Unfolding Florence: The Many Lives of Florence Broadhurst (Magna) (2006)

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Released 8-Nov-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Docudrama Theatrical Trailer
Gallery-Photo-Florence Broadhurst Design Gallery
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 82:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Gillian Armstrong

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Katherine Thomson
Felicity Price
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Paul Grabowsky

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

  There is a delightful twist in the tale, or warp in the weave, if you like, to the title of this documentary. For not only was Florence Broadhurst a leading light in Australian design but she was a character who often kept her real self well hidden. The subtitle for the film The Many Lives of Florence Broadhurst perhaps sums it up better.

At the commencement of this film there is a montage of her friends, most of who believed that she was a product of upperclass English society. Not so. Florence was the daughter of a farmer from Mount Perry in Queensland but her lengthy stints on the stage in the UK and around the world taught her that nothings succeeds without a measure of invention. In Florence's case she was her own invention - assuming a plummy English accent and even calling herself by a French name when the situation called for it!

It may seem an odd choice for feature filmmaker Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career, Little Women, and Charlotte Gray) to turn her hand to the documentary form. However, it seems clear from this deft film that to her Florence is as wonderful a work of fiction as anything dreamt up by a Hollywood scriptwriter.

The documentary is played out in a fashion which is at first disarming. Not only do we have an elderly, flame-haired actress playing Florence in her last days, but "Florence" herself gives a voiceover narration from beyond the grave even commenting on the moments leading up to her mysterious and brutal death at the age of 78.

Further, Armstrong uses animation of the Terry Gilliam cut-out fashion to give the film even in its most serious moments, a jaunty, slightly unhinged quality. The tone of the documentary is therefore quite unusual. However, the longer you watch the more you realise that it perfectly suits the unusual nature of the lady herself.

The documentary at least charts a chronological course taking us through her early years in Australia before her life on the stage. In the 1930's she owned her own fashion design company in London before moving to Sydney becoming a slightly kooky artist and socialite.

It wasn't until she reached 60 that she attained her greatest success as a wallpaper designer. Within 15 years she had cornered the high end of the Australian market and her brightly coloured designs found their way into the best houses around the world.

There could be no telling of the Broadhurst story, however, without some speculation about her unsolved murder. Various theories abound but those seeking a definite answer will be disappointed.

It is worth pointing out that Florence emerges from this film as an admirable Australian without being particularly likeable.

In fact, that's a fair summary of the documentary itself. It is really a celebration of her mystique rather than a definite portrait of the woman herself. Perhaps that's Armstrong's point that she was so competent at creating intrigue that the real Florence Broadhurst was ultimately unknowable.

Unfolding Florence was the only Australian feature film to screen at Sundance in 2006.

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Transfer Quality


   Unfolding Florence is presented in a 1.85:1 transfer consistent with its original cinematic ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

The film uses a variety of styles from the sepia toned to the garish. All are rendered fairly well but, having said that, this is no show piece. The flesh tones for the recreations and the talking heads are accurately rendered and the colour is fairly stable. The film has been treated in a variety of ways and therefore softness of the image is a deliberate stylistic device.

There are no subtitles.

The blacks are not that solid and there is a fair bit of noise around.

I doubt whether anyone buying this documentary will be disappointed in the look of the DVD.

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


    Unfolding Florence is brought to DVD with a Dolby Digital sound track running through two channels at 224Kb/s.

The sound is perfectly adequate for the film.

The dialogue is clear and the audio sync is accurate.

The music by Australian jazz legend Paul Grabowsky is particularly suited to the periods on offer perhaps reaching its high point with the jazz age of the 30's.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


There are only limited extras on this DVD.

I am always in two minds about extras on documentaries. I always like a bit more for my money but at the same time feel that if the production company needs to put more explanatory material on a documentary disc then the filmmaker hasn't done their job.

The DVD contains only two short extras.

Theatrical Trailer

The theatrical trailer which perfectly conveys the tone of the film.


The second extra is approximately 5 minutes of slideshows of the designs of Florence Broadhurst. The featurette is accompanied by the music of Paul Grabowsky.

R4 vs R1

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

    This DVD is not yet available outside Region 4.


    Unfolding Florence is a refreshingly different documentary about an important Australian - even if she spent much of her early days pretending she was English!

The DVD is well transferred even if the original source and the final product are not exactly cutting edge.

The extras are very brief but interesting enough.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70 Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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