Russia is cold. I’ve only left the cinema and I’m scratching my head. I might need some help with this one. What started out as an intriguing drama about infidelity turned a corner into noirish maybe-murder and does a 180 into something else. Or does it?
This is one cool, cryptic piece. I think I loved it. I certainly was compelled the whole way through, even when it started not making sense. It could be just me.
The themes run similar to Marber’s Closer. But this is Russia, not England. It’s bleak! Emotionally icy. This is Marber meets Hitchcock meets Haneke. The expressionlessness of our leading lady made me wonder if she was batshit crazy. You can decide for yourself.
Story aside - OK, it’s about two married couples and affairs – this is pure cinema. The photography is gorgeous: confident, long steadycam takes and deliberate editing. The composition of every frame is beautifully considered (although go easy on the extreme close-ups) and allows to tell the story visually with sparse dialogue.
So, who done what to whom? Go see it. Please. If anything, so you can explain some key plot points to me!
Betrayal plays at the State Theatre at 3pm on June 16.
The Ex-Presidents are anarchists!
The East is a very fun ride – a smart, intelligent, unpredictable action thriller, in the vein of the Bourne films, with a female protagonist. Don’t take this film too seriously. It’s basically a retelling of Point Break. Rather than surfers, they’re environmentally and politically conscious anarchists, right down to their own Bodhi-esque cult leader, played by super-hunk Alexander Skarsgard. The sub plots are a little long-winded, but the movie cracks along at a nice pace and the acting is terrific.
A few months ago I caught the star-studded Redford film The Company You Keep. About half way through, an actress appeared for about five minutes. Brit Marling, where have you been all my life? Well, I think I know where you’ve been. You were the straight-A student at the front of the class, the beautiful, impossibly brilliant chess queen of high school that Alex P. Keaton would’ve ended up marrying.
But I digress. What do I want to say? Folks, we have a serious new talent and a role model. Brit Marling is an inspiration. Not only for young women, to stear away from the over-sexualised garbage in mainstream culture, but for artists in general. At 30, Brit Marling has already forged her own legacy. An economics graduate from Georgetown, I adore the fact that she declined a job offer as an analyst on Wall Street to spend a year in Cuba making a documentary about ballerinas and boxers.
She has chosen her own unique path. Her speech here is well worth a listen:
The East is Brit Marling’s film. Literally. She co-wrote it, produced, and stars. She is utterly convincing as the Jason Bourne-esque Johnny Utah. I mean, Jane Owen. I may be a little biased, a little smitten, but this is smart, conventional Hollywood done very well.
The East plays Wed 12 June 8:45pm at Event Cinemas.
I’m four days into the festival. My toe is in the water, as I’ve only caught five films so far. I took in a double session at Event Cinema complex on Thursday. It’s a strange feeling of nostalgia being there. I grew up on the north shore of Sydney. As a twelve-year-old my first foray into “going out” was to come down to George Street for movies, Timezone and pool. Back then there was the strip of three cinema complexes – Hoyts, Greater Union and the Village Cinema on the corner at Liverpool Street. Now they’re all combined into one. It’s a real maze in there. The entrance to the Village is gone, but you can wind your way through the back corridors of the Event complex and find the old carpet stairs where I remember as a 15-year-old holding the popcorn and jaffas waiting eagerly for Georgina Noonan* to come out of the bathroom before going in to see A Few Good Men. (*not her real name)
I thought I’d go old school and get myself some jaffas and a bucket of Coke. I was rather dismayed to find they don’t sell jaffas by the packet anymore. You have to employ the lolly dispensers and a five-dollar plastic cup. The lid didn’t fit, so I was in for a balancing act. Secondly the soft drink is self-serve, and the small cup is another five bucks. I don’t like this candy bar. And the straws were sticky.
