Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Rumour: Holding the Man

I've heard a very reliable but as yet unverified rumour that the acclaimed Sydney production of Tim Connigrave's Holding the Man is coming to Melbourne next year, with at least one original cast member, as part of the 2008 MTC season. Can any of my fellow theatre-bloggers shed light on this, please?

Johnny Depp is Sweeney Todd

For the handful of you yet who haven't seen this poster already, I give you Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, in the forthcoming film version of Stephen Sondheim's deliciously dark musical directed by Tim Burton.

I'd be the first in line to say that Burton's been off his game lately, as dire films such as The Planet of the Apes 're-imagining' (rather than remake), the saccharine Big Fish and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory well indicate. Nonetheless, I have hopes for this one...

Thanks to Stale Popcorn for the poster.

Monday, July 30, 2007

MIFF 2007 Mon 30 July


Billed as "The closest most of us will get to the cerative genius of the mad gonzo journalist," this hagiographic biopic about journalist and author Hunter S Thompson was, for me a disappointment. While it certainly lived up to its subtitle by giving us a cavalcade of movie stars and film critics reminiscing about their friendships with Thompson, it never really gave us a sense of the man beneath the persona. Nor did it present anything other than a portrait of the man as a loveable rogue. Where was the other point of view - from the son who grew up with an unpredictable alcoholic father, or the literary critics who deem has contribution to the literary canon as forgettable or uninspired? Not in this film, that's for sure.

It also suffered somewhat from a muddy soundtrack, which for me at least rendered some of Hunter's own clips and conversations barely audible (although this may be more the fault of the soundtrack in the increasingly decepit Greater Union theatre: MIFF staff, please find another venue to use!) and - ironically enough in a film about gonzo journalism, a rather pedestrian approach to interviewing its subjects. Interspersing their reminiscences with film clips of Bill Murray from Where The Buffalo Roam (1980) and Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas (1998) playing the good doctor could not detract from the fact that, in the end, most of the film was a cavalcade of talking heads. Quite frankly, there are more interesting ways to explore the life and legacy of a writer of Hunter s Thompson's calibre and eccentricty.

Buy a Ticket, Take a Ride: Two stars

Dear Art, Please Touch Me

I thought I might post this on behalf of a young local artist who's looking for help with an upcoming project...

* * *

The Project: Dear Art, Please Touch Me
I am looking for people to interview for the 'Dear Art, Please Touch Me', as part of the Next Wave Festival's Kickstart program.

It's an audio tour and I'm recording samples of opinions and stories on a series of artworks.

Someone with a bit of 'character' a unique personality, perhaps you have an interesting cousin, aunty, friend, workmate etc. (preferably who isn't a 20 or 30 something art educated person) who wouldn't mind talking about an artwork for ten minutes, then please give me a hoy. I am looking for some diversity, so my preference is anyone with a different accent, interesting voice, a good storyteller, perhaps children and elderly persons or perhaps, they are very monotone but they have something destinctive that sets them apart from others.

I can come to you with the recording equipment, all I would need is a ten minutes of your time to look at a picture of an artwork and have an informal chat about it, nothing scary. An art education is not necessary, everybody has the right to an opinion, to tell their own version. Names and personal details will be kept confidential.

Hear a sample
to have a clearer idea, you can hear an expample at:

Cheers and Cheerio,
Danielle Freakley

e: thequotegenerator AT gmail.com
w: www.thequotegenerator.com

A fine Bromance

So, I've worked out what was going on between me and you-know-who.

For the last three weeks, the two of us have been getting together every weekend, sometimes at his place, sometimes at mine. We've been talking intimately about all manner of subjects, from personal experiences to pop culture; getting drunk, hanging out and sleeping in the same bed, only to wake up and talk for hours more, lying beside each before, getting up and having lunch or coffee or whatever.

I'm really enjoying this guy's company, but I also thought I might be getting mixed signals (funny, that!). He'd said he wasn't looking for sex or a relationship from me, but yet we were sharing a bed. He said he just wanted to be friends, but yet we were having this intense, intimate friendship of our own.

I couldn't work out what was going on. So, on Saturday night, and again on Sunday morning when we woke up beside each other, we talked about it.

So, now I've worked it out. Seems having a bromance isn't just a straight guy thing!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

MIFF: Fri 27 July - Sat 28 July

Real life keeps getting in the way of the Melbourne International Film Festival this year, which means I've only seen half the films I'd planned to see so far. What I have seen so far has been pretty dark, as the following brief reviews will show: murder, AIDS, incest and bestiality!

