's a preview:

The full movie can be viewed on Youtube in eight parts:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8