I don’t like Coke so much, either, but there’s a feeling of indestructibility when consuming junk confectionery in a movie theatre. I’ll share with you my art of eating jaffas with Coke. You suck the shell of the jaffa before cracking it. Then with your tongue separate the shell from the chocolate and eat only the shell. You are left with a warm ball of chocolate. As it begins to melt in your mouth, suck a mouthful of Coke. The icy-cold Coke hits the choc ball and the warm melting chocolate freezes up and goes hard again. Coke is too sweet at the best of times, but the chocolate off-sets that sweetness. Melt the chocolate in your mouth again and repeat with a sip of Coke. You can get real mileage out of your jaffas this way.
I awoke at five o’clock this morning with an acute stomach ache. I am not fifteen anymore.
Baz Luhrmann is the king of the PDA – the public display of affectation. As I gear up to see for myself Baz’s interpretation of The Great Gatsby – the most anticipated, (over-)hyped film of the decade – with already blisteringly scathing reviews pouring in, I thought I might share my thoughts on Baz going in, so that when I finally come around to seeing the film, and reviewing the film, you are already aware of my bias.
I’ll start by saying I don’t like his films. And it’s very important to articulate specifically what I do not like about his films. I mentioned he’s the king of the PDA. Well, for me, a great director achieves two things in a film. And they are related. The first is the philosophy that the action is captured by the camera, not the other way round. The camera is there to capture the beauty of what is so, be it a performance or a sunset. But when one gets a sense that what is occurring in front of the camera has been manipulated and contrived purely for the benefit of the frame, one is removed from the suspension of disbelief. Now, you may think, well, isn’t all cinema false anyway? Well, perhaps, but cinema is the stringing together of real images to tell a story. The individual components have their own inherent truth. Eisenstein knew this, Hitchcock knew this. There are the exceptions: certain genres that employ special effects and blood and gore, and animation, of course. In fact, you could say that Baz Luhrmann makes animations using people.
In the disgrace of a movie called Australia there’s a shot of Hugh Jackman pouring the water all over his torso, and Nicole Kidman watching him. And I think that moment says it all, as far as what Baz is like as a director. The lighting is contrived, the pose is unnaturally self-conscious. When Kidman looks down at Jackman’s groin, Baz makes damn sure that we get what she’s getting. The camera does a pan down to his groin and back up again. There’s no such thing as subtlety in a Baz movie. It’s like if you were watching theatre and somebody had their hand grasping the back of your head physically manually twisting your neck forcing your head where it wanted you to look. It’s stating the obvious. It’s spelling it out for you. He is forcing you to watch what he wants you to watch. Get your fucking hands off my neck, Baz.
What’s wrong with this? It takes away ambiguity. Great cinema is ambiguous. Wim Wenders said that fifty per cent of the story should occur in the imagination of the viewer. It is the intelligence that the viewer brings to the cinema, to fill in the blanks, as it were, the gaps, so that they themselves will experience their own personal interpretation of what happens. Therefore everyone has their own unique experience of a film. The bottom line: Baz does not respect the audience’s intelligence.
Secondly, which is related to the first point, a great director creates a sense that there’s life beyond the frame, that if you were to spin the camera around at any given moment, you would simply see more of the story’s environment. With Baz I just imagine the crew there. It’s proscenium arch cinema.
On the subject of The Great Gatsby the novel itself: is the movie sacrilege? Well, after seeing Romeo + Juliet, I thought that it didn’t need to be Shakespeare – it might just as well have been the phonebook. It seems that he makes films irrespective of the material. So, it’s not that he’s butchering Gatsby, it’s that all his flare has nothing to do with Gatsby.
Personally, I am not so protective of the source material. And I was actually pleasantly surprised to read about Baz’s research and his justifications for using the book-ending and for Nick narrating as being from an asylum to write as part of therapy, and therefore justify the narration.
The argument that Gatsby itself is not adaptable – well, there was Gatz. New York’s Elevator Repair Service theatre company came out here and did a seven-and-a-half hour stage production of The Great Gatsby. It was magnificent. Technically, it wasn’t an adaptation, because they retained every word that Fitzgerald wrote. But to translate it into the performance and have an audience sit compelled for seven and a half hours, albeit with two intervals, was no mean feat, if you’ll pardon the cliche, and quite simply one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in the theatre.