CORROBOREE (dir Ben Hackworth, Aus 2007)

The debut feature by young Melbourne director Ben Hackworth is a deliberately eliptical film in which tone and mood are more important than traditional three-act narrative structure. You can read my article about the film here, in MCV, which certainly helped me understand what was unfolding on screen. Many among the audience lacked such insight, which resulted in a large number of walkouts at it's Melbourne premiere on Friday night.

This slow-moving story about a dying gay man who hires a young straight boy to re-enact key scenes from his life in a final bid to come to terms with himself and his sexuality was often striking, but too often felt a little too 70s art film for my tastes. Nonetheless, I'd rather see an ambitious failure than a bland success any day.

SAVAGE GRACE (dir. Tom Kalin, USA, 2007)

The second feature film from director Tom Kalin (Swoon) in 15 years, Savage Grace is the true story of Barbara Baekland, a society dame who was murdered by her own son, Tony, in 1972. It seems that Tony eventually snapped after his mother's repeated attempts to cure his homosexuality by fucking him drove him over the edge.

This beautifully presented story of murder, class and incest is not for everyone, but I found its superb central performance by Julianne Moore as Barbara; its gorgeous texture and composition; and uncomfortably riveting plot quite fascinating.

On Saturday I was lucky enough to present a conversation with Tom Kalin at the festival, which despite a relatively small audience went over extremely well. Look for a full transcript of our hour-long some in the coming weeks on Senses of Cinema (I hope!).

THE WITNESSES (dir. Andre Techine, France, 2007)

Set in the first years of the AIDS pandemic, at a time when the HIV virus was just being discovered, this vibrantly-shot film about the impact of the disease on a tight-knit group of friends was less engaging than I had hoped. Indeed at one stage, about a third of the way into the film, I was seriously considering walking out. By its final third it had re-engaged my interest, to the point of tears, but nonetheless I can't really recommend it with much enthusiasm.

Performances are good but never great, while the story itself tells us nothing new as AIDS dramas go, failing to ever really dig deep into the psyches of the characters concerned or give us a fresh perspective on those first, terrifying years of the crisis, when gay men were dropping like flies.

ZOO (dir. Robinson Devor, USA, 2006)

My high hopes for this documentary about a famous case of bestiality (or zoophilia, as the film's subjects would no doubt prefer to be described) faded before it even began, thanks to a projection fault at the Greater Union Cinema which saw the film's starting time delayed by almost 20 minutes. When it eventually began, it was slightly out of focus, and remained that way for the rest of the screening.

Exploring the 2005 case of a man who bled to death after being fucked by a horse, which led to a clandestine network of zoophiles - or zoos, as they call themselves - being uncovered, director Devor has chosen to make a poetic, dreamlike film, instead of a more traditionally structured documentary. The result, while pleasant enough, fails to get inside the heads of its interviewees, and so consequently never really engages with its subject matter to any real degree. A pretty to watch but ultimately unsatisfying documentary.

SAVAGE GRACE: Three and a half stars
THE WITNESSES: Two and a half stars
ZOO: Two stars

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Flicks

There's something stupidly exciting about the opening night of a film festival. On Wednesday, as I frocked up at home after work, I felt quite elated and excited about the evening ahead; especially the after-party. I do love a good occasion, on occasion.

So, doing my best impression of semi-goth dapper, and accompanied by a be-suited No-Necked Monster, off we went - first for a glass of bubbles and conversation at The Long Room; then up the red carpet and into the decadent confines of the Regent Theatre (pictured left). Built when going to the flicks really was an occasion, the Regent - an opulent picture palace that first opened its doors in 1929 - was abuzz with an opening night crowd in all their finery (although The Age's Jim Schembri looked as scruffy and cantankerous as he always does). In theory the dress code is black tie, but most of the men made do with a lounge suit - even so, their were more than a few penguin suits on display. Some cute men too, but tonight, I wasn't really in the frame of mind to check out the talent...

Things followed a predictable pattern - at first. Speech from the Festival Chair, check. Speech from the major sponsor, check. Speech from the Premier, check. Then - in a surprise - the opening night short film started. Especially surprised were the cast and crew of the locally made Remember My Name who were in attendance, as only their producer knew the flick had been selected for opening night. A parade of talking heads - intense and passionate individuals all - spoke of their loyalty and their committment to an upcoming event, the details of which were unknown to us, and for which they had long prepared. Intimations that their activities were illegal, possibly even dangerous, were dropped in as the film went on. Some said that they weren't afraid of what they were about to do, only of their leader. The denoument was a delightful surprise, and a spectacular feel-good moment that has to been to be believed (no spoilers from me to ruin the fun for you). Well shot and structured - though over-long (I felt it needed to be edited back by a couple of minutes to elevate the pace and tension) Remember My Name was a great way to start the festival.

