Friday, July 29, 2005

20 years of Erinsborough

The documentary Annalise made? The so-called cameos? Meh. Fat Phil is still fat. And my, Terrence Donovan is looking old. They should have brought Ruth back with Phil instead. This poor imitation of a cast-member returning has been best summed up by Line of Contempt and Ausculture. So much anticipation, so little reward.

But last night: Joe Mangle, GOLD.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

My Festival

Every year at this wet and chilly time, Melburnians huddle under awnings across the city, black-coated and cigarette-smoking, rubbing their eyes from the overstimulation of the visual orgy in which they have been participating. Ah, all the arty inner-city lefties climb down off their reality-TV-hating highhorses to salivate over the latest soporific gem from such esteemed names as Abbas Kiarostami, Constantine Costa-Gavras or Jia Zhang-Ke.

And so, 100 words or thereabouts on the films I have seen so far:


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A film by Ingmar Bergman. My first Bergman—about time for someone who works in the game. Taking up 30 years on from his famous SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE, the 60-ish ex-wife visits her now geriatric husband at his country home and becomes embroiled in a nasty little interation between ex-hubby and his recently-widowed son (who is the same age as his step-mother), and the hotness nordic granddaughter. In ten dialogues, each featuring only two of the characters, a nasty little set of family relationships plays out.
Man, heavy shit. In that heavy sombre Scandinavian way, replete with the hints of incest and outright hatred. The focus is squarely on the acting, and it's blowaway. Extended facial close-ups leave them nothing but the actors' expressions to tell the story through their looks and facial tics. The film is structured dramatically and feels theatrical, two players on a fairly bare stage. But what I dug was the intensity of the performances.

Yoshiwara, the Pleasure Quarter

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A genre piece from a 'recently re-discovered' Japanese director, active in the 1950s and 60s. A horribly-disfigured orphan has made-good but can't snare a wife because of his hideousness. He is taken to the pleasure quarter in Edo (Tokyo), where the geisha also shun him, and so the whoremaster sends their latest endentured slave, a common street-whore dressed up, to attend him. Having no hope and no reservations, she acts tenderly towards him, winnng his love. With dollar signs in her eyes, she promises herself to him as his wife, on the proviso he can make her reach the highest level a geisha can, a grand courtesan. And so we watch as our country squire squanders his wealth and reputation on this scheming temptress, the whoremaster swindles him and his friends and backers desert him.
A melodrama indeed. Glorious in technicolour, it brings to mind films like Douglas Sirk's Written on the Wind, all lurid and flambuoyant and overwrought with emotion. Except in a demure, restrained Japanese kinda way, with kimonos, palanquin chairs and funny dances involving fans. And, truth be told, it was a touch on the slow side. It is very much a film of its time, the late 1950s, and as a curiosity/retrospective piece it was pretty solid. Not an undiscovered gem, but a curio of its time.

Kissed by Winter

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An uplifting Norwegian film about a woman's grief over the death of her son, all tied up in the mysterious death of an Iranian lad. Just what you'd expect from the Skandinavians—lots of snow, silence, and longing looks. And grief. Or the suspension of it rather. She moves away from her husband to the country to plunge headlong into work and avoid thinking about the death of her kid. Whose poresnce weighs heavy on this film.
This one kinda felt a bit like a telemovie, and particularly dislikeable was the actor who plays the love interest in this snow-covered rural hamlet. Well put together and well-structured, it was somehow light fare, even though its subject was grief. It didn't feel particulalry deep, as opposed Saraband, and it certainly wasn't folly, like Yoshiwara. I spose this was because the whole film concerned the mother's repression of her grief, and continuing to avoid it by focussing on the death of the refugee kid and the investigation into that. The best part was her calling her old answering machine to hear her son's message, over and over again.

Hawaii Oslo

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I like films like this. I like stories told in this way (David Mitchell, my lord and master) interwoven plots, intersecting here and there, but not necessarily parallel or even echoing each other. Like some sort of ensemble piece for storylines. Five storylines in fact, each happening on a blisteringly hot day (what, about 29 degrees or something) in Oslo.
The cast were all young and pretty, as only Scandinavians can be—but that was kinda strange, hardly an old codger in sight. And this one was moderately-paced, indeed the fastest paced of the films I have seen so far. It rolled along really nicely, tying the tales together, frustrating you when you needed frustrating, rewarding you when it was required. It's one of those films by hip young things, bit of edgy camerawork here, bit of montage there, and some really great shots littered throughout. Particularly the closing shot of a bird's-eye view of Oslo at dawn.