And then there is greatest screen adaptation of Gatsby. Not many people know this, but check out season two of Californication. I didn’t realise until towards the end of the season that the arc of Lou Ashby is the same as Jay Gatsby: the rich hedonist in the mansion on the hill, throwing the decadent parties, pining for his long lost love, right down to Hank Moody stepping into Nick’s shoes. Wonderful stuff. Literary adaptations seem to work best when they are not adapted literally.
By the way, the 1974 version is horrendous. It’s awful. I’m a huge Redford fan and was quite disturbed by how bored and distracted he seemed. Mia Farrow’s explanation for why there was no chemistry between them was that when he wasn’t filming he was buried in his trailer glued to the news about the Watergate scandal, which had just broken whilst filming. No wonder he was so wonderful in All The President’s Men.
So, prior to seeing the film, all my issue with Baz Luhrmann’s stuff is purely form over content. His material to me is not relevant. Oscar Wilde said “There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are either well written or badly written. That is all.” Same with films.
There’s a part of me that feels even creating a top five for emoting is wrong. Perverse, in a way. A double standard. I’d be the first to say that the mark of a good actor has nothing to do with tears. In fact, I discourage actors from worrying about emotion altogether. It’s a trap. The desire to be thought well of too often leads actors to show their range of ‘feeling’, a bit like going to a funeral with the intention to feel sad. I guess tears for an actor are akin to sweat for the marathon runner – just run the damn race and they’ll be there! Or not.
So, what is this top five post all about? It’s a celebration. I don’t know how these actors get to where they get. But the results have left an indelible imprint on me. Why don’t acting schools study actors the way art schools study painters? And if not study, at the very least celebrate.
To reiterate, you’ll notice De Niro is not on this list. So the next time you’re thinking that crying is the be-all-and-end-all of great acting, just remember: De Niro can’t cry. In the meantime, watch these and weep.
Paul Newman, Cool Hand Luke
A classic moment in a classic film. Rent it. Own it.
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Basketball Diaries
I was a big fan of DiCaprio for three performances: This Boy’s Life, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and The Baskeball Diaries. I hope he returns to this form one day. The kid had a lot of potential. In this scene he doesn’t hold back.
Kathy Burke, Nil By Mouth
Another of my all-time favourite performances. You might be wondering why it’s on this list.
Keisha Castle-Hughes, Whale Rider
All about the courage to persevere through whatever is happening. I love the messiness. This is perfect acting. 50 years treading the boards won’t prepare you to act like this.
Juliet Stevenson, Truly Madly Deeply
This is my favourite performance by an actor or actress in film. There, I said it. Bless her. Nothing beats this for her nuance, warmth, tenderness, joy, sadness. This film has been close to my heart since I first saw it at 15 years old. I got to meet Juliet in London a few years back and tell her what her acting, particularly in this film, has meant to me. She held my hand for what must have been half a minute, and when she listens to you, she makes you feel like there is nothing else in the world. By the way, this is not the crying scene. The greatest crying moment in cinema I cannot find online. But this will do. Let me give it a context. Her lover died and she is grief-stricken. In this scene, he comes back.
Sorry, I didn’t put Toni Collette from The Sixth Sense, or Anthony Hopkins in The Elephant Man. It’s not a competition. Is it? I must give special mention to Sean Nelson in a little-known 1994 film called Fresh. I haven’t seen it since then, but I’ve never forgotten the ending. I can’t show it here. Some things don’t work out of context. Next… best drunk acting.
Actors love to get angry. Well, at least act angry. Shouting, stamping, breaking shit. When I was younger, it really used to impress me. But anger is an elusive emotion to convey convincingly. Often it becomes forced, or you see the actor ‘mustering up’ seconds before the explosion, telegraphing their obligation to show a particular emotion. In life it doesn’t happen that way. It is often a last resort, an unleashing of frustration or hurt. So when the greats really let rip, it’s something to behold. Here are my top five moments in the wonderful art of screen rage.