After it finished, first-time festival director Richard Moore took to the stage to welcome us all, to thanks the sponsors, and get things underway.

The opening night feature was Michael Moore's Sicko. Like all the features to date by this provocative propogandist for social justice, Sicko is an undeniably entertaining but nonetheless manipulative, heavy-handed and one-eyed examination of the director's latest cause celebre - in this case, the abject failure of the US health system. To be exact, as many of us know, the USA doesn't have a health service. Unlike the rest of the western world, the concept of socialised medicine, whereby we all contribute to the cost of health care for the whole of society, simply doesn't exist in the US.

The result, as Moore shows us in his film, are people being turfed out of their sickbeds and dumped on the footpath when they can't pay their hospital bills; and people dying because their health insurance companies are more concerned with saving costs than saving lives by refusing to provide cover for vital surgical procedures.

While elements of the film were truly moving - such as a scene where emergency service workers who worked at Ground Zero on 9/11 met with their counterparts in Cuba; and the firsthand stories of people who have suffered or lost loved ones due to the flaws of the US health system - too often the film's message was lost in puerile humour, or shot down by its inability to present a fair and even-handed argument.

To be fair, I'm obviously not part of the demographic Moore's film was aimed at, and it would be fascinating to sit in a cinema in a fly-over state in the USA and watch the audience's reaction to the case Sicko makes (although he's also such a well-established brand that I doubt many Republican voters would actually be prepared to go and see the film). It's also too long - at two hours duration, the excision of superfluous material would be a definite improvement. Oh, for more ruthless editing!

Then it was on to the party, held underground, in the stunning Regent Ballroom; a gorgeous, garish architectural fantasy straight out of decadent Hollywood's vision of the past. The champagne flowed, but food was lacking in both zest, diversity and availability. The party highlight? My seeing Sir Ian McKellan and being utterly star-struck, to the point where I gushed like a 13 year old, "You are a god among men!" I blush even now at the thought that I actually said that to one of the world'd leading actors and advocates for gay rights.

Eventually, at midnight, we left for bed. I would have loved to have stayed and partied on, but I had to be up early for my radio show, so I missed seeing Richard Moore cutting a rug on the dancefloor. If that's not a sign of change at the festival, I don't know what is!

Remember My Name: three stars
Sicko: two and a half stars

The Simpsons Movie (which I saw last night - an innocculation of popcorn for the mind before delving deep into MIFF from tonight): three stars

Steve Bracks has just resigned

Fancy that. I wonder who'll replace him as Victoria's Premier? Cue the jostling in the party room, the knives in the back. Brumby? Thwaites? This could be interesting...

And right now...

... I should be blogging about the opening night of MIFF, or about seeing The Simpsons movie with a bunch of mates; or describing the pleasure of seeing a friend's Irish bf meet the Irish boyo I'm currently interested in, in the charming surrounds of the bar, Horse Bazaar. But no. It's amost bedtime. Instead I shall urge you to grab a copy of the magnificent new album by Swedish duo Studio, West Coast - or the compilation album Music for Hairy Monsters - and that done, I shall crawl into bed... Adieu!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I originally saw this dizzyingly wonderful play by Lally Katz in its original run at North Fitzroy 's independent theatre The Storeroom in 2004. Now re-staged in the almost-as-intimate confines of the Malthouse Theatre's Tower Room, this new production uses the same set and generates the same unsettled sense of strange delight, thanks to the sure hand of director Chris Kohn.

Abalone (Luke Mullins) and his sister Gerture (Katherine Tonkin in the role originally played by Jessamy Dyer) were orphaned as a result of an tragic pruning accident. Their intimacy as children has carried over into the almost-adult life they share in the claustrophobic confines of the family home - reduced here to a single, cluttered room, wonderfully designed by Adam Gardnir - where their games have taken on a dark and unsettling edge.

To escape her brother's semi-incestuous attention, and her own flawed fantasies which picture her as the lover of a domineering thug; Gerture escapes at length into a fantasy world, a classroom, where she is the teacher. Abalone, frustrated as he is by his inability to control his sister, has nonetheless roped her into his plans to play Lady Macbeth to his Macbeth in the annual village eisteddfod (a general showcase of talent, or lack thereof), which he is desperate to win.

I'll make no bones here of my admiration for Katz, whose magic-realist approach to theatre makes her one of the most unique voices in Australian drama today. Her creative partnership with Kohn has led to some amazing work; such as The Black Swan of Trespass, about the tortured life of fictional poet Ern Malley. Here, Katz has constructed a beautifully realised, darkly comic gem of a play that explores love and longing, sibling rivalry and the nature of desire, in a manner that is utterly convincing despite its studied avoidance of staged naturalism and realism.

