Monthly Archives: July 2016

Trippin' Back Through the Decades

Now Martika was the best of them, so reviewer Michael Dwyer assured me. Of the coterie of one-hit wonders now working their way around Oz, including to this wintery isle, her ‘…powerhouse pop-rap-soul managed to elude the clutches of kitsch to simply sound great. She looked great, too, in her bike shorts and bob. But maybe tunes like ‘Love…Thy Will be Done’ and ‘Tin Soldier’ were always bigger than pants and hair.’ He was not so impressed with the rest of the troupe of semi-has beens from the period, but still gave their show a healthy three and a half stars. And I suppose, for us of the Countdown generation, ‘Totally 80s’ would succeed in taking us back – back trippin’ through time.

Now when the ads for the show appeared on my little screen at home, ad nauseam, over a countless number of weeks, interrupting the footy, I never for a moment thought of heading off to Wrest Point, their venue of choice here. But maybe I should have done. After all, they packed out St Kilda’s venerable Palais. According to Dwyer they evoked ‘…where the 1980s lives in collective consciousness: as an almost satirical world of what-were-we-thinking fashion crimes, good-humoured self-deprecation and songs so bad they’re…well, obviously you had to be there.’ Yes, probably. I’m sorry I now missed their Hobart gig – it would have been fun.

But then again I have done a little trippin’ back through the decades myself in recent weeks – back to those times Molly ruled Sunday nights at six o’clock – in my recent viewings. So let’s go to the start of the ‘Countdown’ era in the 70s with ‘Vinyl’ – an HBO series that makes those times come alive with gusto. If you’d think, on watching it, that it has a similar vibe to the glorious ‘Boardwalk Empire’, that would be down to the involvement of Martin Scorsese and Terrence Winter in both. Throw in Mick Jagger in the mix off-screen and one of Nucky’s off-siders as its rip-roaring, coke snorting star and it would seem there would be a recipe for success. This was truly sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll on a stick with lashings of nudity, violence and wonderful music thrown in and I thought it was grouse. Sadly, the American viewing audience didn’t take to it and nor did the critics. After initially commissioning it for a second season, HBO pulled the plug before filming got underway. But it stands okay as a one off and is well worth a gander.


Bobby Cannavale is the fulcrum of the show and is hot wired throughout. He is eminently watchable. He radiated charm when he was not high on illegal substances or booze, but out of control otherwise. He’s the head honcho of American Century Records trying to keep the company’s head above water. He makes a play for various artists such as Led Zepplin and even the King, but with the latter he’s no match for the Colonel. He also passes on a certain Swedish quartet as being of little talent, but does sign up a band fronted by a charismatic drug addict played by Mick’s son James, doing a good take on his dad. Ray Romano is excellent as one of Richie Finestra’s (Cannavale) lieutenants with Olivia Wilde and Juno Temple very fetching as Finestra’s put upon trophy wife and a savvy, young go-getter trying to make it in a man’s world respectively. Political correctness is thrown out the window with all the mayhem that goes on. There’s bloody murder; greasing of palms, including payola; as well as lavish ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ type parties, seventies style.


Especially enjoyable for my lovely lady and yours truly was guessing the rock icons as look-a-likes performed takes on their hits. It’s a terrific ride and the doped-up Cannavale in full flight is a sight to behold. Could it have been that fly by your pants back then? Fair bet it was and it’s truly worth seeing all laid bare on the small screen.

Now if you have fond memories of another time and place, enjoying the smuttiness of fare of the ilk of ‘Porky’s’ and ‘Animal House’, then ‘Everybody Wants Some’ may be for you. Set in the early eighties, this take on the genre from esteemed director Richard Linklater (‘Boyhood’, ‘Before Sunset’), is more modest, in all ways, than the over the top ‘Vinyl’. Here we take a peek at the lives of a group of baseball jocks as they arrive on campus to settle into a frat-house. Classes are still a few days off so its party time. For a great party one needs copious drink, pot and what else? Oh yeah – girls. So our lads head off to check out the local talent and hopefully pick up some willing ladettes to entice back for some wild times. That duly occurs. As the Guardian states in review, ‘…, the air is thick with testosterone, Aramis after-shave and the musk of well-used jockstraps.’ There’s a pumpingly good sound track going with it and as the boys explore the local dives, we are cannily introduced to the musical fads of the day. It does contain a modicum more depth and character development than its aforementioned forebears, but I suspect this will not go down as one of Linklater’s better efforts.


From the same decade, but from across the Atlantic, we have ‘Sing Street’, a joyous movie that I really, really liked and my Leigh adored – so much so I was out buying her the soundtrack the following day. From the same people who gifted us, last decade, the gem that was ‘Once’ (remember it – a little battler of a movie that made a more than tidy profit on the sniff of an oily rag budget), ‘Sing Street’s’ director, John Carney, is again on song (terrible pun). It is another paean to the pleasures of Irish music. If we can imagine a mix of the guys from U2 starting out, the Commitments plus, as one critic pointed out, even a bit of ‘Gregory’s Girl’ from way, way back, you get the feeling of this uplifting affair. Its the story of how a group of lads – yes, more lads, but a tad younger – get together in high school, form a band and the rest is history. Well, not quite, but that’s beside the point. It’s a lovely, lovely journey this indie takes us on and it’s so amusing to watch our lead, Conor/Cosmo (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), take on the personas of his latest musical heroes with his appearance – the Cure, Duran Duran, Elvis Costello, Spandau Ballet, Wham, Hall and Oates, they’re all involved. The object of his affection and his muse, Raphina ( Lucy Boynton) is quite luminous. She plays a lost soul and the ‘older woman’ who gradually succumbs to Conor’s charms. His older brother, Brendan, is an inspiration for much of what happens as well. In this role Jack Reynor is a scene-stealer.

sing s

So, how to sum up? It’s true that ‘Vinyl’ looks as though its had squillions spent on it and it’s worth taking the plunge and doing some binging, but for my money (boom-boom), it is outdone by ‘Sing Street’ as pure entertainment. ‘Once’ was a one-off (oh dear), never to be repeated classic, but ‘Sing Street’ lines up pretty well against it. But you be the judge. ‘Vinyl’, on DVD, is out there now and the other two will not be too far off on some form of small screen platform. Did I enjoy going back to those times of flares and platform shoes through these means? You betcha.

