Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Courtesy of Evol Kween comes this rather fun meme, which struck me as an excellent way to waste 10 minutes at work on a Wednesday. Here's what you do.

A) Grab your iPod.
B) Set it to shuffle.
C) Use the names of the songs that come up in order to answer the following questions.

Easy huh? Here we go...

1. What does next year have in store for me? ‘The Wobbly Mammoth’

2. What’s my love life like? ‘So Many Ways

3. What do I say when life gets hard? ‘Headcleaner’

4. What do I think of on waking up? ‘Cane and Rice’

5. What song will I dance to at my wedding? ‘Mary Jo’

6. What do I want as a career? ‘Whistle Down the Wind’

7. My favorite saying? ‘Everybody’s Song’

8. Favorite place? ‘Where the World Begins and Ends '

9. What do I think of my parents?Redford (For Yia-Yia and Pappou)’

10. What’s my porn star name? ‘Moonlight’

11. Where would I go on a first date? ‘Over’

12. Drug of choice? ‘Mesmerism’

13. Describe myself: ‘Je ne veux pas quitter’

14. What is the thing I like doing most? ‘Halloween’

15. What is my state of mind like at the moment? ‘Everyone Kisses a Stranger’

16. How will I die? ‘Love Song’

And the artists are, from 1 - 16: - Beatrix, Mates of State, Einsteurzende Neubauten, Sodastream, Belle and Sebastian, Tom Waits, Low, The Dears, Sufjan Stevens, Mono, Portishead, Dead Can Dance, Francoiz Breut, Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd, Francoiz Breut (again!), and finally - and rather appropriately - The Cure.

So - that was cryptic but fun. And quite truthful at time: my career does feel like I've always been blown by the winds of fate; judging by recent Zombie activity Halloween could well be the thing I like doing most; and while I'm not quite sure what 'Je ne veux pas quitter' means (I think t means something along the lines of 'I am not a quitter' it seems rather appropriate to have as a personal description of myself. And finally, I rater like knowing that I'll die while in love...

MIFF part one

I'm rather time-poor at the moment, so my MIFF reviews will be of necessity rather brief. That said, here are some words on the handful of films I've managed to see so far...


Had this opening night doco about the Ozploitation era been 15 minutes shorter, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. As it was, I felt the film outstayed its welcome, with the last half hour or so definitely dragging a little.

Conversely, the pace in its opening half was fantastic: a dynamic, scattergun approach to documentary making. Great to be reminded of the many Ozploitation films I've already seen (either on video circa 1985, the year I moved out of home, such as Dead End Drive-In; or on television a few years earlier) and to have my appetite whetted for the many more I've not seen yet.

Thereafter a pretty cool opening night party, although not enough food, which meant as a consequence that I was hungover as all fuck the next day - though the fact that I didn't leave the after-party until about 4am may also have been a factor...


This documentary about GLBT life in Iran has a very specific, almost too narrow focus, in that it looks at a small number of gay men who 'voluntarily' undergo gender reassignment to live as women: the options otherwise are to flee Iran or face probable execution, given the Islamic state's well-demonstrated antipathy towards homsexuality.

Though we meet a lesbian woman who is also considering the procedure at the start of the film, we don't follow her story; nor does the film-maker speak to any actual transgendered people to get their perspective on the issue. These flaws aside, this is a powerful - and deeply depressing - documentary, and definitely one I'd recommend.


The latest film from George A Romero continues his series of horror movies in which the living dead are used as metaphors to explore current social issues. In his first film, Night of the Living Dead, it was the political unrest of the 1960s; in the more recent Land of the Dead it was the 'fortress America' attitude of the USA post September 11.

Diary of the Dead
is very much about the media as monster: specifically new media, such as blogs and YouTube. It's not always a successful film; indeed Romero's attitudes towards new media struck me as slightly conservative, even reactionary, while some of the dialogue spouted by the 20-something film student characters definitely doesn't sound contemporary. Nonetheless, I was more than prepared to forgive these faults and enjoy the film, which relies primarily on CGI effects rather than Romero's more traditional physical effects: and which as a consequence includes a bravura sequence involving acid and a zombie's slowly-dissolving head. Bravo!


Rather than utilising a more traditional documentary structure (ie voiceovers, talking heads etc), this film about the 63-year old, gay Aboriginal elder, cat burglar, award-winning actor and former junkie Jack Charles is an appropriately impressionistic study of a truly original character. We see Charles sleeping rough and shooting up; hear him talking matter-of-factly about personal tragedies and heartbreak; and laugh with him as he stands outside a Kew house he's burgled 11 times. While some might criticise the film-maker for getting too close to his subject, I think it's resulted in a much more illuminating and engaging film; one that presents a life literally as it's being lived, rather than a more detached observational documentary.


