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Andrew Spicer
An Ambivalent Archetype: Masculinity, Performance and the New Zealand Films of Bruno Lawrence
Nottingham, Kapako Books, 2000
ISBN: 0 9530177 7 X

In his survey of New Zealand Films,
Cinema of Unease (1995), Sam Neill argues that 'a national cinema gains its distinctiveness as much by its performers as by its auteurs'. Neill identifies Bruno Lawrence as the key male performer, 'the archetypal man apart', embodying the profoundly influential New Zealand national myth of the 'Man Alone'.

Lawrence was an iconic star in Will Holtzman's sense of the term, an actor who is 'an amalgamation and distillation of cultural impulses'. The period of Lawrence's stardom - the early 1980s to the early 1990s - was a time of crisis and change for the New Zealand Pakeha (white European) male and Lawrence's developing persona was a key focus through which those changes could be registered and considered.
Dr Andrew Spicer 'An Ambibalent Archetype' - at Amazon

Lawrence's own cultural formation blended the macho aggression and mistrust of authority that characterised the Kiwi bloke, with a counter-cultural rebelliousness. It is this complexity that Lawrence brings to his performances, which have an insistent physicality, both violent and tender, coupled with the ability to project a deep and unsettled interiority, as if his characters are haunted by a sense of other desires and aspirations that they cannot articulate. These qualities express the abiding contradictions of the Man Alone, whose masculine self-sufficiency is always revealed as incomplete.

This study analyses Lawrence's embodiment of this central cultural archetype, and his importance to an evolving national cinema. Covering Bruno Lawrence's eighteen New Zealand feature films, this is the first critical study of the career of an actor who was bound up with the revival of the New Zealand cinema.

From the formation of the touring multimedia performance bus, Blerta (Bruno Lawrence's
Electric Revelation Travelling Apparition), through the films Wild Man (1977), and Smash Palace (1982) to The Quiet Earth (1985), Lawrence became established as the most familiar and ubiquitous of New Zealand's actors and something of a counter-cultural icon. Specific sections of this publication concentrate on Lawrence's early career; Lawrence as a performer; Lawrence's supporting roles - in films such as Bridge to Nowhere (1986), and Utu (1983) - and the atavistic Man Alone; the 'central' Lawrence films, Smash Palace, Heart of the Stag (1984), and The Quiet Earth; and Jack Be Nimble (1993) as a film that appears to move beyond the idea of the Kiwi bloke.

The publication concludes with a compehensive filmography - which includes information on Lawrence's overseas productions, short films and television programmes - and an extensive bibliography.

Andrew2.Spicer@uwe.ac.uk

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