Art & Design


Melbourne Classics: Dogs In Space

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Richard Lowenstein’s Dogs in Space is Australia’s version of Sid and Nancy. Set in 1978, it explores the chaotic world of rock’s fringe dwellers.

The plot revolves around Sam (played by INXS frontman Michael Hutchence), a primitive punk who lives in a dilapidated Richmond share house. Sam’s life is a whirlwind of house parties, orgies and deafening band rehearsals, and he’s followed by an entourage of eccentrics, from impoverished artists to anti-Fraser activists. Dressed in thrift store rags, they occupy the narrow backstreets of Richmond. Their lives are spontaneous and directionless, much like the sleepy tempo of the film.

Dogs in Space was inspired by a real-life group of Melbourne trendsetters. The character of Sam is based on local musician Sam Sejavka, whose bands included The Ears and later Beargarden. The film was shot at the same Berry Street house that he and Lowenstein once shared in the 70’s.

Despite its age, Dogs in Space has remained a cult favourite in Australia, with its re-release screening at the 2009 Melbourne International Film Festival. Its relevance comes from the depiction of alternative share house life, so typical of suburbs like Fitzroy and Brunswick. For struggling university students who eat Mi Goreng for dinner and fight over dirty dishes, the scenes in Dogs in Space are all too familiar.

The film’s vibrant soundtrack, released by Chase Records in 1987, is now a rare collector’s item. Featured bands include Boys Next Door (early Birthday Party), Ollie Olsen and Iggy Pop. It also contains several tracks Hutchence recorded especially for the film. For music enthusiasts who wish to be teleported back to the punk days of the 1970’s, the film is a must-see.

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