5. Robert De Niro, Mean Streets
This might be the scene that best displays the genius of Robert De Niro. And it’s an insightful comparison to Harvey Keitel. One of the most important things in acting is unpredictability. Brando had it. De Niro had it. Quite literally, you don’t know what they will do from one second to the next. They probably don’t know either, which is why it takes great courage. So when it comes to rage, it’s as important to observe both the build-up and the recovery. What do most actors do after they have exploded? Usually hold on to the idea of the emotion. Look closely at the difference between Keitel and De Niro’s acting after they get pulled apart. I think Keitel is great, but De Niro’s choices (if you can call it that) are inspired.
4. John Malkovich, In the Line of Fire
This is a classic scene. Few actors get away with shouting the way Malkovich does. Some people feel he doesn’t get away with it, but the more I see of Malkovich, the more I believe what he’s doing. Critics accuse him of being mannered. That’s him. He has a bizarre persona, and his emotion is well anchored. Watch how front-footed he is in this scene. You try going toe to toe with Clint Eastwood. Incidentally, I think Spacey might have borrowed from this to play John Doe in Seven. Enjoy.
3. Emma Thompson, In the Name of the Father
I’ve put this in here because it gives me goosebumps. Dustin Hoffman once said something about notes in acting, like notes in music. When the performer is riding the well, the surge, they hit the note at the right pitch at the right time and it’s magic. When Emma Thompson yells, “By God, you got your blood!” it simply hits me in my soul. I think it’s the compassion in her fight that makes this so powerful.
2. Dianne Wiest, In Treatment
I adore Dianne Wiest. She is an astounding actress. I put her on par with Streep for some of the moments she’s had on screen. And she is so warm, that smile through the eyes. Even in little roles like the mother with cancer in Bright Lights, Big City, she has little moments that I’d go far as to call genius. She’s wonderful in In Treatment. Technically, this is television, not cinema, but HBO is my exception. Watch this full scene. It’s worth it, as you can see the emotion rise under the surface. (You could also begin at 5:00 if time is limited) Look how she holds on to her control, so measured and deliberate, and professional, until the outburst. Talk about notes. Wiest nails it here.
1. Ray Winstone, Nil By Mouth
Ray Winstone’s display of rage is some of the most frightening and powerful in cinema. I don’t know how he does it. I applaud his courage to be that revealing, and unsympathetic. I must also acknowledge Kathy Burke. Her performance in this film is one of the best. And she’s a comic actress, usually. Gary Oldman made this. Warning: this is full-on stuff.
There are many more, of course. I could probably come up with a different top five on another day, when I think about Brando, Oldman, Streep, Nicholson, Pacino. Check out Holly Hunter in Broadcast News. What are your most memorable moments in screen rage?
Next up, best crying on screen.
It’s been almost three weeks since the festival closed. Over the course of eleven days I took in twenty-seven movies. I’ve allowed the experience to distill. I miss it, like returning from a holiday. Of course, it was a holiday. The number of times I had to remind myself, “It’s okay, I’m on vacation!”
It feels like another life since I was lost in the rain, searching for Temperance Lane and Grasshopper Bar. In eleven days I immersed myself in stories of poverty, war, prostitution, rape, childhood, dance, pollution, philosophy, death, song, religion, crime, murder, infidelity, love, freedom, time travel. I laughed, cried, got bored, enthralled, frustrated, captivated, frightened, tickled, angry.
What was it all about – this crazy adventure? I think I did this primarily for my own education. This wasn’t conscious – I simply wanted to have fun, and more importantly, relax. The idea of sitting in the dark five hours a day for a couple of weeks, phone OFF, problems ignored – was absolutely the incentive. Yes, cinema is an escape. But what form of escape? To hide from my life? Or to wrap myself up in other people’s lives? And what is this thing called ‘entertainment’?
