Walk outside into a graffiti-coated lane where several men are delicately painting, one with a miniature miner’s light strapped to his head, gleaming. He’s working in white paint, has sketched some lines, quick strokes, and now moves back, index finger tensed on the spraycan nozzle – an animal figure? – this on a freshly blackened, glossy section of wall: how many coats has that section received? It is the layeredness of walls around here that impressed me once, a prior century, and does so again. Several more people hold cameras before them, then we duck into the street behind Flinders (‘Little’ Something?) with small shops and either densely packed or very spare displays of luxury commodities, then cut back through the church building, stopping to stare for a while at the grottos with miniature figures in them, installed in brightly-lit window stalls. Well-worn bluestone steps, a hundred and fifty years of foot traffic create a bend in the stone, I turn around to stretch my achilles tendons on them, then turn back to see a figure that looks like a person dressed in a blanket, lying down, bad place to sleep I think, though where’s good?, and which turns into a person a few steps later, as I pass him or her, a freshly hatched four-wheel-drive sidles up beside me, two boys in private school blazers peer down from their palanquin at the sleeping human, raising to their mouths, perhaps, chips, I skip across six lanes of Flinders and ascend some more stairs while trying to find a sightline through the chips of sky between the angular buildings at Fed Square, to the station clock, to check time; three police stand around a citizen, sitting down, their bright yellow accoutrements, just chatting. Then more stairs, people gathering for other films, Ella arrives and we walk the other way past the cue snaking up the stairs, glad not to be in it. Follow the bike through 6:13pm streets, just gone dark, pedestrians collecting up at corners then flowing over them, a woman shaking a metal container at the corner, ‘for the homeless’, ‘I give her money sometimes’, ‘Is that her usual spot?’. Hardly notice the old Greater Union site now (now it is a ‘site’), consider the Japanese bar across the road with the glazed food displays: fish head, noodles being raised out of soup with chopsticks. ‘Funky Curry isn’t there any more’, ‘Some phở place’, ‘faux phở, geddit!?’ (‘fur phở?!); lock up bike on road island. Then the length of Cardigan Street, the length of Princes Park, different fields, faces under the sports oval Klieg lights, the ‘poured in’ green, the new years gatherings there, the solitary trips to the toilet block, happily drunk, passing the decorative lake, a train strike to look forward to, the parallel back lane, ‘goes quite a long way’, and more well-worn, toothy squares of bluestone.
(Dir: Rakhshan Banietemad)
Eisenstein in Guanajuato
While walking towards the theatre I ran into a friend and we caught up for a few minutes beneath a number of neon signs affixed to the threshold of an underground parking station, intermittently placing a blue cast upon his face. I continued on my way, eating from a bag of salt and vinegar chips I had just purchased for the fictional price of $1.99, entered a builidng, walked up a set of stairs, bought a small bottle for the regrettable price of $8.50, which was immediately opened and poured into a ridiculous, translucent, slightly columnar, plastic recepticle, walked up another set of stairs and took a seat on the far side of the theatre. Having not seen one of his films before, I had a sense of what ‘Peter Greenaway’ stood for in cinema terms and this was partly confirmed and partly modulated. For example I had a sense that the mise en scène would be sort of luxurious and factitious, and some of it was. Related to this, I had the sense there would be serious and severe long takes that desired to be Renaissance paintings. It was not like this; the camera jumped and span around quite quickly the whole way through, and several times the screen split up into a triptych of the same shot but staggered with a slight delay: The Eisentsein character’s monologues were punctuated with photographs – as in, he mentions Maiakovski, the right third of the screen becomes a photograph of Maiakovski, looking impressive; he mentions Chaplin, the left third of the screen… and so on (these lists of friends were a treat). Remember ‘special effects’? Whatever happened to them? Or do I not see the right movies? There were some of these, I think. One effect consisted of a very wide camera angle and psychedelically enhanced colours, and spinning around. In fact, ‘spinning around’ and ‘splitting into three’ were probably the most frequent formal ‘things’ that were happening, which, as I write this, seem to collude with the virgin Eisenstein’s dizziness in exoticised Mexico, struck down by lust and love. In short, it was much more playful than I’d expected, and was less reliant on/interested in the idea of the screen as a window ‘onto’ than the other films I’ve seen this festival, even the more experimental ones. The screen seems more like a console or a field, into or onto which quite ‘other’ things might happen. It confirmed that the theme of my film choices this year has been the Soviet past and our mixed feelings about it. The actor playing the Eisenstein character was clearly a thesp, ‘treading the boards’ restlessly, around and around and around, in various scenes, often nude or half nude, and when not so wearing a white (seersucker?) suit. It contained the most honest portrayal of food poisoning I think I’ve seen in a film.