Mary Magdalene

Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus

One of the reasons I wanted to see this is to get some idea of what Judaea might have been like back then – so, for historical reasons. And the opening scenes encouraged me to think that I might learn something – Greig Fraser’s photography is very good, and the landscape looked suitably unhospitable.

The only work that seems to be going on is herding and fishing, and Mary M seems to be a fisherman’s daughter. Everyone seems to be living in hand-to-mouth abject poverty. But as soon as ‘the Healer’ appears on the scene, everybody stops working. Mary literally drops the tool she’s using to mend a net and goes to join the merry band of disciples. Well, at least one of them seems to be inappropriately merry, as Jesus himself seems to be pretty miserable, and probably a bit deranged.

Joaquin Bottom (his birth name) is 43, but looks older – and much older than the 30-33 Jesus is supposed to have been, and not nearly as turn-the-other-cheek as the guy in the Bible. In fact, he does look quite like a rebellious insurgent – what we would now call a ‘terrorist’.

My main gripe about the film – as it was about Lion, Davis’s only other film – is that he clearly cannot direct actors, and has no global concept of the artwork (the film) as a whole (yes, I realise I can’t claim to know that – let’s say I intuit it). Phoenix is all over the place emotionally, and it’s hard to see that he has a lived-in core idea of what his version of Jesus is like.

Joaquin’s partner IRL is … Rooney Mara. It was probably contractual that if she took a role, so did he – or the other way around. Do they have sex in the film? … How dare I mention it! Of course they couldn’t. It would be something like sacrilege.

Bateleur Appears

I’ve started to compile cryptic crosswords again – like those in the Times and the Guardian – having acquired Crossword Compiler and a way to run it in a virtual box on this iMac.

My new setter name is Bateleur – after this guy  from the Marseille Tarot >

Voicemail?

Dealing with an answering service seems to me to be a bit like part of a contest for control.

I call you when I feel like chatting, but you make yourself unavailable.

And you call back, if you do, at a time when you feel like chatting.

It’s not conducive to a feeling of being in contact. More a feeling of a being the loser (or winner).  I don’t have an answering service turned on. If you ring me, you get me. Sadly, you don’t (ring me).

As you can see, I don’t even know what it’s called now. Voicemail, maybe.

PRS no more

I find I’m quite sad after the departure of Malcolm Turnbull. I would never have voted for him, but I still thought he was a good bloke.

I seem to want not to occupy a position on not only politics, but also religion – and why not throw in spelling?

Most people are going to go on in the infantile state of believing in some kind of god, and also seem to be incapable of learning the difference between its and it’s.

While I am in no doubt about those two trivial matters – they seem to me to be of equivalent difficulty – I find that I have nfi about the conduct of politics.

So I have decided that as from today, I won’t comment publicly or privately on anyone’s PRS – politics, religion, or spelling.

I’ll do what Voltaire advises through his character Candide: cultiver son jardin. I’ll simply look after my own metaphorical garden. And that’s all.

PM/President

I haven’t seen this comparison anywhere else, so I’ll present it here. We may have had a frequent change of leaders in this country, but there is at least one other country with a leader who is incompetent, perhaps criminal, maybe even insane, and there’s no legal way he can be taken down.

I’d rather be a citizen of this country.

Richard Thompson Live at Rockpalast

This has just been released in 2017 tho it was recorded in 1983 and 1984: RT Live at Rockpalast, as two DVDs and three CDs – of two performances, one in Hamburg and the other in Cannes. After the Hamburg gig, there’s an opportunity on DVD1 to watch a brief interview between RT and the German Rockpalast guy. This was after both performances, I now think, because Thompson is asked about his reception, and he mentions that whistling means different things in different countries. When I watched that, I wondered why he said that – because he was well received in the Hamburg Markthalle.  But now I’ve watched the Cannes gig, where a couple of slower numbers, particularly Night Comes In, seem to be badly received, with a great deal of whistling. If I’ve understood the audience behaviour correctly, I don’t know why the French weren’t expecting what they got.