The films I saw, in order, were:
Whores’ Glory, Killing Anna, Utopia, Mabo, Just the Wind, Play it Like Godard, Where Do We Go Now?, Moonrise Kingdom, Before the Revolution, The Spider’s Strategem, Lore, Rampart, Last Tango in Paris, Valley of Saints, Crazy Horse, Woody Allen: A Documentary, Bachelor Mountain, Marley, On the Road, Barbara, Dead Europe, The Loneliest Planet, Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You…, The Last Emperor, The Sheltering Sky, Side By Side, Safety Not Guaranteed.
I began the adventure thinking I could handle three or four movies a day. And then of course I had my Saturday night meltdown during Rampart and thought it best to stick to perhaps two a day. A movie should be given an afterglow – time to allow it to linger in one’s spirit for hours after. Some captivated me more than others, but I can honestly say I saw nothing that I hated. And believe me, I can hate a film.
As I figure out now what to do with my life, and how to get the time off to devour the Melbourne Film Festival this month, let me leave you with the top five films that resonated for me at the Sydney Film Festival 2012.
5. Valley of Saints (India) Dir: Musa Syeed
Such a simple, beautiful and touching story. Sublime. And the stand-out lead performance of the entire festival from Gulzar Ahmed Bhat. This man had never acted before. Not only that – he has never seen a movie in a cinema! But his gentle, peaceful nature, and an underlying resolve shone through. This is testament to the director, Musa Syeed, with his background in documentaries, who clearly understands what acting on screen is about.
4. Barbara (Germany) Dir: Christian Petzold
This movie is textbook film-making. Pure, pure, pure. Every directing student should study this movie and learn from it. Every shot, every line of dialogue, every moment serves the story. I’m not saying all films should be made like this, but if you want to follow the rules before you break them, here they are, masterfully executed. And a cracking yarn to boot.
3. The Loneliest Planet (USA, Germany) Dir: Julia Loktev
Everything I said about the movie Barbara you can throw out the window here. This breaks all the rules. There’s no story for the first hour. Or should I say, no Robert McKee inciting incident. It looks like it’s shot on a handicam. There’s sequences of twenty minutes with no dialogue. People absolutely loathe this movie. But to say this is a bad movie is a mistake. To each his own, of course. But you have to ask yourself – why watch a sunset when you can watch TV? Is a sunset intrinsically boring? It can be a profound experience. Or if you can’t sit still for five minutes, sunsets suck. So what’s so good about this movie? It’s real. I can’t remember the last time I felt inside of a movie. I sat in the second row of the State Theatre (the screen couldn’t fit in my frame of vision) and I had no expectation of what was going to happen. I wanted to be there, on those mountains, camping, hiking, breathing in that air, being in love. What happens? An engaged couple go on a hiking trip and something goes wrong. The aesthetic of the film is in the natural behaviour of the acting – spontaneous, unselfconscious, banal at times. But faultless. Story must honour aesthetic and vice versa. When behaviour is depicted this authentically, any semblance of plot will smack of contrivance. It is refreshing when a filmmaker has the balls to be hated for the best possible reason – to put humanity and nature at its purest on the screen. Ignore the naysayers and decide for yourself.
2. The Sheltering Sky (UK) Dir: Bernardo Bertolucci
On the final day I took myself back to the Art Gallery for a morning screening of Bertolucci’s The Sheltering Sky. I think epics are meant to be seen in the daytime. I remember over the years taking in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Lawrence of Arabia on Sunday afternoons at the Cremorne Orpheum. Coffee in hand, there’s nothing better than to get out of the sun – or hopefully, the rain – and kick off three hours from 2 to 5pm. This is what epics were made for – a throwback to the matinees of the 1950s. But this was ten o’clock on a Sunday morning. There is a feeling in your body at this hour – a little hung over, maybe. It’s snuggle time. And so this is the state of mind and body I was in, looking forward to The Sheltering Sky, and concluding my Bertolucci retrospective. And how was it? Cinema fucking heaven.