Trailer ‘Vinyl’ =

Trailer ‘Everybody Wants Some’ =

Trailer ‘Sing Street’ =

The Allure of Sprouts

It was the northern winter of ’80/’81 and I was in Madrid. I am a carnivore by habit but, after months of the heavy meat that had sustained me around Western Europe, I was looking for something a little lighter for that particular day’s lunch. My handy guide had recommended it and I recall I had to climb up some stairs to access it. Under ‘el vegetal’, on the restaurant’s bill of fare, I noticed an item, kindly translated into sprouts and bacon, which I duly ordered. I was mildly surprised that, when it arrived, the sprouts in question were of the Brussels variety. It smelt delicious and truly was. As for taste, it was nothing akin to how we served up this vegetable normally back home. Somehow roasted in the fat of the bacon, they melted in my mouth. In the end, being so, they were probably no more a healthier option than the tucker I’d normally ingest, but they were a revelation.


Now I have always been particularly partial to Brussels sprouts – and yes, almost in totality, the boiled version. My dear mother, in contrast to the mums John Lethlean disses in his column for the weekend Oz (see below), produced something that certainly did not ‘…smell like rotten eggs.’ So delicious was my mum’s tried and tested methodology I’ve followed suit all my adult life, never, for some reason, attempting to replicate what I devoured all those decades ago in a foreign country. Yep, I probably over-boil the delights to within a millimetre of disintegration, but served up with lashings of Western Star butter and black pepper, I am in vegetable heaven. To my mind, they are only surpassed by the king of legumes – broad beans. Reading that aforementioned scribbling by Lethlean took me back.

Leigh was scrabbling away in the back of the fridge the other day and declared she had found some bacon. Knowing my adoration of the humble sprout, she then inquired, ‘How would you like it if I cooked you up some Brussels sprouts with this leftover bacon?’ Just imagine my delight, just days after perusing said article, to be asked that question. Now she claims she has cooked it for me before, but I have no recollection of her doing so. Now you would think I would remember it, wouldn’t you? And what my dearest produced was every bit as delicious and more-ish as occurred in that Spanish eatery way, way back. It was decidedly memorable.

Basically Leigh just used JL’s method – she fried up the bacon, chopped the sprouts into small pieces adding them to the bacon and its fat. As they cooked, she added water to keep it all moist, deglazing the pan with a small amount of pepper, salt and garlic. Divine. She’s promised them again for me in the not too distant future. Can’t wait.

Now the sprouts in Madrid were so tantalising I decided to go back to the same place the next day, my last in the city, intending to order the identical dish. But when I saw their paella being presented at a nearby table, I changed my mind. Big mistake. Sure, it tasted good too, but the after effects lingered long – fully a week or more. I remember it was Amsterdam before I fully unclogged. Should have stuck to the sprouts.

Thanks Brussels – John Lethlean – !6.07.16

It’s been a poor year for Brussels. Let’s make that appalling. The terrorist attacks by IS. Brexit. The continuing, downtrodden reputation of the cruciferous vegetable that carries the city’s name wherever underrated vegetables are eaten. Why does everyone turn their nose up at sprouts?
Is it because of that largely British-inspired technique of boil-and-serve many of us endured as kids? It is, after all, a well-known fact that overcooking sprouts – the default position of most mums, once – makes them smell like rotten eggs because of the high levels of sulforaphane they contain. Well-known now, maybe.
A few chefs fight the good fight – traditional with lardons or chestnuts; modern and raw, using leaves as a salad or shredded in a ‘slaw – but on the whole, sprouts remain about as popular as Clive Palmer. It’s time for change.
Brussels sprouts are delicious, texturally interesting if cooked the right way, full of good stuff that makes you healthy and a fine winter alternative to carb-heavy side dishes.
Two interesting facts. There are apparently more than 110 different varieties of sprouts. Commonly, in Australia, we see Churchill, Napoleon, Napoleon F1, Hastings and Arundel. And I have read that there are more than 9000 documented ways to cook a sprout. Let’s make that more than 9001, shall we?
Given that they appear in dishes going as far back as Roman times, it seems appropriate to give them a kind of Italian roasting. First, get a baking dish large enough to accommodate your new green friends loosely. They need room. Trim the white bases a little and cut an X across the crowns; this helps heat and flavours to penetrate and aids crisping.
Now, using your own preference for flavour emphasis, finely slice garlic, crumble dried whole chillies and chop anchovy fillets. I find about six anchovy fillets, one organic garlic clove and two small dried chillies for about 400g of sprouts does the trick, but my palate’s programmed to a kind of
Sicilian/Calabrian in-your-faceness. You might add some finely sliced onion at this point. Add sprouts and jumble it with olive oil and pepper; don’t salt.
Now, it’s a two-stage cook. First, with about 100ml of water in the pan, give the sprouts around 25 minutes in the oven on 150°C (fan). This will steam them through. When the water is fully evaporated, pull the pan out, add some more oil, swish around a bit and hit the throttle. Take your oven up to 11. Wait until it reaches maximum heat then give the sprouts a serious blast for about 10 minutes. But keep an eye on them, because different ovens do different things.
The point is this: when the extremities are turning brown, crisp and slightly caramelised, they will have a brilliant nutty/sweet flavour. The outer leaves will be a treat to chew/crunch and the inner sprout soft-ish and fragrant.
And all that salty/garlicky anchovy flavour will be addictive. You could even deglaze the pan at this point, pouring the juices over the veggies. It’s more than good. I don’t expect this to make the Belgians feel better about their terrible year. But it should make you feel better about winter.

john l

More recipes for Brussels Sprouts here =

Shooting Bambi, Olive and Jean

On that cool autumnal Melbourne morning I was early for my destination. I’d trammed up from my digs down in St Kilda to the top end of Swanston Street. Being half an hour or so early, I set to wandering around the university campus there. It was quiet, away from the road; felt cut off there, being very few other souls about. Misty rain was falling and the turning leaves on the trees against the older buildings looked quite special to my eye. Being no weather for camera-smithery, I quickly snapped away with my mobile, checked my watch and headed off to meet Bambi, Olive and Jean.

