Dingo Image


By Michael Talbot-Haynes | April 13, 2022

Director Rolf de Heer’s rare 1991 French/Australian jazz odyssey Dingo, starring Miles Davis, gets the spotlight it deserves with a new 4k print. An almost decade-long passion project for screenwriter Marc Rosenberg, it tells the story of John “Dingo” Anderson (Colin Friels), a jazz trumpeter in the middle of nowhere in the Outback.

In 1969 when John was a kid, an unexpected plane landed on the town airstrip. The whole town, which isn’t many people, shows up to see Billy Cross (Miles Davis) and his band emerge from the plane’s belly. They play an outdoor jazz concert while waiting for the airplane to get its thing together. Little Johnny had never heard anything like that, and his mind was blown. He professes the profound impact the music had on him to the famed musician. Billy tells him to start playing an instrument and to look him up if he is ever in Paris.

“…[John’s] been saving up to go to Paris to visit Billy Cross…”

Dingo then jumps to twenty years later, where John blows a horn while trapping dingos that eat livestock in the bush. He married his childhood sweetheart, Jane (Helen Buday), and has two little girls, Emma (Elissa McAuliffe) and Jo (Fiona Bradshaw). On weekends he plays trumpet in his bush band Dingo and the Dusters. They play mostly country dance music, with John getting to play solo occasionally to the less than ten people who show up.

Secretly, he’s been saving up to go to Paris to visit Billy Cross and try his hand at the huge jazz scene there. Meanwhile, his boyhood pal, Peter (Joe Petruzzi), who has made a fortune selling yachts in the big city, comes home to settle his father’s estate. Peter also has been dreaming of Jane and wants to win her away from John. He can offer her and the girls a cushy life while John barely scrapes by with his odd jobs. After a series of events in his tiny town threaten to smother his jazz dreams, John flees from Australia to Paris with his horn. Things do not go easy for John, as his dreams smash into the reality of life outside the wilds of the Outback.

Dingo is Miles Davis’s only theatrical-starring role. He had a cameo in Scrooged and was the lead in the long-lost NBC TV movie On the Edge. So already, the drama has major significance by having miles and miles of Davis. Add to this the phenomenal score composed by Davis with Michel Legrand, and you get a major jazz artifact. But even audience members who aren’t hep cats or tea heads will still be able to appreciate Davis’s unique charisma.

Dingo (1991)

Directed: Rolf de Heer

Written: Marc Rosenberg

Starring: Colin Friels, Miles Davis, Helen Buday, Joe Petruzzi, Daniel Scott, Elissa McAuliffe, Fiona Bradshaw, etc.

Movie score: 10/10

Dingo Image

"…a genuine lost treasure..."

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