Cinema 1962

My cinematic epiphany occurred in 1962. In that year, I saw The Virgin Spring as part of the Perth Film Festival at the Windsor Theatre Nedlands 15-20 January 1962. It changed my life – or at least that part of it concerned with the appreciation of art.

Other films screened that year included The World of Apu, Hiroshima mon amour, L’avventura, and Shadows.

The World of Apu (1959) is the third part of Satyajit Ray’s Apu trilogy. It was probably quite a while before I saw Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955) and Aparajito (Satyajit Ray, 1956). Hiroshima mon amour is Alain Resnais’s take on Marguerite Duras’s novel. I didn’t, and still don’t, like either. I was much more impressed with his next film, L’année dernière à Marienbad (1961). Whereas in 1962 we saw the third of Ray’s trilogy, it was the first of Antonioni’s we saw, in L’avventura, which I saw again recently, and still found (somewhat) impressive. Shadows may be John Cassavetes’ best film; it wouldn’t have to be very good – but it certainly made an impression.

Life or Livelihood

The pandemic engenders two kinds of responses, which are usually separate, tho it is possible to bring them together: the response to the health crisis, and the reaction to the economic disaster. In a convenient phrase: life or livelihood.

The PM’s speech today, 30 March, attempted to be presidential (in a good sense – showing leadership with inspiration) as well as indicating good economic management, but it wasn’t well written, the tone was uneven, and there were mistakes of various kinds. It soon descended into hair-splitting financial details.

Tho I think the country generally is doing pretty well on the ‘life’ front, it’s clear – as it always has been – that the PM is still more of a Treasurer than a President. More a manager than a leader.

Gulpilil

Derek Rielly, Gulpilil, Macmillan, 2019.

This is like a long obituary (tho a short book) as the subject is so close to death, and much of the book is set in the present (rather than the past as is normal for a biography)  as the author is concerned to make clear how intimate he is with his material.
It’s not a great book, but it does cover the actor’s career, and gives a sense of what he is like, and also of what it means to belong to neither of the two worlds: black and white.

No so

Questioners (such as interviewers on the ABC) should routinely end each question with the injunction: “… and don’t begin your answer with the word ‘so’.”

Benjamin Gilmour

The entirely remarkable Ben Gilmour was interviewed for a whole hour on the ABC the other day. The topic was well worth the time. He’s just published a book about his experiences as an ambo – a paramedic – stationed in Sinny at Bondi. This meant that he and his partner were usually the nearest to be called to a suicide attempt (or success) at The Gap – the most popular spot in the country for offing yourself. I bought the book (which is called The Gap) and read it in a day. It’s one of the most gripping books I’ve ever read.

But that’s only half of my point here. The other half was not mentioned by the interviewer at all (unless I missed the very beginning of the interview) – namely, that Ben Gilmour has directed and had released two feature films! Son of a Lion (shot in Pakistan) was released in 2007, and Jirga was shot in arguably the most dangerous place in the world, Kandahar Province in Afghanistan, and released in 2018.

The Shepherd’s Hut

I think what most preoccupied Tim Winton in working on this  novel was getting the voice of the narrator, Jaxie, right. As it’s almost all we hear for the duration, it’s just as well he succeeded. It’s not understood to be written by him, of course—he’s probably barely literate—but it is narrated by him, and the language on the page represents what he ‘would of’ written if he ‘could of’—thus giving examples of the principal solecism which occurs consistently throughout—together with ‘et’ for ‘ate’, which is complicated, but works.

The other main character, Fintan, only appears halfway through, and is represented only by what he says to Jaxie—who does not understand half of it, but records it accurately (of course). Jaxie is the character who is in search of … ‘peace’ is the preferred term, and Fintan is the spiritually advanced character who has perhaps found it.

Then there’s a plot, which is a bit stuck-on-at-the-end, providing closure for the story in a way that is convincing enough. One is usually glad to escape from the world of a Winton novel—he’s often said not to do his endings well—and this one provides a neat half-page summary (almost like a PowerPoint slide) which tidies everything up, and lets us go.

