The Great Peter Carey, the Divine Cate BlanchettMay 07, 2014

Peter Carey is arguably the greatest Australian novelist of his generation. He is only one of three writers to have won the Booker Prize, an honour given each year to the best original novel, twice. He was also nominated for the Best of the Booker Prize. He was frequently named as Australia's next contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature. "Oscar and Lucinda", his third novel, also gave Carey the Miles Franklin Award, awarded to a novel that "presents Australian life in all its phases".

"Oscar and Lucinda" is about an encounter of two individuals, who feel like they're outsiders. Oscar is a young Anglican priest, a misfit too, while Lucinda is a young Australian heiress wanting to escape the male-dominated culture of (19th-century) Australia. Both are gamblers. Both agree on a wager, where Lucinda bet Oscar that he can't transport a glass church from Sydney to Bellingen, then a remote settlement. It was a voyage of about 400 kilometers up the New South Wales coast, where anyone familiar with epic journeys will sense that a change happens along the way.

Some will see a love story, brought by chance, but there's more to Carey's premise where a trip along the rustic landscape is no coincidence.

Gillian Armstrong, one of Australia's acclaimed filmmakers, adapted the novel to the big screen in 1997. Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett played the titular characters. The latter was a newcomer back then, but not a few noticed her potential. (Blanchett would earn an Australian Film Institute Award nomination for Best Actress for her performance.) Thirty seven films later, Blanchett is one of the top talents from Down Under. In fact, the Australia Post, as part of its Australian Legends series, issued a set of stamps in 2009, honouring Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Geoffrey Rush, and her, only four of five Australian actors to win an Academy Award. Blanchett is also one of only forty actors with two or more Oscars in the acting category. Her second was for her consummate performance in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine".

Blanchett has never forgotten her roots, as her first Oscar, for her portrayal of Katharine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese's "Aviator", is on display at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), a facility built for the exhibition, preservation, and promotion of Victorian and Australian screen content. It's one of the major cultural attractions of Melbourne, which happens to be Blanchett's hometown. She and husband Andrew Upton were co-artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company (STC) for five years, a period of which saw them bring the likes of Liv Ullmann to the company. STC is proud of its background, where many Australian actors who collaborated in STC productions have find success in Hollywood.

Blanchett is in her 40s, an age where movie offers to Hollywood actresses start to dwindle. But not this Aussie, who is turning out to be the Meryl Streep of her generation. She has a number of upcoming films, one of which is by Terrence Mallick, regarded as one of the greatest living filmmakers.

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