Director Axel Grigor
Featuring Jill Bilcock, Cate Blanchett, Baz Luhrmann, Fred Schepisi
It’s about time that the invisible artists of filmmaking finally get their documentary. Jill Bilcock isn’t much of a household name (yet), but she has certainly shaped a number of acclaimed Australian films for over the past three decades through her idiosyncratic and completely wild editing style.
Mostly known for her tremendous and energetic work editing the films of director Baz Luhrmann (such as Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, and Moulin Rouge) Dancing the Invisible does a rather admirable job at covering most of the key films that she’s edited throughout her career. It hones in on the most challenging sequences she’s had to edit and allows her to explain how she approached the kind of emotional impact she aspired for, showcasing her edits (and alternative edits) through this documentary’s own snappy editing.
Amongst these moments of her explaining the artistry of editing is the story of Jill’s own life, starting off in commercials in the 60s before Australia’s film industry was properly established and showing her exiles in India and her brief work in the Bollywood scene. But this doco doesn’t know which aspect of her to focus on: her work, or her life-story. Given how radical her editing is and how fairly uneventful her life seems, it probably should’ve stuck with the latter.
Jill seems like a nice enough person from what we see in this doco, but there’s nothing compelling about her life or her personality to justify the amount of documentary time spent away from why she’s so highly regarded – her editing. Intercut with nothing but high praise from her collaborators, Jill reflects back on her career and her state of work, shown through some revealing archival footage, such as her almost non-stop editing sessions of Moulin Rouge at Luhrmann’s house.
When it focuses on the editing or the Australian industry in general, Dancing the Invisible really starts to shine. The scenes looking at Jill’s life may not be boring, but they detract from why this documentary was made in the first place – given that there are very few documentaries about the craft and technique of film editing, the unique Dancing the Invisible just about manages to stand as a welcome new entry in the films about filmmaking to come from Australia.