OK, let me talk for a minute about The Sheltering Sky. I think it’s Bertolucci’s masterpiece. I had watched over the festival Before the Revolution, The Spider’s Strategem, Last Tango in Paris, and The Last Emperor. I found the early films a little disjointed or in places heavy-handed or self-conscious, but certainly fascinating, as I could see his experimentation and the evolution of his screen voice. The Sheltering Sky was the culmination. It’s the most conventional of his films. He seemed to have done with his experimenting, and was now the assured hand. I sat there transfixed as one perfect scene unfolded to the next. The acting was sublime, script tight, and funny! A delight also to see the young Malkovich. And Debra Winger is wonderful. Ah, Debra Winger, where are you? And then, just when I thought the movie was coming to a satisfying conclusion, it went all weird! We go off on an extra hour-long odyssey into the desert! It becomes The Loneliest Planet. Ha! Bertolucci, you crazy man – conventional mastery changes gears into experimental genius. But so right!
1. Where Do We Go Now? (Lebanon) Dir: Nadine Labaki
This was the film of the festival. A musical comedy that takes on religion and war.
A poor, small village is inhabited by Muslims and Christians. They live together in relative peace. But the men can tend to squabble. And beyond the village there is bloody conflict. The women have all lost either a husband or a son. And they are fed up. Fed up with all the suffering and madness. So they devise an elaborate, and perhaps foolhardy, scheme to deceive the men from fighting once and for all.
Men can be such fools. That is the message of this film. And I take delight in that. We are. Overgrown boys, grasping our pride and conceit, led by our penis and ego.
The whole time watching it, I wondered what country this was. It was pleasing to read later that, although shot and produced in Lebanon, the setting is fictional. There is a fantastical element to this movie. It presents this tone in the stunning opening sequence of the bereaved women engaged in a mesmerising ritualistic dance/march. This film does not denounce religion. Religion and culture and tradition give this movie (and life) such wonderful texture and meaning.
This is an anti-war film. Or rather, a pro-love, pro-life, pro-dance, pro-joy, pro-food, pro-song film. It is unashamedly brash. Its message is loud and clear. And it’s funny as hell. Humour is the biggest weapon there is. And I don’t mean jokes. This is not black comedy. This isn’t M*A*S*H, or Dr Strangelove, or Catch-22. It’s not trying to be ironic. It reminded me more of No Man’s Land and even Life is Beautiful. Black comedy tends to avoid pathos, relying on its wit and edginess. But this movie is all heart. It’s a feminine movie. It’s a scream for peace on earth.
I’m so impressed with what Nadine Labaki has achieved here. It’s brazenly ambitious – to take on such important themes and pull it off with such panache. Magnificent stuff. Makes me cry with joy just thinking about it.
Where Do We Go Now? is in cinemas now.
What was it about these films? There is a human richness, there is a life. There was a zest and humour married to the worlds that they came out of. Almost an inevitability. Maybe this is why Australian films still so often flounder. We too often comment on our culture, and not express that which is born from it. We’ll get there. The rest of the world has a few centuries on us.
E40. That was the seat number. The Holy Grail. By now I am so baked I don’t know what is up. I’m in the mezzanine level of the State. The movie starts in five minutes. Please take your seats. I feel safe that this will be a gentle film. I am in disguise – beanie and spectacles. I am bent.
I thought it would be a good idea to see Marley stoned. This had always been the tentative plan. I was fortunate enough to procure a bit of weed and rolled myself a nice little spliff for the occasion. I decided not to take the train in. I didn’t think I could face Town Hall platform late at night. It was bad enough in my vulnerable state after my near meltdown during Rampart two nights earlier. So I drove in.
It was a Monday night, the public holiday. I figured parking would be easy in the CBD. Sure enough, I found a spot on Pitt Street, up from Market, a one-minute walk from the theatre. My plan was to arrive early, blaze up in the car so to minimise my public stonedness, walk straight through the foyer and take my seat and wait for the lights to dim. Quite aware of how painfully shy I get in the realm of the ganja, I wore a disguise. I donned a massive beanie, the closest thing I had in tribute to Rastafari headware, and some highly reflective non-prescriptive spectacles. If I can’t see them, they can’t see me.