As Alison points out, "there is an anarchy" at the core of Katz's unpredictable narratives which ensures one's fascinated attention; for her plays shun predictable situations and outcomes, much as Gerture shuns her brother's clinging demands. The absurdity of the production perfectly counterpoints the tension and drama underlying Gerture and Abalone's relationship; the performances by Mullins and Tonkin are spot-on; and Kohn's direction is even more assured than in previous productions.

Without doubt, The Eisteddfod is one of the theatrical highlights of the year; it should not be missed.

Get Black

When your computer screen is white - an empty word page, or the Google
page - your computer consumes 74 watts, and when its black it consumes
only 59 watts. Mark Ontkush wrote an article about the energy saving
that would be achieved if Google had a black screen, taking in account
the huge number of page views, according to his calculations, 750 mega
watts/hour per year would be saved.

In a response to this article Google created a black version of its
search engine, called Blackle, with the exact same functions as the
white version, but with a lower energy consumption, check it out.

BLACKLE - www.blackle.com

About Blackle

How is Blackle saving energy?

Blackle saves energy because the screen is predominantly black. "Image
displayed is primarily a function of the user's color settings and
desktop graphics, as well as the color and size of open application
windows; a given monitor requires more power to display a white (or
light) screen than a black (or dark) screen." Roberson et al, 2002

In January 2007 a blog post titled Black Google Would Save 750
Megawatt-hours a Year proposed the theory that a black version of the
Google search engine would save a fair bit of energy due to the
popularity of the search engine. Since then there has been skepticism
about the significance of the energy savings that can be achieved and
the cost in terms of readability of black web pages.

We believe that there is value in the concept because even if the
energy savings are small, they all add up. Secondly we feel that
seeing Blackle every time we load our web browser reminds us that we
need to keep taking small steps to save energy.

How can you help?

We encourage you to set Blackle as your home page. This way every time
you load your Internet browser you will save a little bit of energy.
Remember every bit counts!

Help us spread the word about Blackle by telling your friends and
family to set it as their home page. If you have a blog then give us a
mention. Or put the following text in your email signature:
"Blackle.com - Saving energy one search at a time".

There are a lot of great web sites about saving energy and being more
environmentally friendly. They are full of great tips covering the
little things that we can all do to make a difference today. Try
Blackling "energy saving tips" or visit treehugger.com a great blog
dedicated to environmental awareness.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sp that's that

Finished the final Harry Potter last night, after crying three times while reading it, and laughing out loud so much that it drove Mike out of the lounge to his bedroom. Strangely anticlimactic yet simultaneously satisfying; crying out for a good editor; expository dialogue; scenes that dragged on way too long. And yet... Rowling captures something - that time in adolescence when hope hasn't turned into idealism, when you're still innocent but no longer naive - she catches it and runs with it, so that the books sometimes startle and delight, whether it be with the death of a much-loved character, driven home with cruelly economical use of words; or an unexpected moment of trancendent joy that feels utterly, perfectly right. *sigh*

Monday, July 23, 2007

Interview: EYTAN FOX

Eytan Fox (right) with actor Ohad Knoller

In his new film, The Bubble, out and proud director Eytan Fox continues to grapple with the complexities of gay life – and life in general - in modern Israel.

Having already explored a secret military romance in his debut feature, Yossi and Jagger (2002); then espionage and gay-straight friendships in his follow-up film, Walk on Water (2004); in his latest film Fox turns his attentions to the fraught story of an affair between a young Palestinian man and his Israeli lover.

Set in and around hip Sheinkin Street, in Israel’s second city, Tel Aviv, The Bubble tells the story of Noam (Ohad Knoller, in a strikingly different role to that of macho Yossi, who he played in Fox’s earlier film), and illegal resident Ashraf (Yousef ‘Joe’ Sweid), as they navigate a relationship that is constantly threatened by the divide between their cultures. Complicating matters is the bitchy Yali (Alon Friedman), Noam’s jealous housemate, and an impending ‘rave for peace’ that the group are working on with the help of another housemate, Lulu (Daniela Wircer).

Alongside this all-too-human quartet is another important character; that of Tel Aviv itself.

“I live in Tel Aviv, and I really wanted The Bubble to be a love-song for Tel Aviv, to show the world that it’s different to the representations of other parts of the country that people see in the media outside Israel,” Fox enthuses.

The director says he also set out to explore the liberal attitudes and liveliness of Tel Aviv’s youth culture in the film; attitudes which too often collide against the harsh reality of Israeli daily life.

