My Brilliant Career (1979)

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Released 11-Feb-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Gillian Armstrong (Director)
Interviews-Crew-Gillian Armsrong (Director), Margaret Fink (Producer)
Featurette-My Brilliant Career In Cannes (1980 ABC Newsreel)
Featurette-The Miles Franklin Story
DVD-ROM Extras-Study Guide
Trailer-Swing, Standing In The Shadows Of Motown, Russian Ark
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 95:31
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (82:57) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Gillian Armstrong
NSW Film Corp
Madman Entertainment
Starring Judy Davis
Sam Neill
Wendy Hughes
Robert Grubb
Max Cullen
Aileen Britton
Peter Whitford
Patricia Kennedy
Alan Hopgood
Julia Blake
David Franklin
Marion Shad
Aaron Wood
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Nathan Waks

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    My Brilliant Career holds a special place in the history of Australian cinema. It was the starting place for a number of careers, including Gillian Armstrong and Judy Davis. It was more successful than the makers expected, even being invited to the Cannes Film Festival.

    Unlike a lot of other "Australian" films at the time, this one was truly Australian, except for the Kiwi leading man. The leading man isn't all that important, though, because this is a female film. The story is both Australian and female, being written by Miles Franklin (amazingly, at the age of 16). The script was adapted from the novel by Eleanor Whitcombe, at the behest of the producer, Margaret Fink, and director Gillian Armstrong. Little wonder that they managed to capture the strong female characters that are so central to this story. Add in the excellent performance from Judy Davis, aided by superb efforts from Wendy Hughes, Aileen Britton, and Patricia Kennedy, and you can see why the film has been described as a feminist success. Not to say that the men involved let the show down. Robert Grubb (in his first effort out of NIDA) is very good as the unctuous Frank and Sam Neill (very young!) is delightful as Harry. Don McAlpine was a superb choice as director of photography (and he's moved on to bigger things since...)

    The story starts (in 1897) with a young Sybylla Melvyn (Judy Davis) composing the foreword to her novel, which has the bombastic title of My Brilliant Career. Sybylla has intentions of having a career in some artistic pursuit, which is more than her parents can imagine, given their straitened circumstances. Sybylla is shocked when her mother suggests that she get a position as a general servant. Relief arrives, however, in the form of a summons from her grandmother (Aileen Britton). Her grandmother disapproves strongly of Sybylla's free will, and would like to see her married off to a suitable man, such as Frank Jordan (Robert Grubb). Sybylla's not having it, particularly as she doesn't have any respect for Frank. Her grandmother's attitudes are a little more readily understood when we know that two of her daughters married for love: one being Sybylla's mother (who married "beneath" her, to a man who drinks, and is not a successful farmer), and Helen (Wendy Hughes), who is living with the shame that her husband left her. Despite her rebellion against the role she's expected to play, Sybylla is beginning to enjoy herself, and to look moderately presentable, when her life changes again...

    I must say that my favourite character is actually Augusta (Patricia Kennedy), the aunt with whom Harry Beechum (Sam Neill) lives. I actually like her better than Sybylla, who is prone to be somewhat petulant (yes, yes, she's young, I know).

    This film is entertaining, and a pleasure to watch. It adds to the interest to know that the story on which it is based is semi-autobiographical.

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Transfer Quality


    The original theatrical aspect ratio of this film, according to IMDb, was 2.35:1. Gillian Armstrong's commentary makes a reference to 1.85:1, but it is not clear if she means that the film was in that ratio, or should have been. The aspect ratio of the transfer on this DVD is 1.78:1, which is close to 1.85:1, but not too acceptable if the original was 2.35:1 — still, there's nothing in the composition that suggests it has been cropped. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    The picture is soft; which isn't a problem in close-ups, and not much of a problem in mid-range, but is rather poor in the longer or wider shots — this might have been due to film grain, but it looks more like a transfer that is just too soft. Shadow detail is not very good, with dark colours dropping off into black too quickly. There's no low-level noise.

    Colour is rendered fairly well, although the night-time interior shots display very different colour, due to the lighting (firelight, candles, and lamps). Production design has remained faithful to the colours of the period, so colours are fairly drab, although there's a distinctive bright red parasol in a couple of scenes. There's a passage starting about 18:04 where areas that have sunk into black because of the poor shadow detail get a blue cast over them; fortunately this artefact doesn't recur. There are no other colour-related artefacts of any significance.

    There are film artefacts, small flecks and specks, but nothing of any significance.

    Aliasing is rare, and minor (that's probably due to the softness). There's only one tiny moment of moiré. There are no MPEG artefacts.

    There are no subtitles, unfortunately.

    The disc is single sided and dual layered, formatted RSDL. The layer change is at 82:57, and it's a good one — not even especially noticeable on a player with a slow layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are two audio tracks, being the soundtrack and the commentary, both in English, both Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (at 224kbps).

    The dialogue is clear and readily understood, even the pieces of Australian vernacular. There are no audio sync problems.

    There's little in the way of original score, but what there is is by Nathan Waks (his credit actually reads Music Director). The most common piece of music, however, is a fragment by Schumann, which we hear on a variety of instruments, starting with a badly decaying piano.

    The surround speakers and subwoofer get the night off with this mono soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is static with music. It is easy to operate.

Commentary: director Gillian Armstrong

    This is an excellent commentary, evidently recorded fairly recently. She is trying to cater to a wider audience, which results in occasional awkward explanations of things Australian, but most of the content is interesting and relevant. I must admit to wondering if she was watching a videotape while recording this, because of the way she makes reference to the aspect ratio at one point. She talks about a great many of the cast and crew, and gives considerable credit for the sources of things she feels went well, but takes collective blame for anything that didn't. She talks continuously until the very end of the film. Well worth a listen.

Interview: director Gillian Armstrong (6:34)

    A decent little chat from the director.

Interview: producer Margaret Fink (9:54)

    This is a nicely choreographed effort, until the dog spoils a bit, and Margaret Fink says she can't repeat that — it's nice to see the human touch.

Newsreel Footage (2:19)

    A clip from an ABC news broadcast about this film's appearance at Cannes. This was only the 2nd Australian film nominated for Cannes.

Featurette: The Miles Franklin Story (4:09)

    A short, but highly informative piece about the woman who wrote My Brilliant Career. Strongly recommended.

DVD-ROM Feature: Study Guide

    A study guide for teachers who are discussing this movie with their class.

DVD Credits

    The usual page of credits to the Madman team who brought us the DVD.

Madman Propaganda

    In classic Madman style, here are four trailers, each individually playable.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This movie does not appear to have been released on DVD in Region 1. It has been released in Region 2, but I haven't definitive information about that version, except that it appears to be devoid of extras. This version is coded for all regions, so it could be played by anyone whose equipment supports PAL.


    An important and entertaining movie given a disappointing transfer to DVD.

    The video quality is poor, mainly because it is too soft.

    The audio quality is more than adequate.

    The extras are extensive, and worthwhile.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Saturday, February 28, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Anthony Clarke

Comments (Add)
Aspect Ratio - Gary Couzens
R1 Release / Blue Underground - with 5.1 sound - TonyG
More R1 details - Amanda P
Useless 5.1 remixes - Jace
re: Useless 5.1 remixes - Steven Cameron (read my bio)