The zone was still metred. Aware that marijuana wreaks havoc on my gross motor skills, I didn’t want to be reading street signs and negotiating coins and parking metres. OK, I’ll get out, pay the metre first, come back to my car, wind all windows up, and toke some reefer. A good plan. I reclined my seat a little, waited for an old couple to walk past, and surreptitiously lit my spliff. Within a few minutes I had myself a serious Dutch oven. Could people tell? Were the police gonna tap on my window? It was rather quiet that night on Pitt Street. I’d be alright.
I waited till about 9:20 and made a beeline to the State. The foyer was packed. Sheesh. I avoided eye contact. But I needed a beer. Yes, a beer. I joined the queue and breathed. Nobody see me. I’m here for Bob, that’s all. Sir, if you want to take your drink in, you’ll need a plastic cup. Hmm. I imagined my clumsy attempts to pour my Peroni into a plastic cup in that crowded cinema, dousing the lady beside me. Getting thrown out of the State. Nah, I’ll scull it in the foyer. It’s alright.
The theatre doors were yet to open. I stood in the middle of that foyer, people swarming around me. I reminded myself of that Dave Graney song Rock and Roll is Where I Hide. As I staved off an impending psychotic episode, the doors finally opened. I nodded to the usher as I flashed my iPhone ticket and with great determination found E40. I removed my coat and placed it in my lap, leant forward and waited. At last I was safe.
Marley was phenomenal. I had no idea what a warrior he was, that following an assassination attempt, he literally sang for his life. I had re-watched No Direction Home, Scorsese’s great film on Dylan, a week earlier. But this was something else. For Dylan, it really had been just about the music, the poetry. His mission was an exploration of creativity. He’d always denied his political agenda. “I’m just a song and dance man.” But Marley was almost the opposite, fighting for change, using song as a conscious means for peace. Both were outsiders, struggling with identity. But I had not realised the extent of this for Marley, that he was the child of a black mother and white father. I knew little of the Rastafari movement, and how integral it was to the use of cannabis and to the emergence of Reggae. There was no separating Bob Marley from the music, from the ganja, from the religion. He was all and more.
And I also got Reggae. It’s fucking sexy.
I had caught the Woody Allen doco that morning. I adore Woody Allen as a filmmaker, and it was a sheer pleasure to be immersed in the footage and excerpts of his films and interviews with his collaborators. It was a standard chronology of his life and career. But Marley was an enlightening and profound experience. I’ll attribute that to Kevin Macdonald. He’s assembled a fascinating story – faithful to its subject – the time, the man and the music – beautifully paced and filmed. And, yes, I can also attribute some of that to the ganja. The Rastas say it is a spiritual act, a sacrament that cleans the body and mind, heals the soul, exalts the consciousness and facilitates peacefulness. But most of all, and like the potential of cinema, it opens people’s minds to the truth.
It’s a gorgeous morning – condensation on the window and sunshine. I’m soon to head in to see The Sheltering Sky at the Art Gallery. I vaguely recall seeing it back in the early nineties when I worked in a video store and was going through a massive Malkovich phase. I was about eighteen, nineteen, and I remember it being ‘slow’. I caught The Last Emperor yesterday. Finally. I remember as a child it winning Best Picture back in 1987 – its theme music imbedded in my head from that awards ceremony. It was a treat to see on the big screen.
So, last three movies today. I’ll be catching Side by Side - doco on the transition from film to digital. Very interested, particularly after my thoughts on Whores’ Glory. Then the closing night film at the State – Safety Not Guaranteed. I don’t know how I will feel after this is all over. I already feel changed by this whole experience. Inspired. When I told my mother about this blog, her response was, “So you’re procastinating.” I knew what she meant. Am I writing about cinema instead of making cinema myself? Well, I’m inspired. Perhaps I can do both, Mum.