Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Third Script – Stories from Iran, Tasmania and the UK

edited by Shirindokht Nourmanesh, Rachel Edwards and Sean Preston

‘And can you guess which country I come from?’

I was on the 109, heading down to go on a-wandering around Port Melbourne. I was excited – the romance of a new tram-line experience. What would I discover? Little did I know that, as I embarked that tram, I was soon to sit next to the best experience of the day. I didn’t notice her initially when a seat became free as our crammed conveyance clanked its way up Collins towards Southern Cross. It wasn’t until she whispered quietly to me, ‘Can you you let me know where to get off for the Melbourne Convention Centre?’

I turned to face her – and what a beautifully stunning woman it was returning my look. Olive skinned, richly rouged red lips, shining brown eyes and gleaming hair – quite breathtaking. Clearly, judging from her exotic appearance and accent, she was from a faraway origin.

I explained to her that I was not a local – that I was from Tasmania in fact, but I knew for certain she was on the right tram, even if I was unsure of exactly which stop she required. Then an ever helpful local interrupted and gave her that information. It was then I asked her for her provenance and she asked for my take on it.

third script

I had bought the ‘Third Script’ along with me that day. I had only a few stories left to read and I expected to do so in a coffee stop at my destination. – and as it turned out I found a most delightful one, the Urban Garden Espresso on Bay Street. The Transportation Press publication had been rewarding reading. There were only a couple of contributions I hadn’t completed as they were, in my view, too try-hard at being edgy that they lost this particular reader. For me the pick was ‘The Punchline’ by Londoner Lisa Fontaine. It was a take on an old chestnut, but a strikingly original one. You know the one, where lovers part but agree to meet some time in the future to see how they were travelling; how their lives had turned out. Fontaine’s tale was decidedly real world, devoid of Hollywood gloss; grittier and much the better for that. Robbie Arnott’s ‘The Tiger Quoll’ (be warned, the end is gruesome) threw light on a blight on our society in the way we lose so many of our young people – men in particular. You know where this is going almost from the get-go, but it doesn’t make it any less powerful. Zane Pinner’s ‘Sing kunanyi’ did, in contrast, have a big surprise in store. I suppose it could be considered a comment on the current cable car dispute – a no-brainer in my mind. I am pro, to the disgust of many of my associates. Pinner’s alternative suggestion is far-fetched, but with David Walsh in our midst, who knows? I enjoyed the result very much. Nottingham’s Matt G Turpin gave us ‘Tom’s Eyes’, taking a salutary look at the underbelly of all those Med resorts the Brits flock to due to their appalling weather. It’s the saga of a friendship turning to dust over that other blight, drugs – but in doing so delivered a rattlin’ good yarn. And lastly, picking the eyes out of the tome, was ‘In the Afternoon, the Goat has All the Answers’ (Ramin Zahid) from the Iranian selection. It told of an ex-pat superstar from that country, residing in the US. Today’s Iran is a far cry from when she was in her zenith during the days of the Shah and that is bought home to her when she gets up close and personal with a human right’s issue emanating from her homeland.

And that, dear reader, should give you the answer to the question posed to me on the 109 that Friday morning in Yarra City. I really had no idea of this gorgeous person’s origin. For me the beauty chatting away to me could have hailed from anywhere around the Mediterranean shore across to the sub-continent. But then she proffered up the answer herself, ‘I know. You’ll never guess. I am from Iran.’

Yep, a coincidence. I explained to her I was reading a publication containing stories from her country of origin and withdrew it from my bag to show her. She was plainly excited at this and examined it intently, exclaiming her recognition of some of the authors. She snapped away at the book with her mobile, saying she’d definitely try and get hold of it for herself.

I had little time left with her as we had turned the corner into Spencer with her departure point being just up ahead. She related to me that she’d been in Australia for just six years and was proud to say she was now a citizen. She loved the freedom afforded to her by her residence here, particularly by the city I was visiting. I expressed my abhorrence at the behaviour of many of our politicians and how appallingly such as her were treated by the cold-hearts who drone away behind desks in government departments, given the often grotesque conditions in the countries from which they flee.