I’d first encountered Olive back in the nineties when Ozpost issued a set of stamps to commemorate 150 years of photography in Australia. Her ‘Tea Cup Ballet’ was very modernistic for Australia at the time with its emphasis on light and shadow. I’d met her subsequently, on a few occasions, around the traps – and that morning she was sharing the walls with Max. I had no idea the two were associated so closely. And what did she have in common with Jean and Bambi? Well, the great Max – Max Dupain – trained his camera on their beautiful faces and bodies.

If there are any Australians who do not recall the name, most would recognise the lasting image that Dupain produced back in 1937 during his love affair with our beaches – ‘Sunbaker’. He took it on a southern NSW strand at Cuburra, the head and shoulders of his mate, Harold Salvage, lying on a horizon of sand and sky. It’s an image that has come to encapsulate our sun drenched nation. But he took many, many supposedly lesser views, on these beaches as well.


So what was a girl to do? The Depression had hit and young Jean Lorraine had nothing but a shapely body (her looks being described by some as quite plain) and a vivacious, life of the party personality. She was a good time gal but skint. She was not at all tempted by prostitution, as were so many others, to make ends meet. But she was not adverse to showing off her curvaceousness in its full glory. As a consequence she became sought after by artists and photographers. One such was Max.

Collection curator Jill White, who also worked with Max, but in his later years, comments that his take of the nude young model in ‘Jean with Wire Mesh’ ‘…is his most beautiful image. It leaves ‘Sunbaker’ for dead…it is incredibly sensual, masterful in its use of light and shade. To photograph someone with her forehead in full sunlight and the rest of her figure cloaked in shadow is an extraordinary achievement.’ It certainly caught my attention that morning – as well as the others included of Jean. She has been referred to as the camera-smith’s muse for the few years she was in his circle. Other contemporaries of Dupain took copious pictures of her as well, but none caught her spirit as did Max, nor her radiant beauty. Looking at his of her there is no hint as to why these others termed her ‘plain’. They lacked his skill and perhaps the relationship the three, including Olive, developed.


At the Ian Potter Gallery, that crisp Sunday morn, I jotted her name down in the notebook I carry, resolving to take to the ether once I returned to Hobs to see what else I could discover about this muse of his. There wasn’t much, but in 2003 she was tracked down when the Library of NSW mounted an exhibition of the great man’s work, in association with the publication of a volume of his oeuvre.

She was aged 86 back in ’03, but the now Jean Bailey had been a resident of the US since 1947. When asked what she remembered of those youthful times when she posed for Dupain, she told how it was Cotton who had introduced her to the photographer. She had spotted 18 year old Jean flipping through an issue of ‘The Women’s Weekly’.

lorraine cotton

Jean by Olive

Olive Cotton was born in Sydney in 1911, her father Leo being a professor of geology. He was responsible for introducing her to the passion of her life when he purchased her a Box Brownie on turning eleven. Her young friend, Max, was similarly infatuated. By the onset of the thirties she was a member of several photography clubs and societies, along with her mate. In 1934 they began working together at his Bond Street studio. By now they’d progressed to being lovers – Max’s first marriage being over. Naturally, she also posed for him. She was second fiddle to Max artistically, her main role being in charge of the business side. But on occasions she went out on commissions with Max, taking her camera with her. It was interesting, at the Ian Potter, seeing two images of the same subject juxtaposed on the gallery wall – one by the pro, the other by his assistant clicking away surreptitiously. She more than stands up in comparison with the master. When he experimented, so did she.


Olive by Max

It wasn’t until the war that Cotton come into her own. While the proprietor was away on official duty with his camera, she became responsible for all aspects of studio work. By now she was Max’s wife – but absence didn’t necessarily make the heart grow fonder. Although she continued on in his employ, they separated in ’41, divorcing three years later. In 1946 two important events happened for Olive, who by now was exhibiting her own work. Two volumes of her images were published and she married the new man in her life, Ross McInerney. This marked, for a period, the end of her earning a living with photography. Ross was a man of the land, managing farms about countryside NSW. She left city life for the rural and for the first three years of their marriage the pair lived in a tent. They eventually settled outside of Cowra, producing two children. One, Sally, has become a fine photographer in her own right, later on holding joint exhibitions with her mother. But these times were a long way off. In the 50’s there was no hope of earning a living from the camera, given the couple’s circumstances, so she became a mathematics teacher at the local high school. It wasn’t until 1964 that she returned to her greatest love, opening her own local studio. In the 80s there was a resurgence of interest in her pioneer work, thanks largely to a touring exhibition entitled ‘Australian Women Photographers 1890-1950’. Eventually she was in a position to hold shows in her own right and a film of her life and output, ‘Light Years’, was released in 1991. She passed away in 2003.

When Jean met Max, after they were introduced by Olive, the model had already, despite her tender years, been married and divorced. Decades later, after her tracking down to New York, she reminisced for an interviewer about the times they all spent together. She laughed when she recalled that, although Cotton was in reality somewhat older, Jean assumed she was around her age and told her so – and, as a result, although Jean declared herself to be ‘…as dumb as a stump’, she now had a friend for life. She felt easy and an equal in their company. She never gave any hint of embarrassment in taking off her clothes for their cameras. Other photographers, she explained, although they feigned worldliness, were clearly not comfortable in her naked presence. Perhaps their end product reflected this. She remembered fondly the duo’s love of experimentation with her body – thus producing one classic image and maybe others that should be.

dupain jean

Jean by Max

But the war and the fracturing of the relationship between the childhood friends changed all that. After it life became more frenetic for Max as his business expanded and he had little time for playing around, so to speak, with naked ladies. And besides, Jean was soon off to her new life in America and Olive headed bush.