Although not for the faint-hearted, this searing, fictionalised account of child soldiers in an unnamed African civil war stands heads and shoulders above the other films I've seen at MIFF so far. By juxtaposing the most horrific acts with truly sublime and visionary cinematography, the film ensures than you cannot, will not forget the images it displays. Nor will you forget the tragedy of children being forced at gunpoint to kill their own parents, or seeing the natural exuberance of teenage boys channelled into acts of extreme, drug-fuelled violence. Director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire has crafted a truly stunning work of cinema that I wholeheartedly recommend, even as I warn that you will find it difficult viewing.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hanging out with George Romero

I promise to start blogging properly about MIFF soon, but for now, here's a small taste of what the last couple of days have been like: myself and George Romero sharing a laugh after recording an interview at Three Triple R earlier this morning (photo by Donna Morabito). God I love my life!

And here (pix by Jim Lee) are some shots from last Saturday night's premiere screening of the new Romero film, Diary of the Dead. After the recent Zombie Shuffle, the festival had asked Clem and I to arrange for some zombies to turn up to the premiere, for a photo opp with George. As you can see, we had quite a turn-out!

In the foyer of the Capitol before the screening - I'm the white-faced zombie to Romero's left (photo by Jim Lee)

At the Q+A after the screening (photo by Jim Lee).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Coming Out of the Bat Closet

At some stage in the next few days I'll hopefully find time to blog about the last three productions I've seen over the last week: Bell Shakespeare's Hamlet, Matthew Bourne's 'dance-ical' Edward Scissorhands, and Yana Alana and the Paranas in Bite Me Harder.

Today though, my brain in mush, so instead, I'm going to point you towards a fascinating essay on Batman's gay past.

A Batman who continued to live in 1945 was an economic liability in 1955. He was a threat to the family and to the bottom-line. Batman's "gayness," then, was a flash point for a larger set of social anxieties. Just as elites worked aggressively to purge society and government of homosexuality, so too did DC purge Batman of any social deficiency which could be interpreted or construed as "gay."

Was it enough? To satisfy the most vocal critics, yes. But, ironically, the move to surrealism and fantasy also pushed Batman into the territory of high camp, in which Batman's ostensibly heterosexual romances were suspiciously unbelievable.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Being Human

At some point I should blog about recently turning 41 and the way my birthday slipped past me like a ship in the night; or the superb season four finale of Doctor Who; perhaps the MIAF program, launched last night, which Alison has already blogged about in generous detail; or this year's MIFF program, which I've now finished digesting which means I can map out my film viewing for the next few weeks.

But no.

Instead, I'm going to alert those of you who don't already know about it to a fantastic new-ish (it aired in February) TV program from the UK that's sure to whet the appetites of anyone who's A) ever lived in a share household, B) wants to know what out gay actor Russell Tovey (Rudge in the film of The History Boys, and Midshipman Frame in Doctor Who: Voyage of the Damned) is up to, career-wise, and C) like myself enjoys sinking their teeth into genre shows with a supernatural bent.

Readers, meet Being Human.

In February, the show's pilot screened on BBC Three, to much acclaim and fanboy slavering. Then in April, a six-part series was commissioned, to be screened next year.

But what's it all about, I hear you ask? Let me quote from the media release:

Starring Russell Tovey, Andrea Riseborough and Guy Flanagan, the pilot of Being Human followed the lives of three flatmates – a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost – in a witty, sexy and extraordinary look at the friendship between three 20-something outsiders trying to find their way in an enticing, yet complicated world.

I've just finished watching the pilot episode, which has utterly captivated me. It's not without its faults, but overall it's extremely engaging. The characters are well drawn and extremely sympathetic, and the premise for the show's drama is strong and consistent. If you'd like to see what I'm talking about, I've posted the first part of the pilot episode below; you can find the rest of it on YouTube, here. Enjoy!

Burn, heretic, burn

So, at the massive Catholic mass that officially opened World Youth Day in Sydney yesterday, Our Glorious Leader KRudd said:

"Some say there is no place for faith in the 21st century. I say they are wrong. Some say faith is the enemy of reason, I say also they are wrong. They are great partners, rich in history and scientific progress."

Yeah, right, Kevin. Tell that to Galileo.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

REVIEW: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

1927 is an English cabaret company, whose acclaimed Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is currently being performed at the Malthouse Theatre here in Melbourne. The show, an inspired blend of silent film homage and delightfully gothic spoken word, is a singular delight, and one I strongly recommend for film buffs and theatre afficianados alike.

The concept of the show is deceptively simple: two performers (writer/director Suzanne Andrade and Esme Appleton, both appropriately dressed in Louise Brooks mode) perform on stage against a backdrop of scratchy, flickering silent film-inspired projections by Paul Barritt, to a live piano score by Lillian Henley. I say deceptively simple, because the timing required to make the show work - for voices to speak in unison and for performers to match their movements to the images and sets projected on and behind them - clearly requires significant labour.

