Art & Design


Melbourne Classics: Malcolm

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Malcolm, by Nadia Tass and David Parker, is a quirky 1986 film about a socially inept tram-spotter, Malcolm (Colin Friels), a gadgetry enthusiast recently retrenched from The Met tram service. After taking in two new boarders, an ex-con and his girlfriend, Malcolm is drawn into the world of petty theft and bank robberies.

Malcolm plans ingenious hold-ups via remote control and intricate getaways involving transformable cars. It is the film’s creative use of gadgetry that helped it win eight Australian Film Institute awards, including Best Director and Best Film.

The obsession Malcolm has with trams reminds viewers of the “good old days” of Melbourne’s public transport system: the pre-Kennett era of iconic tram conductors and cheap travel fares. In 1980, the Victorian government considered replacing the historic streetcars with bus routes, but soon abandoned this idea after it was met with public outcry.

Malcolm was filmed in 1980’s Collingwood, a place far removed from the hipster bars and restaurants associated with the area today. This Collingwood is an industrial suburb of rusted fences, rotting weatherboards and overgrown gardens. It is also a place of community: Malcolm’s neighbours band together to help him out financially and even help him find a housemate.

The sense of local pride in the film mirrors the community spirit that has defined Collingwood. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, residents banded together to prevent ritzy housing developments. Called the Gore Street Action Group, their purpose was to preserve the atmosphere of an untouched Collingwood – much like the one we see in the film.

Malcolm is a small gem that paints an enchanting portrait of one of Melbourne’s oldest suburbs. It provides a snapshot of the little things that make Melbourne unique, from the rows of run-down houses to the much-loved tram service that enthusiasts fought to protect. For anybody who has enjoyed the eclectic bustle of Smith Street or watched the football at the Leinster Arms on a sleepy Saturday afternoon, the film is sure to strike a chord.


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