Movie Review - Walkabout
Startling 'Walkabout' still fascinates

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Nicholas Roeg is in love with pictures. A distinguished cinematographer before he became a director, he prefers an evocative image over dialogue any day.

The maker of Performance and The Man Who Fell to Earth most successfully proved his point in 1971 with Walkabout, freely adapted from a beloved novel by Australian author James Vance Marshall.

Language is the least important element in the film; words are used sparingly, and mostly as ironic commentary on the story un-folding before our eyes -- of two British children lost in the Australian de-sert where they meet a young Aborigine who becomes their link to survival.

The restored movie has been rereleased in its original form, with about 10 minutes of footage -- including frontal nudity -- that was cut for the U.S. release.

Seen from a quarter-century's perspective, the movie looks as startling vivid and mysterious as ever. Mr. Roeg shot the film in some of the most remote, rarely visited spots on earth. His absorption and fascination with this strange landscape is evident in almost every frame. The place seems literally other-worldly.

In the desert, the 14-year-old girl, played by Jenny Agutter, and her 6-year-old brother, played by the director's son Lucien John, are like alien visitors utterly dependent on the boy (David Gumpilil), who is on ''walkabout,'' his rite of passage to manhood.

The movie is least satisfying at its most obvious -- in heavy-handed sequences contrasting the primitive, idyllic desert world with the ugly violence of civilization. At times, it smacks of ecstatic romanticism about the ''noble savage,'' especially during the more florid passages from John Barry's score.

Far more intriguing is the film's exploration of the ways the three characters -- each under the influence of a beautiful, brutal environment -- communicate and fail to communicate, need and reject one another, become more human or less human or both.

Mr. Roeg, working from a screenplay by Edward Bond (Blow-Up), expresses these ideas through dazzling technique, jumping through time, distorting sounds and interspersing almost subliminal special effects.

For film lovers, Walkabout offers a journey not to be missed.

(Unrated; nudity, graphic hunting scenes) Jenny Agutter, Lucien John, David Gumpilil. 105 minutes. At The Movies.