Saw this a few months back. It's currently on amazon's poll about which of five titles under Criterion's label should be released on Blu-ray later this year (poll closes May 25th). Besides "Picnic..." the other candidates are "Au Revoir Les Enfants," "Down By Law," "Howards End" and "Kwaidan."
The first 30 minutes of this movie are some of the most hypnotic, beautiful, dramatic, scary and uneasy moments I have ever experienced watching a film. By giving the audience backstory text of what we've about to see (which is as phony as the one that opens "Fargo") every scene, every face, every line of dialogue and every sound (particularly Zamfir's panflute) gains significance and relevance that they wouldn't otherwise have because we think they might be the last we see/hear of the soon-to-be-missing Appleyard school girls. The slow-motion shots of Miranda (gorgeous Anne Lambert) make her a cross between a muse and a martyr to those that knew her which briefly includes us, the viewing audience, as participants. If Weir himself told me personally that aliens came down to Hanging Rock and took Miranda and her friends up to meet Bodicelli on a "Stargate"-type wormhole I'd believe him. The rest of the movie dealing with the aftermath of the girls' disappearance is OK (Margaret Nelson's Sara is particularly strong) but they feel like rethreads of the knockout opening half-hour.
do I assume that Sara killing herself by falling from the roof of the school means that Mrs. Appleyard had a change of heart and was hiding the girl in the school's attic after she had told everyone else at school that Sara's father had showed up to pick her up?
Just wondering because this left me puzzled.