“I really feel for young people living in Israel; they’ve been subjected to such terrible circumstances of living for so many years,” Fox says. “Young people should be going to university, discovering who they are and falling in love; enjoying life. But these people have to go into the army at 18, and be involved in war and occupation, and live in terrible fear.”

Consequently, he explains, they have developed a means of sometimes ignoring the world around them in order to survive; which consequently sees them derided for living in a bubble, a criticism Fox adopted as the title of his film.

“This bubble system that they’ve created for themselves; it’s a survival mechanism,” he says compassionately.

“It’s a system where they say ‘I will deal with this today, I won’t deal with this tomorrow’. In Israel, if you don’t have that monitoring, that bubble system, then reality comes in and attacks you from everywhere.”

It’s a reality which, as an openly gay artist, Fox has been instrumental in slowly helping to change.

“We had the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and this was a very big thing in Israel,” he says by way of illustration.

“The people who ran the show were a big, high-ranking army officer and a high-ranking policeman, and they managed the withdrawal peacefully, without casualties. They were chosen as men of the year, and everyone adored them, these macho Israeli men,” Fox continues.

“But in an interview, one of them described an emotional moment, as they stood overlooking Gaza, as the sun was setting and he realised the operation was over. He said, ‘We felt like Yossi and Jagger’. This was a macho, straight, top Israeli army officer using a gay love story between two men to express intimacy between him and another man. When I head that, when I heard them use my film, that story, to describe their relationship, I said, I can rest in peace now. I did my thing.”

The Bubble screens July 28 and August 7 at the Melbourne International Film Festival. www.melbournefilmfestival.com.au

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Pottering About

What a strange but fun weekend it's been.

Friday night I had drinks with an individual formerly known under a nationality-related non-de-blog, to which he's since objected for reasons oconcerned with anonymity; thus, henceforth, he'll be known as he Who Must Not Be Named (or HWMNBN for short - thought it's not that much shorter, really, is it?).

Anyway, we got drunk - me on cider first, then hot toddies - why didn't someone tell me that adding lemon, sugar and hot water to whiskey made it so much more drinkable? Then it was on to Cherry (and thanks Max, for getting us in) and Control, before retiring - chastely, I'll have you know - to my bed circa 3am. But why are we sleeping together, and hugging so often late at night in straight bars? Hmm. Mixed signals, or me reading too much into our friendship? I'll let you know once I know...

Saturday - hangover, sleeping in, finishing reading an old childhood treasure (more of which in a new post shortly) and then off to judge the Horse Bazaar/MOMA digital art prize - and I shall never, ever tire of helping judge artworks when it means awarding $5000 to artists. Hurrah!

On the way to Horse Bazaar, the following conversation with HWMNBN:

Richard: "I just want to go to a bookshop first."

HWMNBN: "Why?"

Richard: "To buy a book."

HWMNBN: "Why?"

Richard: "To read."

Much chortling from both sides followed. No, I wasn't planning to sit in a bar and read, but when I got home, after finishing another book (the afore-mentioned childhood treasure), I started the new, final, Harry Potter book at about 11pm - and went to bed, a couple of hundred pages in, about 3am.

Most of today, save for interviewing a screenplay writer and an actor at Kent Street this afternoon; followed by oing my laundry, and having a cuppa with an old and very, very dear friend and one-time housemate, Andrea (one of the most calming and centring people I know) was spent reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows - only to have my mum unwittingly spoil the ending for me during a phone conversation at about 8pm, when I was just over halfway though the book.


I'd successfully avoided reviews and online references and discussions of the book for two days, only to have my own mum drop the spoiler! Faaaaark!

To say I was pissed off is an understatement - and mum knew she'd done wrong too; having heard me say I'd sat up til 3am reading it, but not heard me say I was only halfway though the book.

"I've ruined your night, I'm so sorry" she said, and she meant it, too.

An hour later I was - literally - in tears at an unexpected plot twist, so called her back to reassure her that she hadn't ruined my evening.

Mothers - it's hard to stay pissed off with them for long, hey?

Anyway, now that I've blogged, I'm about to return to Harry's final adventure - although whether I finish it tonight, or dodge more spoilers - and hopefully more sucessfully - tomorrow, is anyone's guess...

Friday, July 20, 2007

For your viewing pleasure...

Thinking of going to this year's Melbourne International Film Festival, but don't want to waste your money on films that are going to have a local release within a matter of weeks or months?

Let me save some time for you. Here's a list of films at the festival that are confirmed for local distribution (as to when they open, just Google the title + Australia release date, and Bob's your auntie in drag):