There's a wonderful, playful sense of the grotesque permeating the show, as well as a clear love of the tropes of silent cinema and the entertainments of the day. From a Perils of Pauline like moment with a character tied struggling to a train track (perfectly evoked with the simplest of animation) to the chilling yet hillarious image of a menacing army of gingerbread men, the visions presented by 1927 are twisted, grand and glorious. Nor are all their stories firmly rooted in the past; as references to Mr Squiggle, and another story in which the bored children of the upper middle class play act being homeless crack whores, delightfully illustrate.

From unexpected lunacy (a piano-playing proboscis monkey) to menacing and monstrous children whose macabre games shatter the fourth wall, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is a thorough delight, whose any major fault is that it ends so soon after it begins. I highly recommend that you visit the Malthouse post-haste before its all-too-brief season ends on July 13.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Love, Life and Art: The films of Derek Jarman

Derek Jarman on the set of 'Caravaggio'

Derek Jarman was a true renaissance man.

Through his books, his paintings and especially his films, the English artist and activist was an eloquent and passionate spokesman for gay rights at a time when Britain’s conservative government, under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was doing its best to stamp out gay culture forever.

In 1988, even as an entire generation of gay men were being ravaged by the AIDS crisis, Thatcher’s government introduced a notorious piece of legislation, Section 28; which forbade ‘the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’.

But instead of silencing gays and lesbians the introduction of Section 28 galvanised them; uniting a community that until then had largely been divided along gender lines, and prompting the largest queer rights demonstrations the UK had ever seen.

It was in these turbulent times that Jarman’s creativity was at its peak, as a new documentary about his life and work, to be shown at the Melbourne International Film Festival later this month, so aptly demonstrates.

Derek, directed by Issac Julien and narrated by the Academy Award-winning actress Tilda Swinton, is a fitting and long overdue testimony to Jarman’s life and prolific output. (By the time he died of an AIDS-related illness in 1994, just a few short years after being canonised by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Jarman had made more than 50 short films and features.)

You were the first person I met who could gossip about St Thomas Aquinas and hold a steady camera at the same time,” Swinton says in voiceover in the documentary, in an open letter to Jarman, with whom she worked on a number of films.

“I thought it would be good to hang out with you for six weeks: I guess we had things to say. Our outfit was an internationalist brigade. Decidedly pre-industrial. A little loud, a lot louche. Not always in the best possible taste. And not quite fit, though it saddened and maddened us to recognise it, for wholesome family entertainment.”

Jarman’s feature films may not have been considered ‘wholesome’ in their day, but the director’s unique blending of his artistic sensibility and overt gay sexuality has ensured that they will long be remembered and celebrated.

In works such as Edward II (about the openly gay English king of the same name, adapted from the play by Christopher Marlowe, a gay contemporary of William Shakespeare) and Caravaggio (a biopic of the bisexual 16th century rogue and artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio) Jarman’s unique aesthetic is lucidly and beautifully displayed.

Caravaggio was a poet of the low-life who employed pimps and prostitutes as the models for the saints and angels he painted so lovingly; an artist whose work captivated the Italian society of the day even as his unconventional life shocked and scandalised them. As Jarman told the English newspaper The Guardian in 1986, “[Caravaggio] burnt away decorum and the ideal...knocked the saints out of the sky and onto the streets...his St John pictures are a succession of male nudes - straight forward physique photographs.”

In making Caravaggio, which is released on DVD this week, Jarman strove to capture the Italian painter’s innovative style as much as he sought to explore his unorthodox life. The film is shot in the way Caravaggio would have painted it, with lovingly lit scenes in which the painter’s works come to life on the screen; and narrated by Caravaggio himself (played by Nigel Terry) as he lies on his death bed, reflecting on his art and recalling his ménage à trois with the bare-knuckle boxer Ranuccio (Sean Bean) and Ranuccio’s girlfriend, the prostitute Lena (Tilda Swinton).

The deliberate inclusion of anachronisms - courtiers in doublets pounding away at upright typewriters, the sound of a train passing through a medieval city – ensures the story’s twined themes of creativity and passion are eternal.

Even as he himself was dying, Jarman found time to reflect on these themes anew, and their relevance to his own rich life.

“I am tired tonight. My eyes are out of focus, my body droops under the weight of the day, but as I leave you Queer lads let me leave you singing,” Jarman wrote in his 1992 autobiography, At Your Own Risk. “I had to write of a sad time as a witness – not to cloud your smiles – please read the cares of the world that I have locked in these pages; and after, put this book aside and love. May you of a better future, love without a care, and remember we loved too. As the shadows closed in, the stars came out.

“I am in love.”

Derek Jarman’s films Caravaggio and Wittgenstein are out now on DVD through Umbrella Entertainment.

Isaac Julian’s documentary about Jarman, Derek, screens at the Melbourne International Film Festival later this month.

This article originally appeared in MCV #391 on Thursday July 3.