So if I had to rank them, it'd be
  1. Saraband—because I'm still thinking about it now
  2. Hawaii Oslo—because it was the most audience-friendly
  3. Yoshiwara the Pleasure Quarter —for its colour and its nature as a period-piece
  4. Kissed by Winter—an undeserving last. Because it was still better than most films I've seen this year: Star Wars anyone?
What is it with me and Norwegain films this year? Must be the roots.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Language I hate #2

When I was young, I was always asked to make a choice between alternatives. Women, I learnt, sometimes found it difficult to make up their minds. When I was nearing the end of my schooling, I was told I had to MAKE a decision about my future, MAKE a decision about which courses I wanted to apply for, and if I didn't, certain decisions about my future would be MADE for me.

When the fuck did it become TAKE a decision?

I don't know when this happenend, but I'm sure it had something to do with March 2, 1996, a partially-deaf man and a room full of spin-doctors trying to create an impression of "I don't want to do this but...", of responsibility-by-dint-of-duty-alone.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Weekends, eh?

The highlights of the last three weekends, depicted pictorially:

The Grand National:
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I am allergic to horses. Badly, badly, grim-reaperly allegric to horses. When I was about the age of 6 or 7, my parents went on their first holiday since being saddled with a handful of grubby, snotty-nosed little angels. We were sent away to my grandparents farm for a couple of weeks, a good 5 hours from Melbourne. This place was, and still is heaven. Even if it was burnt out almost three years ago, and then blanketed in 3 inches of snow last week. It is the place of all my childhood memories. It is the place I grew up. I don't have memories of my early years in Melbourne aside from a vague memory of red jelly in glass teacups, a flotilla of cousins and the Edna Walling garden of my other grandparents. But of butchers' paper and that big box of derwents, the aga stove and poddy lambs, that old white dodge ute, the weeping birch, the smell of lanoline and sheep sheds and woolly jumpers, ah me, I'm getting sentimental.

So the olds were away and my grandmother decided to show my brother and me the joy of horses. She put us on the last horse she ever broke in—a beautiful docile grey called MaryLegs (or was it MerryLegs?)—and led us up the driveway to the cattleramp and back, proud as punch, I'm sure. Then I started to sneeze. And sneeze again. And again. And rub my eyes. And wheeze. And go all red and puffy. And my nose ran. And my eyes ran. And I sneezed again. And breath came harder and harder. And she watched in horror, two hours drive from anything better then a six-room country hospital, fearing the worst.

Aghast with panic, she hauled me off and into the house and frantaclly ran a bath, the only solution she could think of. And so I was dunked repeatedly and vigourously, as only the rural can, to rid me of the nasty little mites that had caused the allergic reaction. Soaking, coughing, wheezing, I must have made quite a sight. After a hour or so sitting in this now tepid bath, I slowly began to return to something of my normal form. Cleansed.

To this day she still whinces in pain at the thought of that day: "I really thought I was going to have to explain to your parents that I'd killed you" she says.

I can't even feed a horse without having to vigourously scrub my hands thereafter, lest I go all allergicky again.

I love horse-racing. Luckily for me, it doesn't involve me actually touching any of the animal myself. I can even stand down-wind of one and, well, not exactly breathe the country air in deeply, but, well, I just stand down-wind of a horse. As a regular race-goer, I had never before been to a hurdles race. Never. Not once. They are not common events at most racetracks, hurdles or steeplechases, although there are certain carnivals that specialise in that sort of thing. The point being, I was desirous of attending some form of horse/jumping/ractrack event this year, a decision I made after the Autumn Carnival.

And then lo! An invitation lobbed into my mailbox, "The chairman and committee of the VRC invite skander and guest to join them at for lunch on Grand National Day, in the committee room at Flemington. Blah blah. Please ensure you arrive before 12:20 as the chairman will begin his welcome address at this time. Please also ensure your guest conforms to VRC dress standards." Or a close apporoximation of the above. What the invitation declined to make glaringly obvious was that at this luncheon was, in fact, 100%, you-beaut, fair dinkum laid on. Yep. Not a shilling would I have to shell (aside any wagers I cared to lay, of course).