All too soon the tram was lurching to a stop and she gifted me a radiant smile as she said her thank yous and farewells. Then those shining eyes were lost to mine. I watched out the window as she became lost in the Southbank masses, but for a moment in time we had bonded over ‘The Third Script’ and I am thankful for that. It made a fleeting connection with a ravishingly beautiful and intelligent woman who will no doubt grace our land of democracy, making a worthwhile contribution; as do the vast majority of her ilk, despite the small mindedness and prejudices in some pockets of our community. I didn’t even get her name, but she’d left an indelible impression – I only wished we had more time for the stories she could tell.

Transportation Press website =

le Carré Rules

Back in the day I was a le Carré man – did you know his real name is David Cornwell? I didn’t, so I just thought I’d throw that in there. Anyway, I felt ‘The Spy Who Came in From the Cold’ was a rattlin’ good tale, so I stuck with him for a while. And for a time I was entranced by him in print – the way he disentangled the suspenseful webs of intrigue he wove into his narrative. But then, I guess, I must have struck an offering that palled and so went off him, moving on to other literary heroes.

But I’m back now, hooked again on le Carré. This time it’s not his tomes. It’s the filmatic adaptations thereof. The first of these, recently, for the big screen, was ‘Bridge of Spies’, with Tom Hanks. Leigh and I caught it on DVD sometime after its cinema release, so when I read the excellent reviews for ‘The Night Manager’, I was soon purchasing it on the same format. Unfortunately we do not have immediate access to non-free-to-air television.


And yes, what a yarn that was too. It appears that the producers of it felt, in their wisdom, to make some changes to JlC’s original as he wrote it way back in the dark ages – 1993. Our version commenced with the Arab Spring in Cairo. There was another change as well – his male Burr became Angela, played by a gloriously pregnant (in real life) Olivia Coleman – one of my favourites after her regular stints in ‘Rev’ and ‘Broadchurch’. She’s an operative in the higher echelons of MI5, or some such, possessing a strong suspicion that above her some of her superiors are not exactly playing the game according to the rules. Our eponymous night manager, played by Tom Hiddlestone, Taylor Swift’s latest squeeze in case you’re interested, is handsomely debonaire. He runs the after hours show at the Egyptian capital’s Nefertiti Hotel. He’s drawn into a web of intrigue via the beautiful Sophie (Aure Atika). Alas, she’s the current squeeze of shady Freddy Hamid (David Avery) who is buying arms from the world’s most evil man, Richard Roper. Here we have Hugh Laurie (‘Fry and Laurie’, ‘House’) having great glee playing a nasty bastard. Sophie has secret documents that the UK government would be incredibly interested in possessing as they implicate connections between Roper, a covert arms dealer, to prominent Britishers. Sophie is desperate and needs the assistance of the night manager, Jonathan Pine, to photocopy them – immediately entangling him in messy conspiracy. And he falls in love/lust with the lustrous lady, despite knowing full well her dangerous connections. She is soon dispatched for her treachery by Roper and his crew of scruple-free thugs. Then there is a hiatus and we rejoin Pine much later at an exclusive alpine resort where Roper and his entourage come to stay.


Now I suspect some of the joy Lawrie had in making this television series was down to his fictional squeeze, played by our own Elizabeth Debinki. His icy blonde and statuesque Jed is stunning in various revealing costumes. She sort of knows that evil is afoot in Roper’s camp, but doesn’t confront it until she too falls for Pine. My, this actress is luminous up there on the screen and no wonder she has two men in raptures over her. It is hard to take one’s eyes of her. I certainly wanted to hit the rewind button when she was on view. And, speaking of camp, ‘Rev’s’ Tom Hollander, plays Lance, one of the uber-crim’s main advisors and the most unsavory of characters. He eventually falls foul of his boss as events reach their crescendo.