But that didn’t mean Max ceased contact with beautiful women. In 1952 he shot Bambi. By that year he was the go-to man for society portraiture, including modeling portfolios, churning them out. But his take on Bambi was different – timeless. It’s been described as ‘…striking (in) its use of black, and the penetrating eye contact between subject and lens, (was) very rare for a Dupain portrait. The portrayal suggests an intriguing personality behind the beauty.’ She had all that in spades, did Bambi, as events turned out.


Now some from an older generation may remember Bambi for she went on to give the world a jolly good shaking up – including the staidest of British institutions back then – the monarchy. Born in 1926, by the time she was sixteen Patricia Tuckwell was turning heads everywhere she went. And, at 89, she is still with us. She was also, in her youth, a prodigious musical talent, being a member of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra during her teens. On the side she was also a popular fashion mannequin and soon became one of a number of talented local beauties populating the small screens in our lounge rooms during the formative years of local television. She had a regular gig on HSV7 as a hostess.

At this time her life somewhat parallels Olive’s for she had also fallen in love and married another of our iconic camera-smiths, Athol Shmith. As with Cotton and Dupain, it didn’t last and by the late fifties she too was divorced. But she was now in Max’s orbit, thus his portrait. But Bambi, as she was nick-named in modeling circles, was destined for infamy.

She had long desired to test her wings overseas so, like so many of our shining lights, she headed off, bound for Europe. En route she became waylaid at fog-bound Milan airport. Whilst waiting to be transported to Turin to continue her journey by air, she met and began chatting away to George. She sat next to him on the bus to the latter city’s aerodrome, as well as on a flight to Paris. By the end of that George was in love. Problem was, George was already married, with three kiddies, to Marion. And he also just happened to be in line for the throne of Britain as a relative of the Queen. He even had an earldom. He was, in fact, George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood.

They, though, had so much in common, thought George. She was obviously a brilliant musician and he ran an opera company. Plus she was a stunner – anybody could see that. At 31 she was in her prime. On arrival in the City of Light he took her to the classy Tour d’Argent, for an equally classy meal, before departing the next day for London. But he was so besotted that, within 48 hours, he was back in Paris, wining and dining her. By now Bambi, no wide-eyed innocent in the headlights, was starting to realise what she was getting into. The Earl’s pile was a 104 roomed Georgian mansion in Yorkshire, stuffed full of priceless masterpieces, set on 4,600 acres that supported 3000 pigs and sundry other bucolic endeavours. Bambi did, though, find her new lover to be rather ‘…dishy and funny and intelligent.’ Once she arrived in London George was discreetly in her company as often as possible, eventually setting her up in her own comfortable digs to be at his beck and call. Soon, though, he figured she was more than just a mistress – she was, in fact, the love of his life. He wanted her wholly and solely. He wanted to be wedded to her.


Now, after that pesky business with the heir to the throne pre-war and the more recent goings on between Margaret and that Townsend fellow, he knew the Palace would not be impressed with another scandal. This was especially the case once Marion discovered Bambi’s existence, some three months into the couple’s affair. He spilt the beans, begged for his freedom, but she refused point blank to go quietly. It soon became all too much for the now also besotted Miss Tuckwell and she fled back to Oz, only to relent to her man’s constant pleadings to return, sweetened by an even more luxurious pad (a six-bed roomed townhouse no less) to call her own. As the half-life of their existence continued in public, they resolved to cement their genuine love for each other by producing a child. Mark was born in 1964. Eventually, after her own mother died, Marion relented and she sued for divorce on the grounds of adultery. Predictably, all hell broke loose. Fleet Street made hay with the new royal-linked black sheep and his antipodean temptress. George lost all his prestigious positions and was blacklisted by London society. He considered escaping abroad till the dust settled, but in the end decided to stick it out and eventually the tabloids moved on. Buckingham Palace was singularly unimpressed but imposed no direct demands on him as happened with past upheavals closer to the throne. By 1967 there was perhaps a more permissive attitude in the air at all levels. Some pundits feel the business with George and Bambi set the template for what later occurred with Charles/Diana/Camilla. The couple quietly married, retreated to Yorkshire and got on with their lives. But poor Marion – the next man in her life was the wretched Jeremy Thorpe, leader of the Liberal Party, who soon became entangled in the murder of his alleged gay lover. She couldn’t take a trick.

The royals had a subtle welcoming of the couple back into the good books a decade or so later. After all, the pair freely gave so much of their time to worthwhile charities and British institutions. These days this tale of illicit love has faded into the past, largely forgotten. George died back in 2011.

And of the man who captured not only Bambi, but Olive and Jean as well, for posterity? Well, he continued to have an active life behind the camera lens. He became heavily involved in advertising for a while, before espousing a distaste for certain aspects of the burgeoning new industry. He didn’t try his luck overseas and rarely travelled out of Oz full stop. One of the few occasions was for the opening of the Australian embassy in Paris to photograph it for his good friend Harry Seidler, the architect. He also remarried after Cotton – his son Rex is also now a highly regarded snapper.


Max once wrote, ‘Modern photography must do more than entertain, it must incite thought and by its clear statements of actuality, cultivate a sympathetic understanding of men and women and the life they live and create.’ Another of his classic shots, ‘The Meat Queue’ certainly does that.


