2016 marks the 30th anniversary of Richard Lowenstein’s acclaimed Dogs in Space, a fictionalized cinematic memoir of nominal bohemians in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond. Set 6-8 years before the film’s release, Lowenstein utilised genuine participants in the events/milieu depicted, as well as key locations, notably the house central to the film’s story.
Icons abound in this film and its subsequent career: an ‘icon’ of Australian music and culture in Michael Hutchence; the ‘Dogs in Space house’ (in Berry Street, Richmond) has become a shrine for fans of the film; and the film itself features numerous ‘icons’ of inner-city Melbourne’s built environment, including the Pelaco factory and venues such as St Kilda’s Seaview Ballroom.
Questions raised in examination of this important film relate to its legacy in the 21st century – including creative men and women whose profiles were both enhanced and distorted by their involvement in its production – and the way in which it is both remembered and understood in the present day. What does Dogs in Space tell us about Melbourne forty years ago (when it is set), thirty years ago (when it was released) and now? How do impressions of the film tally or conflict between those who ‘lived it’ and those who were either born later, or are not Melbournites, and subsequently come to see it? Using original interview and fieldwork material, this paper reflects on a remarkable document of both the 1970s and the 1980s, seen through a 2016 lens.