Snapshot (1979)

Snapshot first published by

“I want Angela!”, declares free-spirited, successful model Madeline (Chantal Contouri) as she strides into the hair salon where the 20-year-old ingenue (played by Sigrid Thornton) works. This scene follows immediately upon the prologue to Simon Wincer’s Snapshot, in which Madeline arrived at a building at night, screaming desperately for Angela, while firemen inside find a body still ablaze in a room literally wallpapered with images of Angela topless in the sea. If, over the film’s opening credits, we see police coroners snapping forensic photographs of the corpse’s charred remains, there are plenty of others who have sought to capture Angela’s fleeting, fugitive image – and who, like Madeline, have wanted Angela for themselves. As a frozen still of Angela running in a Melbourne street resolves into a moving image of the flesh-and-blood person, breathless and late for work, a picture begins to develop of the young innocent’s last weeks before the fire.

Angela is always on the run, saving up to move overseas so that she can escape a loveless home life with her disapproving mother (Julia Blake) and a dead-end relationship with her older, creepily clinging boyfriend Darryl (Vincent Gil) – whose ice cream truck was seen leaving the scene of the fire. So her friend Madeline does not have to try too hard to persuade her to move into a more lucrative career in modelling, and soon Angela has burnt her bridges, left home to move into the bohemian open house of photographer Linsey (Hugh Keays-Byrne), and is angling for work with both Madeline’s older producer husband Elmer (Robert Bruning) and a wealthy solicitor (Peter Stratford). Yet even as her past keeps stalking her, Angela’s new, supposedly more liberated environment proves just as predatory.

Everett De Roche had already penned the screenplays for Patrick (1978) and Long Weekend (1978), and would go on to write Wincer’s only other feature Harlequin (1980) as well as Road Games (1981), Razorback (1984) and Fortress (1985). So his screenwriting credit on Snapshot, working (for the only time) with his brother Chris, is a badge of quality Ozploitation. American distributors seemed less sure how to market the film, first renaming it The Day After Halloween to cash in on the recent success of John Carpenter’s 1978 slasher (to which it bore no relation whatsoever), and finally settling on the title One More Minute for its US video release.

Its original title, however, is also the most apt: for the film offers a snapshot of a young woman whose life is constrained by the images that others take of her, reducing her to her looks and sexuality, with both as commodifiable as they are open to exploitation and abuse. Caught between a highly limited existence of suburban drudgery under the thumb of her mother and future husband, and the more open lifestyle of artistic freedom and flouting of convention that Linsey embodies, Angela struggles to find a way out of the closing trap of patriarchy, and risks getting burnt by her own simple yet impossible aspirations. Snapshot is mostly a slice-of-life melodrama, but its fiery opening – which is also more or less the final scene – sends the faint whiff of scorched flesh wafting over everything else, promising the film’s (eventually delivered) status as both thriller and time-reversed whodunnit.

Summary: Simon Wincer’s Ozploitationer is a feminist melodrama ever tinged with the faint odour of burning flesh.

© Anton Bitel