But that morning in Yarra City it was his early stuff that affected me the most – the stuff he took at the beach, or in the bush, with Jean and/or Olive in tow. They were free spirits, taking their cameras along to explore a fascination with their surrounds and each other. Those were more innocent times. Dupain lived long enough to record our country as it morphed into something else entirely.

teacup and olive

Max Dupain website =

Olive Cotton on-line gallery =


Records were broken with the rain that partially drowned our island a few weeks back and now, in this new week, again there’s another deluge happening up north – if not so devastating as the one that hit in early June – thankfully. Here in the south the forecasters are telling us there will be snow almost to sea level in an Antarctic blast coming up from the Great Southern. With a trip to Mangoland beyond our budget this year, my lovely Leigh and I sought a substitute. There, in one of their toasty cinemas at the State, we discovered a place where it seemed it hadn’t rained for all eternity, or so it looked. And its heat could cook eggs on a bald head. It was only a speck on a map in the great expanse of the Outback, was Goldstone, but there was more action going on there than in the whole of Midsomer county.


And that great expanse of Namib-like desert nothingness was one of the main features of this exercise. It was magnificent. Obviously director Ivan Sen was able to extract a fair amount of mesmerising cinematography from his drones. Just simply fantastic. Gee, our country is big when you see it portrayed from that vantage point on the screen. ‘Goldstone’ is a sequel of sorts to Sen’s ‘Mystery Road’ – and it’s a mystery to me as to why I did not see it on release, given that the follow up so appealed. I’ll be hunting it out at the local video store sometime soon.

This latest one is a ripper yarn featuring David Wenham as a nasty-pasty and Jacki Weaver as the fly-bitten, sun-backed, tin-shedded hamlet’s mayor – although why such a miniscule place would need one, complete with mayoral robes, is anyone’s guess. She, however, was up to her neck in some very non-mayoral graft and corruption. For you see, just over the horizon, was a giant gold mine, managed by Wenham’s character Johnny. He’s a slimy piece of work, immersed in malfeasance along with our Jacki. The two were involving the local tribal elders (David Gupilil and Tom E Lewis) in their machinations; machinations that included trafficking Asian prostitutes to keep the fly-in miners from missing home too much. This group of profoundly unhappy young women included, as May, the gorgeous Michelle Lim Davidson of Utopia fame.


Aaron Pedersen was tremendous as the alcohol-addled, squinting and very, very sweaty detective, Jay Swan, assigned to track down one of the Asian girls who has somehow turned up in a missing person’s report. He forms an uneasy bond with the local copper (Alex Russell) who, hitherto, had been turning a blind eye to most of the wrongdoing around his patch. As they unravel the nasty behaviours going on with the vested interests, a fair amount of mayhem ensues, climaxing with a shootout to rival what went on at the O.K. Corral.

A couple of critics have scribed that the acting leaves something to be desired, but, apart from a few clunky moments, I thought it was all pretty spot on. Some have also stated it’s a little tardy in taking off. I don’t think this had any claims to ‘Mad Max’ style mayhem – I thought its languor in the early scenes was partly what sucked one into its goings on. We all know that life in the Red Centre moves at a slower place than it does for citified folk. Ivan Sen infuses it all with a burnished light, a bit of Dreamtime spiritualism mixed in with a tad of ‘Wake in Fright’ style Outback seediness. For a while Leigh and I forgot about the wintry chill outside. I was quite reluctant to leave ‘Goldstone’s’ world. Yes, it was bloated with odd bods and dregs escaping society but, when our hero meandered off into the sunset, I inwardly mourned as the credits came up, for then I had to face an icy gale blowing down Elizabeth Street.


That alone helped this movie being up there with ‘A Month of Sundays’ as the best of the local product, so far, for ’16.

Trailer =

No Losing the Will to Watch Here

I’m in love. I’m in love with a certain part of Ms Emilia Clarke’s anatomy. She has a wonderful pair. Is it any wonder she was Esquire’s sexiest woman alive for 2015? In the photo-shoot they did to celebrate that gong, as well as in her role in the juggernaut that is ‘Game of Thrones’, we’ve had ample opportunity to peruse her glorious anatomy in various degrees of disrobing – and most beguiling it all is too. But I’m in love with a specific component and they come as a pair. They seem to jiggle every which way, almost of their own volition. During her latest release, on the big screen at the State, they had me mesmerised in awe. To be quite honest, I never noticed them in her blonde persona on ‘GofT’ as she caroused around the countryside with her dragons – maybe I was distracted. But they first came to my orb, as a sort of foretaste, when Graham Norton interviewed her on his show spruiking the release I viewed, ‘Me Before You’. I couldn’t wait to see more of them in free flow and this movie certainly delivered. The camera was repeatedly focused on them – and so was I. I fully expected them to be recognised, in the end credits, as a character in the narrative in their own right. I know, as Leigh and I step up to watch the latest season of Game of Thrones, I’ll pay far more attention to them for, you see, I am madly besotted – besotted with Ms Clarke’s incredible eye-brows. They are a work of art.


As for the movie itself, the Age’s Jake Wilson and I are at odds. The banner of his review proclaimed, ‘Losing the Will to Watch’ – and he did. He clearly wasn’t at all enchanted by those eyebrows, nor much else about this vehicle. He awarded it a paltry one and a half stars. But in my experience of it, when I could concentrate on watching was actually happening as far as the storyline was concerned, I enjoyed it immensely. Initially the brown brows of the brunette version of the sultry Clarke had me so enthralled I was oblivious to much else, but the story itself became more engrossing as time wore on. Being PG there was no disrobing whatsoever, but the kooky character (Lou Clark without the e) still exhibited a wholesome allure with the eyebrows working overtime. Sam Claflin played Will Trainor, the object of her affections; a quadriplegic with a death wish. Initially employed by his ultra-rich parents as a companion/maid, of course love develops and seemingly the will to live is returning to Will. It’s not that simple though. I appreciated the role of ‘GofT’ alumni Charles Dance as his father and ‘Downton’s’ Brendan Coyle as Lou’s. Some have had qualms with this movie, stating that it flies in the face of the notion that disabled lives are no less worth living, but Will’s reasoning seemed sound enough to me. Some have also had scruples that he was played by an able bodied actor.

