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Beautiful Lies: A Film About Peter Carey (1986)


The title comes from Mark Twain’s description of Australian history which he found so curious and strange that it read ‘like the most beautiful lies’. Peter Carey recounts the relationship between the country he draws inspiration from and his novels. There are readings and onscreen representations of scenes from Carey’s short stories and his first two novels Bliss (1981) and Illywacker (1985).

Curator’s notes

Beautiful Lies is an inventive portrait of a writer. It conveys the kind of information about how he views his life and work that might be expected of a conventional interview (see The Book Show – Peter Carey, 1992) but at the same time imaginatively evokes the feel of his writing. This is done through filming Carey as he speaks to camera at the actual locations, representation with actors of scenes from his work, stylisation of the images on occasion, and the spoken word evocatively mixed with music and sound.

Central to the film is Carey’s imaginative construction of history and investigations of storytelling from a particular, subjective point of view. Carey takes us through his own history filmed in the various locations beginning with Bacchus Marsh in Victoria, the town of his birth. Interwoven are reflections on his work and approach to writing.

An actor (Les Foxcroft) plays Herbert Badgery, the central character in Carey’s novel Illywacker (slang for a fairground trickster or con man), and performs several monologues. Extracts from the film of Bliss (1985) are also included.

Director Don Featherstone has made a range of documentaries about notable Australian artists, including: painters (Arthur Boyd: Figures in the Landscape, 1985), poets (see The Daylight Moon: A Portrait of the Poet Les Murray, 1992), playwrights (Tall Tales but True: David Williamson – playwright, 1994), performers (Lowering the Tone: 45 Years of Robyn Archer, 1993) and composers (Dance of Nature: The Music of Ross Edwards, 1995).