We missed the speech, of course. But the buffet was something to write home about. Red fish, white fish, chicken, lamb cutlets (remember them?), fillet steak, roast beef, and salads galore. Start with a champers, red with the red meat, beer for the arvo and a quick spirit or too before heading off. Meanwhile there was a dessert buffet, with all manner o' tartes, sweetmeats (as opposed to sweetbreads) and cremes brulées, leter follwed by afternoon tea, with a whole new selection of savoury and sweet delights. A fine day was had by all, half of whom had grey hair, but the other half of us ran the gamut up from 30ish. I even knew three people there, which surprised me.

But the highlight of course was the sport. The day boasted only one jumping event, which was the Grand National pictured. And I had absolutely no luck. But that's not the pupose of a winter's day at Flemington.

The Coast:
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The beach on a cold windy day. What more do I need to say? It rocks. That's Phillip Island in the distance, the place all you tourists trek to for a glimpse of our fairy penguins. A once in a lifetime experience. As in, if you've done it once, there's no reason to ever do it again.

Nike Savvas at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art:
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Any Melbournian who hasn't stopped for 15 minutes at the ACCA in Sturt Street, South Melbourne: do so. Before the end of this weekend. The ACCA is that fuck-off new rust coloured building next to the Malthouse theatre. If you're driving past, or on a Number 1 tram, stop in and check this baby out. And awesome little room of whimsical digitalness which will leave you with a smile on your face and a spring in your step. Well worth it.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Mulatto King

Care of The Independent
Prince Albert II was formally enthroned yesterday as the new ruler of the speck of gold dust on the French Mediterranean coast: His Serene Highness , Prince of Monaco, Duc de Valentinois, Duc de Mazarin, Comte de Farette, Sire de Matignon et de Marchais etc etc.

A week earlier, Albert, 47, the only son of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace, formally recognised 22-month-old Alexandre Coste, the child of Nicole Coste, a former air hostess from Togo, as his son. In an interview with French television on Monday night, he said: "I know that there are other people out there who are in more or less the same situation ... "

What? Of mothering bastards to the Monegasque throne? To the Grimaldi fortune? Or to [cue lightning and thunderclap] the Curse?


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Foot of Clay

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A local anæsthetic and a lot of poking around with the sort of instruments one would see in David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers, and I am finally free of the irritant ingrown toenail I forged falling down the stairs last year. Hurrah! Not more periodic limping around (except for the next few days, that is)! No more visits to the podiatrist (except for the redressings, that is)!

I tend to have trouble with my feet. Most of the last round of injuries were all caused by that one late-night stair-slipping incident, where I rammed my big toe fairly and squarely, with a good 84 kilos behind it, straight into a brick wall at 3:00 in the morning sometime last September. Aside from the initial limping, and the spunky regional doctor telling me it was no use x-raying my foot as the treatment is the same for a broken toe as for a slightly injured toe, the pain disappeared quite quickly—a week or two. Since then it has resurfaced every few months in raging soreness, irritation, infection and disablement.

A few years before that, stumbling home with the flatties, like you do, we spotted a drain-grate that had been removed from the gutter due to roadworks. We all thought that looked like the world's best-ever found-object barbeque grill, and between the four of us, we hoiked the mother-fucker up and carried it a good 25 yards before the whole 7okg of cast-iron slipped from its surround and landed fair and square on the bridge of my foot. My favourite pair of motor bike boots and half a dozen stitches later, I have a lovely blueish knotted scar on the upper of my left foot, should anyone need to identify me after an earthquake or tsunami.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Friday, July 08, 2005

Cool Britannia?

Oh well, it was a matter of time really. That tube system, as wonderful and exciting and intricate and efficient as it is to one who is could be classified as a public transport anorak, it was a sitting duck.

I was in London on Septmeber the 11th, 2001. Unemployed, I had just wandered up the road to buy some tickets from the local movie theatre (Moulin Rouge, actually) when the moby buzzed with instructions to put the telly on. Not telling me why, just put it on. That not being possible I aimlessly wandered the Clapham High Street, and have particular memories of being outside the Sainsbury's when I finally found out what was going on. An aeroplane had flown into the World Trade Center. A second hadn't yet. My informant had the radio on, and was listening, agape, to the unfiltered, uncensored news.

