BARRY JONES IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME – A LIFE IN FILM, Australia, 2018.Directed by Garry Sturgess. 125 miinutes. Rated PG (Mild themes)
Writer-director, Garry Sturgess, was interested in labour politics and made some documentaries. He was attracted to the character and personality of Barry Jones.
Barry Jones has spent decades in the Australian consciousness. A precocious boy, he appeared as a young adult on the very popular initial question on television, Bob Dyers Pickabox. He appeared on over 200 sessions, being stopped in the street at that time and afterwards because he was such a popular identity, answering all the questions – and even questioning the questions.
During the 1960s, after abandoning studies in law, he headed up a committee against capital punishment. This organisation and Barry Jones himself were very prominent in their campaigns and in their arguments against the Premier of Victoria, Sir Henry Bolte, a fierce, often aggressive, supporter of such punishment. This came to a head with the last man hanged in Victoria, Ronald Ryan, in 1967, Bolte attacking Barry Jones and Jones resigning from the committee because, he said, he did not want to be paid by the same fund that paid Bolte.
Barry Jones became a Labour member of Parliament and was Minister for Science for most of the 1980s in the Hawke Government. Once again, he became well-known from his points of view, his media communications, his innovative approaches.
All this might make for a cinema portrait-biography, but there is much more to this film which makes it all the more interesting – and most especially for film buffs.
Barry Jones proves himself an avid film fan, listing his favourite films at the beginning of this film. However, he and Sturgess have chosen quite a large number of film clips, mainly from American films but from the UK, France and beyond. So the title, where an 84-year-old Barry Jones is being interviewed about his recollections of times past, with each comment accompanied by a clip in the background, sometimes in the foreground, illustrating his particular perspective. And quite a range it is, from Buster Keaton to Citizen Kane to Psycho and, with his love for the writings of Marcel Proust, Time Regained. There are a number of clips from the film, Quiz Show, an expose of cheating on American quiz shows which enables him to reflect on his own experiences.
While there is a great deal about Barry Jones and his family, a Victorian, life in Melbourne, Caulfield, Geelong, there is practically nothing on his private life after he emerges as a public figure.
Jones is a Renaissance man and there is quite some emphasis throughout the film on his love of music, visual art, literature (also well illustrated). Newspapers figure as well with quite a number of highlights of headlines and articles. And, at the end, he has reflections on the meaning of life, and admiration for Jesus and his being outgoing towards others, as well as a victim of capital punishment.
Audiences will appreciate having a portrait of Barry Jones but many will relish the objective/subjective correlatives of the film clips, his film story.
Released May 3rd.
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.