Picnic is arguably the most impressive and influential film of the Australian “New Wave” of the 1970s.The performances are all superb – AFI nominated were Helen Morse for Mlle de Poitiers, the sympathetic and seemingly weak French mistress who proves the strongest of the teachers; Anne Lambert, who manages to make Miranda slightly more than a symbol and expression of other characters’ longing; and Tony Llewellyn-Jones as Tom, the Irish handyman who beds Minnie the maid (Jacki Weaver). Llewellyn-Jones’ nomination was the most surprising for such a small role, but he affects an accent and was familiar from starring in Paul Cox’s Illuminations around the same time. Rachel Roberts’ monolithic Mrs Appleyard should also have found favour, but perhaps slipped between lead and supporting categories or fell victim to patriotic fervour.
Particularly touching is the friendship across classes between rugged Bertie (a marvellous John Jarratt) and the awkward English Fitzhubert (Dominic Guard), whose obsession with Miranda allows him to experience more of Australian life than his stuffy British elders.Weir’s direction is superbly evocative, and Cliff Green’s screenplay intriguing without ever being arch. Besides Bruce Smeaton’s original score, the use of classical music – and of course Georghe Zamfir’s pan pipe flutes – adds considerable texture.