The Hamburgers were insistent that they got more, bringing the band back to the stage twice for another six more songs than Cannes got – as either the French didn’t ask RT back, or he wouldn’t go. One result of that is that the first disk is a DVD9, but the second needs only to be a DVD5 🙂 Maybe he should have included Ça plane pour moi, which he does in perfect French, at great speed.

Redskin superhero?

There’s a bit of fuss atm about Black Panther (Ryan Coogler, 2018) the film which has given the American world its first Marvel Comic African-American superhero.

So that’s all good and fine, and as it should be. The descendants of former slaves are now proudly free and reclaiming their African-ness.

But what about the first people? Why is there no superhero arising out of the culture of the people who were there first?

Martin Simpson’s rubato

Martin Simpson seems to be widely regarded as being among the best instrumentalists in folk music. He is a very good musician indeed.

So why is he such a terrible singer? In the musician sense of singing.

It’s not just his voice, which is ordinary. It’s his … um … rubato. You know that thing that Frank Sinatra has always just got away with – singing behind the beat? Martin S delays so long on the last word in the phrase that he has to really rush to catch up in the next one.

And he does it again and again, and has done so through his whole career. Why has no-one ever been brave enough to tell him to just sing in time?

It means that his only good album is Cool and Unusual  – the only one in which he does not sing.

Swinging Safari

Stephan Elliott has directed more, but let’s consider six films. He wrote Frauds (1993), and it’s a most remarkable first feature. It already displays the main characteristic of most of Elliott’s films: it’s hard to classify. I have, somewhat reluctantly, to get out the rather broad term ‘surrealism’ – because I can’t think of another word that goes some way towards capturing the way Elliott’s imagination takes a detour, a diversion away from psychological realism. Which makes it difficult  to empathise with characters or story.

Then, immediately, we come to his masterpiece (in both senses of the word). Priscilla (1994) is implausible and outrageous, but it’s also something with which anyone who has been the least bit marginalised can relate to. And it was a great success.

Elliott didn’t write Welcome to Woop Woop (1997) but one feels he might have. This is one is less surreal and more fantasy/scifi/speculative, but it is outrageous, both in terms of spectacle (another Elliott characteristic) and sexual explicitness. Anyone who’s seen it will first recall: Rod Taylor dancing on the pub bar with with his boots wired to a car battery; second, Barry Humphries in a blindman cameo; and third: Rogerson Hammerstein [sic]. But I suspect not enough people did see it, and it made a loss (tbc).

So Elliott had to pull his head in and make some conventional films, like Eye of the Beholder (1999) a ‘mystery thriller’ of which I don’t think anyone is proud.

Then it was back to Australian comedy with A Few Best Men (2012), not written by Elliott. I did see this, but don’t feel qualified to say much about it (I think it’s a bromance), as I can hardly remember it – and anyway the memory has been obscured by the sequel A Few Less Men – which is not an Elliott film. One thing I’m sure about is that Lamprell’s effort is much worse.

And finally – for now at least – Swinging Safari (2018) – and the reason for which I wanted to write this little piece starting with Frauds – because we’re back into the ambiguous territory of the unempathetic. In any else’s hands this would have been a farce and a satire. It’s about wife-swapping in a past recent enough for many people to remember with amusement rather than nostalgia. Bringing Guy Pearce (now a superb, mature actor) back together with Kylie Minogue could have caused a great wave of fun – and affection – to wash over cinemas. But it didn’t happen. The characters are all kept at a distance in Elliott’s museum of Believe it or Not.

It tries (too?) hard to be comical, and repeatedly misses the mark. Whereas in Welcome to Woop Woop, the hyperbole just becomes weird, in this we should be in the realm of satire, but Elliott doesn’t have enough the ability to maintain the charitable malice required for that.