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I realised, that in watching this, my emotions would be attacked, but remarkably, for me, I remained composed throughout. The only discordant note in it was the overly treacly music selected to accompany particularly emotive scenes – yuk. The movie would have been enhanced by less intrusive choices.

The Game of Thrones series just released is soon to grace our small screen here by the river and I will be paying particular attention to those eyebrows this time around. I suspect, though, that such is the nature of this world wide phenomena, that their mobility and distractabliliy will not be so much to the fore.

Trailer =


West Centre East

Let us embark on a jaunt around the Med. Now I doubt very much if I’ll ever do it again myself in real life, but I can dream and every so often, totter along to the State and view cinematic offerings from that part of the world. And I have done exactly that this past month – gone all European.

The best of the trio I espied, to my way of thinking, came from the mid-Med – from Italy. The movie in question has had a mixed response from critics out here, but ‘God Willing’ was a smash hit in its home country and I loved it. It opens with a family gathering together for an important announcement from the son, Adrian (Enrico Oetiker), whom they strongly suspect is about to announce that he is gay. But instead of coming out of the closet he wants to go back in – in the form of a confessional. All are stunned when he reveals his plans to join the priesthood. Dad (Marco Giallini) is particularly mortified. After all, the remote and non-empathetic surgeon expected the lad to follow his brilliant footsteps into the medical profession. Great subterfuge needs to be entered into to prevent such a foolish decision from actually taking place. What the pompous doctor gets up to in achieving his aim is a joy to behold. A hipster priest and a dullard of a son-in-law add to the fun. Many have considered the ending remiss in not completely tying it all together, but perhaps that is the point. Writer/director Edoardo Falcone gives the audience such a good time with his lightness of touch in the bright Mediterranean sunshine of this production.


Across we go now to the eastern end of the briny that divides continents. In fact, even a tad further – to the shores of the Black Sea. A Turkish offering, from director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, also delivers a lightness of touch, but still includes the deep and meaningfuls on a serious topic in that part of the Muslim world – the treatment of young girls. That ‘Mustang’ is Ms Ergüven’s debut project is a credit to her with such sensitive material. Despite the pronouncements of the Turkish leader, this is a more westernised nation than those further east, but still, in the remoter areas, family honour is all. So when the five daughters go romping, fully attired, in the surf with some likely lads the local snitch informs their grandmother and uncle – the girls’ carers as their parents have died. Life, therefore, as they knew it is about to change. First come the virginity tests. They, proving negative, do not allay the shame so they are virtually placed under house arrest – with renovations ensuing to make escape mighty difficult. But these feisty young ladies don’t take it lying down. They still find ways to circumvent the additions to make bids into the wider world for freedom. So the next solution to erase their depravity and to reestablish their good standing is marrying the girls off. This works out well for one, but for the others the prospect is unbearable, so wilder escape plans are hatched. It is not helped that the uncle is regularly abusing one of their number – with a horrible outcome. Can those remaining have the wherewithal to put their plans for permanent escape into action? The harrowing run for it is the climax of the film as it turns decidedly darker in tonemovie02

The fine young actresses, playing the girls, sparkle in their roles and I read that it was made outside of Turkey because of its subject matter. It sure takes the lid off the generational differences in that country on the fraught question of the place of women in the society. It is a state in transition, the trouble is we do not know yet which route Turkey will take. Despite all this, love still abounds in ‘Mustang’. It deserved its nomination for an Oscar earlier in ’16.

Lastly we head back west, to France, to meet one of the dourest of characters to ever (dis)grace the screen. Pierre (Stanislas Merhar ), in Philippe Garrel’s ‘In the Shadow of Women’, with partner, Manon (Clotilde Courau), are struggling documentary makers. She is very much in his shadow – thus the title. It all reminded me of the kitchen sink dramas of another era, filmed, as it was, in grainy black and white. The only flicker of feeling in this brief (72 minutes) production came at the end as the credits rolled. Pierre can’t resist an affair with another film worker and when Manon follows suit, he is miffed to the max and demands she cease all contact with her lover. She duly follows instructions, but he becomes paranoid, stalking her around their unappealing part of Paris. Of course he feels it’s his right to continue to bed his lady on the side. There is little love involved and why on earth would another woman be attracted to Pierre was beyond me – just pure carnality I suspect. There is zilch of your typical French sexiness involved with this and the main characters have zilch to recommend themselves to us. Despite its joylessness it was popular with the punters in its country of origin – but it did nothing for me.


So that completes our little jaunt – one movie to cherish, one to mull over and one that will be forgotten in a nano-second. C’est la vie.

Trailer ‘God Willing’ =

Trailer ‘Mustang’ =

Trailer ‘In the Shadow of Women’ =

Kiss in the Cloisters

He’s in his eighties now. He has a long memory; has seen all that is good at first hand, but has witnessed the evil our world can produce as well. He remembers, during the rule of dictator Mussolini, he was, like every young man, forced to join the Fascist youth movement. He sadly recalls being on a bus heading to a rally when he observed his troop leader stop it and hop off. His reason – to thrash an older man, a road maker. His crime – the poor fellow had failed to offer up a salute as the bus passed. The great man had had his first taste of what the male of the species is capable of. This distaste for the incident lives with him to this present day. It never sat well – doesn’t now.

Although so much was out of his control he still, even so, drew a line in the sand and took a risk during this time when he was living in Rome. An edict was issued late in the war by Italy’s Nazi occupiers. All citizens were to hand in their cameras. He refused to give up his – and he continued following his passion openly, in defiance.

For a time he also lived in Venice and he feels that today, in his visits there, he is witnessing another violation. This time the victim is the city of canals itself. With sadness he watches the giant cruise ships pull up in the lagoon to disgorge their passengers. The liners despoil the fragile environmental balance, the punters the social one. He considers those tramping over the city a travesty and recently completed an assignment for a national newspaper, capturing his moments in time to reinforce his view.