But this novel does not let us go when we have put it down. Its evocation of Jaxie’s universe is so precise and convincing that it will stay in the reader’s mind for some time – well, this one, at least.

Which of the Two Popes

I was at first bemused, and then amused at the idea that Jonathan Pryce was being nominated for Best Actor while Anthony Hopkins was only getting the Best Supporting nomination. Makes sense in terms of the proportion of the story occupied with Francis as opposed to Benedict, but not at all in terms of who owns the film in terms of acting. I was totally absorbed in every syllable uttered and every gesture made by Hopkins’s Ratzinger, whereas I was noting where Pryce fell short in charisma, accents, in being generally wishy-washy.

John Barker on leadership

I thought this piece by John Barker on leadership (in Australia) was too good for Facebook. In fact, it should be widely republished.

We have been particularly poorly served by those who presume to be “leaders”. Which would lead one to wonder what we need, want or expect of this function.

Perhaps, two centuries ago, we needed somebody to help us muster courage and articulate a vision of possibilities in an unknown country. But then we just had profiteers and convicts.

Today, we have an educated and continuously informed society that doesn’t need a PM to be a proxy for their reasoning or emotions by offering his thoughts and prayers on their behalf. We don’t need a PM whose words are carefully crafted to “play to their base” in selected electorates in order to eke out a slender majority so that they can impose their idiosyncratic beliefs on us all.

The reality is that although a select few believe that they will be relieved of their mortal coil by the Rapture, the agnostic majority know that we are stuck here, with our children and grandchildren. There is no Planet B, there is no Country B and there is no longer an unexplored frontier in this wide brown and blackened land.

We scarcely need a “leader” – we probably never did. We just need a good “manager” of the “common-wealth” – to continuously review our position and direction with regard to our “sustainability”.

The notion of a “modern manager” would be useful, but alas! Our corporate leaders view themselves as “celebrities”, but are shown to have silver tongues and feet of clay- a self-serving “fourth sector”, distinct from customers, staff and shareholders, more focused on bonuses and golden handshakes after their brief tenure.

Similarly, our political leaders, many of whom become unaccountably wealthy while on relatively modest public salaries, using their tenure as a step towards “soft” corporate roles, undoubtedly trading the knowledge garnered from their privileged public positions.

No – we don’t need “leaders” like these. We just need good managers of the sustainability of the “common-wealth”, so that we aren’t an embarrassment to our grandchildren.

The Experience of Montaigne

Montaigne was the greatest essayist. Here’s the best bit from his best (and possibly last) essay, ‘On experience’. This is as good as it gets.

We are great fools. “He has passed his life in idleness,” say we: “I have done nothing to-day.” What? have you not lived? that is not only the fundamental, but the most illustrious, of your occupations. “Had I been put to the management of great affairs, I should have made it seen what I could do.” “Have you known how to meditate and manage your life? you have performed the greatest work of all.” In order to show and develop herself, nature needs only fortune; she equally manifests herself in all stages, and behind a curtain as well as without one. Have you known how to regulate your conduct, you have done a great deal more than he who has composed books. Have you known how to take repose, you have done more than he who has taken empires and cities.

Carmen Lawrence on living in a (small) city

Carmen Lawrence’s piece on being among the heritage buildings of Fremantle will be of interest to anyone who has ever for a moment thought about their experience of being in a city – of any size.

People do not simply look out over a landscape and say, “this belongs to me” they say, “I belong to this”. Concern for familiar topography for the places one knows is not about the loss of a commodity but about the loss of identity. People belong in the world; it gives them a home.

Dr Lawrence was Premier of Western Australia, and later also Chair of the Australian Heritage Council.

I put this paper on my Fremantle Stuff site, but was asked by the copyright holder (the Fremantle History Society) to take it down, because they wanted to sell the hard copies.