American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Wake in Fright" is a film made in Australia in 1971 and almost lost forever. It's not dated. It is powerful, genuinely shocking and rather amazing. It comes billed as a "horror film" and contains a great deal of horror, but all of the horror is human and brutally realistic.
Screened at the Toronto Film Festival in 2009, picked up three years later by Drafthouse, it arrives still powerful and crushing. It has what would have been an all-star cast when it was released, and still is now for those who know their actors: Donald Pleasence, Jack Thompson and Gary Bond.
The story involves a young schoolteacher in the middle of the desolate wilderness of the Outback. The opening overhead shot shows a shabby building beside a railroad track, the camera pans 360 degrees and finds only the distant horizon, and then returns to find a second building on the other side of the tracks. One building is the school. The other is the hotel. To get to either, people must have to travel a great distance.
It is the end of the school year. The teacher (Gary Bond) takes the train to a town where he plans to get a flight to Sydney. He loses his money gambling and is swept up in the vortex of a group of hard-drinking, hard-living, crude, vicious men. His "vacation" descends into drunkenness, brutality, rape and a gruesome moonlight hunt where they massacre kangaroos.