Review: The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith

Blu-ray & DVD: The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978)

Based on the novel by Thomas Keneally, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith is a hard hitting story set at the end of the 19th century, about a young indigenous man pushed to his breaking point and beyond.

Jimmie Blacksmith (Tommy Lewis) is an Aboriginal half-caste and caught between the poor and alcohol fuelled world of his tribe, and the more sedate and strict education given by the Methodist Minister Rev. Neville (Jack Thompson).

Despite working hard and being respectful to everyone that he meets, Jimmie is met with constant verbal and physical abuse from the white community, and in an effort to gain more respectability, Jimmie finds Gilda (Angela Punch McGregor), a young white woman whom he beds (well, shags up against a shed wall to be perfectly honest) and forms a relationship with while travelling the country making fences at various households.

When finding out that Gilda is pregnant, Jimmie asks her to marry him and proceeds to build a small wooden home for them both to live in while he continues to work making fences.

The birth of his child is the tipping point of his sanity, and so begins more harrowing experiences for Jimmie, this time with him being on the giving end of the verbal and physical abuse.

The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith is a hard, yet thoroughly engaging, viewing experience. The abuse that Jimmie (and all of the indigenous people) takes from the over privileged white community gives you a real empathy for his character. This empathy however is pushed to its very limits when he can take no more and begins to extract revenge on all (and more besides) who have wronged him.

There is one particular scene involving a couple of axes (I’ll say no more so as not to spoil it) that is truly shocking…and this is coming from someone who is not easily shocked.

The tone of movie is dark throughout its 2 hour running time, with few moments of levity to lift the overpowering feeling of oppression. It is not however a depressing movie, and at no time was I ever tempted to even glance at how long was left. This is a dark story that draws you into its heart as the narrative gets ever darker.

If I was to voice one complaint about The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, it would be that I found the score to be too loud and too overdramatic and I would have loved the use of more traditional aboriginal music in it. That is just a small gripe, and I would definitely recommend this great Blu-ray for anyones movie collection.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • Play feature with introduction by Fred Schepisi
  • A Conversation with director, Fred Schepisi & cinematographer, Ian Baker (66 mins)
  • Melbourne Premiere from Willesee at Seven, June 1978 (7 mins)
  • CELLULOID GYPSIES: Making Jimmie Blacksmith – Interviews with key cast and crew, including director, Fred Schepisi and actor, Tommy Lewis
  • Interview with Tommy Lewis (26 mins)
  • Audio Commentary with Fred Schepisi
  • Q& A session with Fred Schepisi and actor, Geoffrey Rush at MIFF(Melbourne International Film Festival) 2008 (34 mins)
  • Making Us Blacksmiths – Documentary on the casting of Aboriginal lead actors, Tommy Lewis and Freddy Reynolds
  • Stills Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer

Umbrella Entertainment have released some fantastic titles, varying between the over the top wild action of The Man From Hong Kong, martial arts fisticuffs in Jailbreak, the poignant story of Lucky, and this powerful story of The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith. Make sure to follow them online to not miss out on any of their upcoming releases…and type ‘Umbrella’ into the search box on our website to read more reviews of movies from them.

Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Umbrella Entertainment.