I made my way by tube to Tottenham Court Road, I can't remember why. I had some work to do, to get some work. Everyone was thinking "London is next". Indeed, they did evacuate the city. And there I was, standing in Tottenham Court Road as it started to rain. In the shop-windows in front of me were TVs, hundreds of TVs big n small, flatscreen and bedside, all playing the same scene, of that black woman running away from the site, covered in dust.

Strange how you just randomly bump into people in foreign cuntries. There was Kooky Vegetarian Ange reflected in the same window, peering at the same sights as me. "Haven't seen you for a fair while—still in London I see", "No, not since we randomly bumped into one another in that fish'n'chip shop in Herne Hill last year", "How's things?","Good. Feel like a drink?", "Sure, these are my mates..." and so it goes. Conversation over a handful of pints turned mostly on the "Chickens Coming Home to Roost" theory, the 'with a history of foreign policy like theirs they have to expect some retribution at some stage' theory that a day or two later became something whispered in dark corners between like-minded people.

As did the radio news of the flight being shot down over Pennsylvania (to be replaced with a story about "let's roll" valiance), and of more 'planes coming from North Africa and Korea (WTF?).

But that was it. City workers got half a day off, and everything pretty much stayed the same, Tancredi. There was the hysterical talk of "the Tube, the Tube", but there's always been that.

And so it was. And so it shall be.

And what timing! And, in my opinion, spectacularly low success rate. They did a much better job in Madrid, if it was them. I'd thought, if someone attacked the tube, the deaths would be in the hundreds, if not thousands, and the casualties ten times that. That warren of tunnels underneath the old dart was more resilient than I thought.

Nonetheless, a death is a death is a death.

Don't mention the war, eh Tony?

Anyway, to keep the mood light and airy, have a listen to this little instrumental number, and we can all move off to that happy place where ethnic stereotypes were ripe for plunder, the French are all saucy, the Swedes serious, and there are hilarious misunderstandings that follow the mistaking of the Chinaman for a Japanese!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


This is creepy. Fascinatingly so.
Much more so than the Toady and Connor bikini shop storyline of the same name.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Tony Jones, I covet thy job

So, last night, I'm watching Lateline, as is my want.

Big Kim and his rabble are having a go over our lack of troops in Afghanistan. They were withdrawn sometime ago, it seems. Now, this, in the same week as Mark Latham is spraying his spleen all across the nation, reminding every columnist in the country of his "Troops out by Christmas" call. There is hardly a columnist around who hasn't labelled that call daft, usually because they think that, despite the majority of this country opposing an unprovoked invasion of a distant, sovereign nation, the Australian public believe that once we're doing something, we want to stay "until the job is done" whatever that means, weasel-man. Basically it means not admitting your mistakes, as far as I am concerned. The line ran that the Australian public is too 'nuanced' (fuck off) to go for a simple line like "Troops out by Christmas"—you know, give us some respec' here—but not 'nuanced' (fuck off) enough to be able to untangle Johnny's lies, and instead kinda shrug and say, well, we're there now, Georgie-Boy needs us, so we'd better stay, because he will give us special yankee treats (read: scraps from the G8 table, like dodgy trade liberalisation pacts).

Anyway, on one side we've got Latho's "Troops out by Christmas" and on the other side we have Beaze's "More troops for Afghanistan", which, as Dolly Downer said last night, doesn't make any sense. No matter how much they try to deny it, it's a fuck up of a foreign policy, whatever their policy actually is. And I don't blame the Ol' Ruddmeister for it.

So here's the line that I think is 'nuanced' (fuck off) enough to make sense to any old bastard in the street, without dazzling them with conditional Howardisms, or offending Big Brother: Australia will support and contribute to operations conducted under the UN umbrella, no matter who is the commander—US, Australia, France, Russia, whoever. But will not contribute toor support private "coalition" missions à la GWB's latest fancies. Now that's not too hard to understand is it?

Tony Jones, I covet thy job.

As a post script: on AM this morning, I hear that some ex-servicemen have fingered the new Iranian President, one Mahdi Ahmadinejad, as a ringleader in the 1979 US embassy siege in Tehran. It has all begun again.