Sunday, May 10, 2009

A note on Australian cinema

Neil Cross's novel Burial (which is neither Australian nor cinema, but bear with me) made me feel sick for the same reasons some of the Barbara Vine ones do and it was not a good thing to be reading in the same 24 hours as watching Wolf Creek, about which I kept thinking the allusions to Picnic at Hanging Rock were very well and subtly done, not least the riveting presence of John Jarratt in two movies over 30 years apart. That thought was a kind of distancing/defence mechanism, I think. Thank God I watched it on commercial TV with ads to break it up or my heart would have given out.

16 comments:

TimT said...

Well I wasn't aware Jarrat was in Picnic, which I love.

Wolf Creek really is quite a horrible and well-made film (why does art make sentences like that one possible?) There are lots of interesting little cultural pointers in there that give it resonance. I did pick up the the 'frozen watches' bit in the film - though maybe Greg McLean was also thinking about all those myths of UFO abduction that have the abductee's watch freeze at the moment of abduction.

Pavlov's Cat said...

He plays the beer-drinking groom, Albert, the aristocratic young hero's sidekick. He's the one who finds the hero semi-conscious out on the Rock (note Mick Taylor-esque hat), takes the scrap of lace from his hand, and ends up finding Irma. You can see him here from about 2.35-2.45 -- he was about 20, I think it was his first film.

ThirdCat said...

How good is that story? The book, the film, the music, the actors, Martindale Hall. The whole thing, so wonderful. Even just watching that youtube clip takes my breath away.

I'd be scuttling off to read that (again) now, if only I had my books with me.

ps Picnic at Hanging Rock I'm talking about, not Wolf Creek, which I'm too chicken to watch

and I know word verification jokes are bit passe, but: acksatre

Pavlov's Cat said...

TimT, I did partly mean the stopped watches, but I was actually also thinking of the other suggestions of the supernatural attached to a freak geological formation that may have a malevolent edge, as well as the more general idea of threat immanent in the landscape, plus the sacrifice of the young and innocent. I think the telly version may have been cut so I'm not sure whether Mick Taylor was disabling people's cars while they were off exploring the crater (but if so, what was all that about the stopped watches with its implications of electro-magnetic disturbance?) or whether there really was some such disturbance doing it (but if so, why was Mick Taylor's truck all right?) There were also PIcnic's hints of incongruous invaders in that landscape and hints of postcolonial payback -- in a way Mick Taylor is part of the landscape, repelling foreign intruders -- which he sees as his job, like shooting vermin.

3C, I spent a big chunk of the summer of 1971-72 living in Martindale Hall with a small group of fellow undergraduates -- it was owned by the U of Adders who hadn't got round to doing anything with it yet (and this was a couple of years before Peter Weir found it) and we sweet-talked the Vice-Chancellor into letting us go up there for a self-run drama camp. And there was indeed plenty of drama (and a certain amount of camp), just not the kind we'd meant. But we did actually do a bit of work around the place -- the boys mended and painted the long, long fences down the drive and I catalogued the library, mainly. But that summer was an unforgettable epoch in one's life, at one stage threatening to turn into a Barbara Vine novel and certainly leading me down a couple of paths I should have stayed off. I spent two days up there lying on Miranda's bed reading The Female Eunuch when I was supposed to be cooking dinner for the boys on the gigantic 19th-century wood stove.

TimT said...

Right, references are to be found in the larger themes... I was thinking back to the two films and the scene that came to mind in Wolf Creek was the one where Taylor recaptures an escaping backpacker on the foot of a precipice (can't remember the details of the movie, but I think that's more or less what occurs), which is a neat reversal of what happens in Picnic, as well as a reprisal/reference.

I always loved that story I read in a Philip Adams article about Joan Lindsay and how she never wore watches/kept clocks because they just broke. If it isn't true, it deserves to be.

Bwca Brownie said...

Joan Lindsay's 'Time Without Clocks' was one of my most enjoyable reads, but I got alot of enjoyment when I just read

"reading The Female Eunuch when I was supposed to be cooking dinner for the boys"

oh ho ho bwah ha ha.
Subversive little book.

genevieve said...

PC, what an amazing story about Martindale. Beautiful.

Bwca Brownie said...

Jarratt played the title role in Barry Oakley's 'Salute to the great McCarthy' which came out the same year as PAHR.
His was a great performance in a crap film which had every great Australian sitcom lead actor -they're all in it.

Sounds like your summer in that house is a movie?

Pavlov's Cat said...

Brownie and Genevieve, yes, it was pretty amazing in that house and quite haunting. The house was not derelict, but it was very neglected yet still with that OTT late-Victorian overdecoratedness, cool inside because of the massive walls even on very hot days, and a sort of golden colour in the summer sun. You could swear the house itself is alive and listening. Peter Weir chose well.

But it's amazing we weren't all killed, really. There was faulty 1920s wiring; at least one of us was suicidal about his exam results; the night there was an electrical storm it didn't occur to me that it might be dangerous to go up onto the metal roof to watch it; and as for P and his effing gun collection ...

I was 18 and I think only one of us had actually turned 20, so there was a lot of sexual tension and intrigue, on top of everything else. My cooking skills were limited to biscuits, cakes and meringues, as made in a reliable late-model gas oven, but it was just assumed (including by me) that because I was a woman I would (a) know how to cook, and (b) do it. That was the summer I found out brown rice has to cook for longer that white rice, and that a frozen dessert must contain some sort of thickening agent. Who knew.

ThirdCat said...

That Martindale Hall story is fabulous. So fabulous.

librarygirl said...

Your story gave me the shivers. I've read a lot of Barbara Vine, and she'll be stealing this for a plot for sure. (Actually I think she's written one along these lines?).

genevieve said...

You will write us a story about it, won't you ? Please Please Please.

I went to a hippy Christian camp out in the hills once with people of that uncertain age, but the ambience was nowhere near the same. Women being stuck with cooking was, though. Funny thing, that.

Francis Xavier Holden said...

I saw Pure Shit on the big screen Sat night. Ms Garner, and others, were good.

I don't assume all women can cook- I 've had too much evidence to the contrary. However I do expect women can cook sweets which I can't. mea culpa - I guess deep down (or shallow) I think sweets are a girlie thing.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Librarygirl, indeed she has: I think of the Martindale experience in retrospect as a Barbara Vine story largely because of that novel, which is horrible. If you're thinking of the one I'm thinking of, they're a bunch of students in someone's inherited mansion; one of them has an ancient car called Goblander (anagram of Old Banger); and somebody dies and gets dug up decades later (very similar to the Neil Cross plot); and isn't there a cot death as well, just for fun?

I knew at the time that our whole Martindale era was a little sinister, which was confirmed when Picnic at Hanging Rock came out a couple of years later, and then reconfirmed in spades when I read the Barbara Vine book. So of course I remember it now through the double lenses of that book and that movie.

FXH, I'm sure you don't assume all women can cook. But then, it's 2009, and you are not nineteen.

librarygirl said...

A Fatal Inversion - spent some work time yesterday tracking it down! And now added to the huge "to read" (or in this case, re-read pile).

Francis Xavier Holden said...

But then, it's 2009, and you are not nineteen.sigh