Although he is a revered doyen of his art in Italy, outside of that nation he is not widely known. It was through a kiss that I attained my first knowledge of Gianni Berengo Gardin, from up in the ether. It drew me in to investigate him further. I thought it was a timeless image, stark in its monochrome. As I discovered – he rarely uses colour. I suppose, if one looked closely at the garb of the two lost in love, it would date the image to the past. The framing of the couple by the colonnade captivated. Cyberspace was not backward in coming forward with a plethora of information when I googled GBG’s name. He’s obviously a camera-smith of immense repute for Italians.



These days he calls Milan home and during a forty year period as a professional has taken over a million and a half pictures. The negatives are all stored in his studio. He has published 250 books, only ten of which are in colour. And don’t get him started on the evils of digital photography. He cites Dorothea Lange, Robert Doisneau (famed for another kiss) and Henri Cartier-Bresson as his inspirations. And in turn, his impact has been similarly huge. One of his volumes, co-produced with a psychiatrist, dealing with the vicissitudes and treatment of souls with mental illness, was directly responsible for changing the laws on the issue in his home country.


Before, during and immediately after the war he used his camera, as we all do, to take pretty sunsets and the images of our loved ones posing. It was a book sent to him by an American relative that changed his life. It was on the work of Lange, photographing victims of the Dust Bowl. Immediately he sat up and took notice. He now knew the power his own camera could possess. In his work on mental asylums, as well as in India, her influence is palpable. His subjects are people living with abject misery, but always there is dignity in the way he portrays them.

Venezia, “Il traghetto di san Tomà”, 1959

Born in Liguria in 1930, this image-maker is part Swiss and lived in that country for a while. As far as his education in the art is concerned, he is entirely self taught. He reckons schools of photography can teach the mechanisms, but never the soul. He was first published in Il Mondo in 1954. This magazine championed his photo-essays in the early years of his career. Stern, Vogue, Time, Le Figaro and others followed suit. The Touring Club of Italy was a prominent supporter for years; his product illustrating numerous of their guides for all over Europe. Automobiles feature strongly in his oeuvre as a result. Other notable contributions to the culture of his country were books on employees who laboured for signature firms such as Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Olivetti etc. Another tome throws a light on gypsy culture and then there are those on the great cities of the peninsula, lovingly reproduced.

Gianni Berengo Gardin05

His abode is a 19th century palazzo, occupied as well by his beloved dachshund Nina. His studio contains only one of his own images. Gracing the walls instead are the works of contemporary Italian artists, particularly drawings. But regarding the picture that first bought me into his orb – the smudged birds in the foreground, the two hidden faces in the embrace – it all made me wonder. Was it truly a fleeting moment in time, with me now for the rest of my years on a wall in the man-cave. For all I know he may have posed it, but I like to think not. In it there is, no doubt, a story worth speculating on.


An on-line gallery =

Unreal = Unreally Awful

Yes, I felt like the guy going into the chemist to buy condoms and selecting half a dozen other items he didn’t really need in the hope that it would cover up the fact that he was buying prophylactics when he fronted the sales assistant – invariably a pretty young thing. Except I wasn’t in a pharmacy; I was in JBs, my preferred provider of popular entertainment.

I’d read the review of it in the Age. As it turns out I wished I hadn’t. The reviewer must have been off in la-la-land when he viewed it. What I watched was something truly awful, appallingly boring and quite tasteless in places. But his (I figured such was the subject matter it wouldn’t have been a woman) positive and articulate review had led me to buy this travesty. The only salve was when I fronted the sales counter with it I did in fact have other product, far less lurid – product that I did, in fact, intend.

When I initially located the DVD of the tele-series on the shelves I took a step back. I almost left it in its place, I was so put off by the cover. But, I thought, as the Age gave it a thumbs up, it would be silly for me to miss out on a worthwhile few hours of entertainment because of a little embarrassment about outward appearances. Sure enough, I had to hand it over to one of JBs delightful young ladies who welcomed me to be served with a radiant smile. And she didn’t bat an eyelid at what I proffered – I even received another winning smile when I thanked her at the completion of the transaction. Phew!


As to that cover. To the fore were three attractive people completely starkers – two young women and a guy. Their top bits were hidden by some strategically placed writing exclaiming, ‘Everyone will be exposed.’ More on that later. Across their groins they held what appeared to be mini-television devices.

And it was on my last sojourn to Bridport that I extracted the first disc and placed it into my son’s system. It was one of a selection of viewing entertainment I took up to the north-east to fill in the long hours away from Leigh, doing a gig I otherwise thoroughly enjoy. What could be better than being in that delightful village by the sea with some animals I adore? Not watching ‘Unreal’, that’s for sure.

I should have realised from the get-go and stopped after the first episode. But I kept on, doing due diligence as the review was so praising of the offering. It must get better, mustn’t it? If anything it got worse and even more ludicrous the longer I persevered. Eventually I gave up. Prior to its viewing I had been working my way through another season of West Wing (only one to go now). The contrast between it and ‘Unreal’ couldn’t have been broader. I should have known any product requiring front cover titillation to sell its wares would be below par – and this was dodgy, big time.

So imagine my surprise when, picking up my preferred Yarra City organ of the press one morning recently, I found it to be encased in a wrap-around spruiking the virtues of season two of the odious show. ‘What! They’ve renewed it!’ I was stunned. The accolades on this once august newspaper’s front page told me how much it had been loved by the critics first time around – so presumably the Age hadn’t got it entirely wrong (just me) and that it had won the Peabody Award – whatever that was. Excitingly, ‘Unreal’ was about to be fast-tracked to Stan for only $10 per month. But more surprises were in store for me. The following week’s Green Guide, in that very same paper, had a feature article on the new season – it really was getting some traction. And to my surprise it was written by a woman. She, Kylie Northover, commenced by describing it as ‘…a layered, brutal, comedy-drama exploiting the relationships of its female leads -…- (as well as) the art of manipulation, the quest for love, and even mental illness.’ Did Ms Northover actually watch the garbage dished up in the first execrable instalment? To give her credit – at no stage did she give her personal opinion of its quality. Best left unsaid.


