Richard Lowenstein

Australian filmmaker.

Richard Lowenstein (born 1959) is an Australian filmmaker. He has written, produced and directed: feature films, including Strikebound (1984), Dogs in Space (1986) and He Died with a Felafel in His Hand (2001); music videos for bands such as INXS and U2; concert performance films, Australian Made: The Movie (1987) and U2: LoveTown (1989); and TV adverts.

Richard Lowenstein was born on 1 March 1959 in Melbourne. His mother was the author, oral historian, and activist, Wendy Lowenstein (née Katherin Wendy Robertson, 1927–2006). His father is Werner Lowenstein, also an activist, who had fled Nazi Germany to the United Kingdom and was relocated to Australia in 1940 as one of the Dunera boys. The couple married in July 1947; and had three children, Peter, Martie, and Richard. Lowenstein attended Brinsley Road Community School from 1973 to 1974; and graduated from Swinburne Institute of Technology, Film and Television Department in 1979.

His short film, Evictions (1979), which won the Erwin Rado Prize – for Best Short Film – at the Melbourne International Film Festival the following year, described Melbourne during the Great Depression. It was based on his mother's book, Weevils in the Flour (1978). The film detailed police evicting unemployed unionists. In 1980 Lowenstein directed a |music video|, "Leap for Lunch", for the debut single by the art-punk band, The Ears – he shared a house with their lead singer, Sam Sejavka. In 1982 he directed one for "Talking to a Stranger", a single by a rock band, Hunters & Collectors. He followed with "Lumps of Lead" for the same group and "Fraction Too Much Friction" for Tim Finn as his first solo single in 1983. At the Countdown Music and Video Awards for 1983, he won Best Promotional Video for "Fraction Too Much Friction".

In 1984 he directed his first feature film, Strikebound, a dramatization of a 1930s coal miners strike, which he wrote based on his mother's book, Dead Men Don't Dig Coal (unpublished), and his own research into unionism in the industry. In June that year, he directed his first music videos for INXS with "Burn for You", and followed by "All the Voices" and "Dancing on the Jetty" (both in October). At the Countdown Music and Video Awards for 1984 he won Best Promotional Video for "Burn for You". He established a long-term relationship with INXS and produced, edited, or directed more of their music videos over subsequent years, including The Swing & Other Stories: Collection of Contemporary Classics from INXS (1985), a VHS-format video compilation with additional interviews and documentary. At the Countdown Music and Video Awards for 1985, he shared the award for Best Video for "What You Need" by INXS with Lyn-Marie Milbourn.

In 1985 he directed White City: The Music Movie, a 60-minute video, for former The Who guitarist, Pete Townshend. Geoffrey Giuliano in his book, Behind Blues Eyes: The Life of Pete Townshend (2002), described "he highlight of the video is the poolside staging of the electric 'Face the Face', in which director Richard Lowenstein effectively captures the excitement of a big-band performance and Townshend's joyous jitterbugging ... in a gold lamé, forties-style tuxedo Lowenstein reveals more storyline in these five minutes than the entire video". It was released with Townshend's concept album, White City: A Novel, and included him discussing the music.

In 1986 he wrote and directed a feature film, Dogs in Space, which highlighted late-1970s Melbourne's little band scene with the lead character Sam (portrayed by INXS' lead singer, Michael Hutchence) based on Lowenstein's experiences with The Ear's Sejavka. At the time, Sejavka was a member of the new wave band, Beargarden, and objected to Lowenstein and Hutchence's "noxious caricature" of his earlier personality. In 2009 SBS TV's Peter Galvin described the movie as a "cult classic" and "for its fans, there's never really been anything quite like, before or since". Lowenstein recalled the "punk scene was an embarrassment to the Australian music industry back then. In a similar way, Dogs in Space was a total embarrassment to the Australian film industry because it preferred and knew how to handle innocuous candy-coated fare, like The Man from Snowy River".

For Irish group, U2, he has provided music videos – "Desire" and "Angel of Harlem" (both 1988) and a concert performance film, U2: LoveTown (1989). In 1991 he applied for funding from Film Finance Corporation Australia to adapt Robin Klein's novel, Came Back to Show You I Could Fly, into the children's film, Say a Little Prayer, which he directed in 1993. In 1999 he contributed a chapter, "Telexes in Space: A Tale of Two Films", to the collection, Second Take: Australian Film-makers Talk, edited by Geoff Burton and Raffaele Caputo, which provides an explanation of his film-making style. Lowenstein co-produced the satirical music series John Safran's Music Jamboree (2002) as well as John Safran vs God (2004) for SBS independent.

The dumbing down of the art of filmmaking to merely that of efficient "storytelling" surely has to be one of the most depressing things about the current state of mainstream cinema. ... Yet, this seems to be the main expectation that we as a society have of cinema. The history of the art form has proved that it is much more than that, yet when it comes to cinema language, history seems to be going backward...
— Richard Lowenstein, quoted in Bill Mousoulis' Melbourne Independent Filmmakers, June 2004.

He is a partner in the Melbourne-based production company, Ghost Pictures. He is also a partner in the feature film production company, Fandango Australia Pty Ltd, along with Italian producer – Domenico Procacci, producer – Sue Murray, lawyer – Bryce Menzies, and director – Rolf de Heer. He filmed the 2006 U2 concert at Melbourne's Telstra Dome. In October 2009 Lowenstein was a guest programmer on Australian Broadcasting Corporation's TV music video show, rage.

see also
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