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The FJ Holden (1977)


Kevin (Paul Couzens) and his best mate Bob (Carl Stever) share everything, even girls. They live in working class Bankstown in Sydney, and spend all their spare time restoring and cruising in Kevin’s FJ Holden. When Kevin meets Anne (Eva Dickinson), she allows both men to have sex with her, but a relationship develops with Kevin. She’s a shop assistant, he works at a car wrecker’s. They go to restaurants, race cars, get drunk, but the relationship falters over Kevin’s lack of respect for her and his loyalty to Bob. After a drunken confrontation at a party, Kevin arrives home to find the police waiting.

Curator’s notes

The FJ Holden was a film about, but also for, all the kids growing up in suburbs like Bankstown. Kevin, Bob, Anne and their friends have dead-end jobs, if a job at all, and limited horizons – but the movie is remarkable for the way it refuses to patronise them or condemn the suburbs as a wasteland. The director, Michael Thornhill, never loses sight of the fun these young people are having, even if it’s not respectable. They redefine the notion of 'casual sex’, but there’s no sense of coercion. The girls in the back seat of this movie are all willing – if often bored – participants, part of the reason the film was controversial (it had an M rating in New South Wales and Victoria, but an R in all other states).

Nevertheless, the film’s view of the suburbs is at times bleak, and coldly funny, as in the depiction of Kevin’s home life. The style was unusual, an attempt at what Thornhill called 'poetic social realism’. It has a semi-documentary style of shooting, with a script that never relies on dialogue, or even major plot developments. Indeed, the lack of communication between characters is the point, as in the final, drunken scene in which Kevin attempts, unsuccessfully, to talk about his feelings with his best mate Bob. The cast were largely untrained, but Thornhill gets remarkable performances from the leads, particularly the then 17-year-old Eva Dickinson. The film premiered at the Chullora Drive-In in 1977, in the area that it was about. Anyone driving an FJ or FX Holden got in free.