Now the premise of ‘Unreal’ is that it is an exposé of the background machinations that go into making a reality dating show. There seems to be a plethora of these on the box lately– the one this follows most closely is ‘The Bachelor’ franchise. But we have many to choose from. There’s ‘The Farmer Wants a Wife’, ‘Seven Year Itch’, ‘Kiss Bang Love’ and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Haven’t watched any of them, but I did love the fictional contribution on the ABC – ‘It’s a Date’. Even SBS has gotten in on the act, broadcasting Asian examples, as well as one conducted completely in the nuddy with no coverings of the naughty bits. Maybe, just maybe, if you were a fan of this genre then ‘Unreal’ may have some appeal. But I bet most, like me, would not be able to see it through to the end. Take my word for it – every aspect of this morass of a show is cringeworthy.

In the show we are voyeurs, a word I’ve chosen carefully, to the happenings making a television product called ‘Everlasting’. A range of beautiful (of course) women are gathered together at a mansion to vie, in every way possible, for the attention of a rich English twat of a bachelor. We soon discover his background is more than a bit dubious. Naturally, the production staff invent all sorts of ploys for their victims to act on to get between the sheets with their quarry, seemingly with scant regard as to how their brainwaves could play out to the detriment of the contestant. It’s all rather grubby. The selling point, it seems, for the new series is that the stud at the centre of the action is – wait for it – black.

Now, back to that cover. These days nudity, along with violence and sex scenes, are an accepted part and parcel of many of the series we all enjoy. In ‘Unreal’ there wasn’t a hint of the former, at least in the episodes I waded through. Maybe they were leaving it for the climax, I don’t know. There were sex scenes, but the actors involved were very careful to cover up and they were, in any case, well, unreal in terms of their believability – laughably so. So, was the packaging for the whole sorry affair false advertising? Of course it was just a play on words – the exposing had nothing to do with the body in this. Ms Northover claims that it is ‘…at its heart a feminist program.’ To me this show is doubly offensive for the way it manipulates its own actors and is in no way a positive take on what I understand to be feminism. Give me strength. The acts the cast are required to carry out are decidedly non-feminist.

‘Unreal’ is trash. Give it a miss.

She's Having a Laugh

It must take guts – real guts. Guts to get up on a stage to try and make an audience laugh with your only prop being what comes out of your mouth. I have the greatest of admiration for them. Imagine starting off in the game – some bar adding another string to its bow in a crowded inner-suburban field by presenting stand-up; the audience already half-tanked and perhaps on the yobbish side. Yes, it takes real guts. And what if you bombed? Would you be able to pick yourself up for another go, or simply and meekly return to your day job stacking shelves at Woolies? It’s probably a moot point to raise as to whether or not it would be oh so much harder if you were of the female gender. I suspect, either way, you’d need the hide of a rhino.


‘She’s Having a Laugh’ is a compendium of anecdotes from what Affirm Press describes as ’25 of Australia’s funniest women.’ Of course you do not have to be a stand-up comic to be funny – some of the contributors did not come to notice along that path. But many or our best did – Julia Morris, Kitty Flanagan, Celia Pacquola, Fiona O’Loughlin, Denise Scott, Hannah Gadsby – and that’s just listing my favs. Alas, none of these were represented in this tome. Many have progressed from beer halls to civic centres – and then a further few make the dizzy heights of the television screen in panel shows, as well as into print for newspapers and magazines. A fabled handful now have regular gigs in some of our best comedy and light drama series, loved by millions. Others have written their memoirs and made the nation shed tears, along with the laughter.

Annabel Crabb

And there is a goodly range presented here – some names I was very familiar with, others only vaguely and yet more were unknown to me. And who better to open up proceedings than the delightful Annabel Crabb. She cut her teeth as what somebody once described as ‘…the kindest political journalist going around’. Annabel is well known for humanising pollies with ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ and her weekly column for the Age – both bringing her humour to the fore. She has also recently published with ‘The Wife Drought’. Ms Crabb, in my view, is also one of the most watchable women in the land. In ‘She’s Having a Laugh’ she relates how she managed to bake her laptop in the oven and how her career was almost cut off at the knees before it really got going. The latter was caused by her ineptitude back in her Adelaide early days with a new-fangled innovation called ’email’.

It would be fair to say that some of the accounts of ‘…love, life and comedy.’ given here were somewhat underwhelming, but I was well-educated by another favoured scribbler for newspapers’ abject horror at the state of a certain part of her anatomy after childbirth. Monica Dux reported that, ‘I didn’t recognise what I saw between my legs as human or even mammalian. If you’d shown me a picture of it and told me it was the remains of a sea creature, dredged from a deep oceanic trench, I wouldn’t have flinched.’ She took a bit of convincing that what she espied wasn’t completely abnormal. Terri Psiakis’ piece on comparing the Bloke (her hubby) to her Dad (not all accountants are dullards) is infused with her love for both her fellas, even if neither are perfect in every way. It was a standout. Tracey Spicer’s tale of her early years in television demonstrates how that medium has changed. These days there’s very little seat of your pants stuff that’s worth watching and demonstrates that once upon a time the execs had a heart. One of those glorious ‘Agony Aunts’, Yumi Stynes, tells the yarn of how attacking the soft workings of the inner ear with a cotton bud dipped in aeons old perfume is not the wisest medical probing to engage in. That story also managed to involve Khaleesi’s boobs of GofT fame. For my money, that’s about the best of them. Other notables represented in ‘She’s Having a Laugh’ are Corinne Grant, Gretel Killeen and Tegan Higginbotham.

For me, though, I reckon better value for money would be shelling out the equivalent for one of these ladies’ memoirs. Several have been best sellers and would contain more literary merit. I’ve picked the eyes out of the offerings in this title – the rest were fair to middling.