When You Get Really Close to a Movie Screen, Film Emulsion Looks like…
Boiling Sand
Dead Can Dance / Greta Scacchi / YouTube / Baz Luhrmann’s AUSTRALIA

Back in Austin, Texas, now with my last posting on Australia.

Final thoughts:

If you’re ever on a bus ride in the Australian bush, I’ve got the perfect soundtrack for you.  Load your mp3 player with tracks by Melbourne-based Dead Can Dance.  I loved them in the 1980s and 1990s, but hadn’t thought about them in quite a while.  But fate had put several of their tracks on my ‘pod a few months back.  When you’re looking out a bus window at sienna-toned hills and eucalyptus groves, seeing the occasional reptile or marsupial appearing from out of nowhere, this is the perfect mix to audio-enhance the experience.

I never felt very much one way or the other about Greta Scacchi when I saw her in Robert Altman’s THE PLAYER or Dusan Makaveyev’s THE COCA-COLA KID, but I loved her turn as Sandra Dee’s crusty old harridan of a mother in that awful Bobby Darin biopic that Kevin Spacey made a few years back.  So, when I read in the Qantas inflight magazine that she was appearing onstage in Sydney as Queen Elizabeth I in a new translation of Schiller’s MARY STUART, I booked a ticket first chance I got.  She was great.  The production was good.  And the theatre’s matchbook-sized bar, overlooking Sydney harbor, was the perfect accompaniment (along with the ferryride to the theatre:  gliding past the Opera House and under the Harbor Bridge) to a perfect evening.

In a previous post, I mentioned my search for some esoteric Australian cinema, especially the mysteriously elusive film WAKE IN FRIGHT (aka OUTBACK), which has a cult-like following.  [See the Wikipedia entry for the film HERE.]  The film is currently out of print, but
you can see it in eleven installments on YouTube. Here’s the FIRST LINK.

Very good filmmaking:  I loved how the opening was a long establishing shot where the camera panned 360 degrees showing the dusty void of the Outback.  Then progressively the shots and editing disorient the viewer, just as the main character is increasingly drawn into a state of confusion and desperation.  Also, Aussie actor Jack Thompson (currently on view in Baz Luhrmann’s AUSTRALIA) has a meaty role in the film.

And speaking of the Luhrmann flick:  I loved it.  As with all epics, it’s not a self-contained and conceptually tight work, but a pagan rite of ecstasy.  (It will be interesting to see if the best reviews outside of its native land will be in Roman Catholic — aka Pagan Catholocism — countries.)  And like all rites and rituals, it understands itself and discovers its purpose via (as Maya Deren wrote) the exercise of form.  And that’s precisely how this film unfolds.  Confirming this, it seems that many who initially resist the film do respond to it by the end.  And while QUANTUM OF SOLACE was periodically in the realms of delicious Postmodernism, Luhrmann again starts there and never leaves:  every shot has quotation marks around it, simultaneously cartoony and mythopoetic.

And — as I told a friend afterwards — I had the same reaction as I did to MOULIN ROUGE! … I didn’t know who I wanted to screw more: the leading man or the leading lady.

Doug/PoMoJoan

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