‘The Night Manager’ is A-grade stuff, thoroughly engrossing and just made for binge watching. Le Carré’s original here was adapted by David Farr, the writer for ‘Spooks’ – a series I’ve never watched, but intend to once I work my way through ‘The West Wing’ and ‘The Sopranos’ – if life is so long. And as for Ms D, can’t wait to see her in ‘The Kettering Incident’. For the eagle eyed, evidently the great man himself, le Carré, puts in an unacknowledged appearance in ‘The Night Manager’ as a diner.


Perhaps not quite the rip-snorter that the above is, as it turned out, next I was off to the movies to see ‘Our Kind of Traitor’. Based on a 2010 novel by the author and directed by Rebecca White, again dirty business is going on as couple Perry (Ewan McGregor), an academic, together with Gail (Naomie Harris), a barrister, are on holiday in Morocco, being drawn into another web. Here they end up getting involved with charismatic money-launderer Dima – a stellar performance by Stellan Skarsgård – yes, poor pun I know. He’s a right scene stealer in this – and of course there are dodgy connections with the English upper echelons in this too. Trouble is, Dima’s having second thoughts, is about to go whistle-blower and the Russian mafia are hot on his tail. For reasons I didn’t quite get, it seems our couple are the only souls that can help him escape their clutches, with, for them, this quickly taking priority over resurrecting their floundering relationship. Who knows, perhaps they thought a little cat and mouse with the mafia would be of benefit. Soon, again for reasons I didn’t comprehend, Dima becomes Perry’s hero, so much so he is willing to risk life and limb for the turncoat – anything, I guess, to avoid saving his marriage or returning to the stifling world of English academia.


Still, for all its leaps in logic, ‘Our Kind of Traitor’ is well worthy of a viewing on some format now its cinema run has concluded. It does pale against the previous adaptations such as ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ and ‘The Constant Gardener’. Five television series and ten films have been made of le Carré’s books – that just leaves around a dozen or more to go. Hopefully, another take on his oeuvre is not too far away.

Trailer for ‘The Night Manager’ =

Trailer for ‘Our Kind of Spy’ =

Heady Times for Bruno

Did he even know? And if he did, did it prey on his mind that his photographs led to executions?

Now I knew about the Franco-Prussian War, the monumental defeat at Sedan and the capture of Emperor Napoleon III. The victorious Germans were ready to lay siege to Paris. I had no knowledge of what went on in the City of Light during this period though. When a lecturer, during my university years, launched into an account of the events in that city during those troubled times, it was a revelation. During my formative years it was off the curriculum in France – it was the darkness of the Cold War and it had the stench of ‘Reds under the bed’ and all that malarky, even if it had occurred eighty years previously. What, a society where everyone is equal? We can’t have that.

So I quickly became fascinated with the Paris Commune – perhaps the first example in modern history of ‘people power’. We’ve had the Arab Spring in recent times and mostly that has ended badly – so history repeats. The Commune was an attempt at government from the bottom up, so unlike the top down inflicted on most of the world. And for a while, it looked promising for the Communards. In a nutshell, here’s what happened.


The French government were very eager to take control of the various cannons that defended Paris before the Hun arrived, but the people of the city and their home guard had other ideas. Barricades were built to prevent this occurring – the people, you see, weren’t too rapt with the ineptitude of recent months from the Emperor’s people and most had republican ideals. When the army duly arrived the motley defenders called on the soldiers to join them. Many did – some even shooting their hapless officers. Of course, all this did not go down well with the high command, already smarting from the indignities foisted on them by the Prussians. They weren’t going to stand for a rag-tag rabble taking over the capital and started to plot the demise of the uprising. The Communards themselves were a real mixture – union officials, members of the local National Guard, hangers-on and a few fiery anarchists just to make the mix more volatile. They elected leaders who issued the declaration that from henceforth Paris was an independent commune and called on all other French municipalities to join in the cause. This was beyond the pale for the authorities who gathered their forces to crush the rebellion. The revolutionary councils in Paris set up then lost the plot – they spent all their time and energy bickering amongst themselves instead of preparing for the threat that was on their doorstep. They were, consequently, smashed. After they had control, the army went on the rampage, joined by members of the privileged classes acting as vigilantes. They killed at will. In the end 30,000 Communards – and many who weren’t – gave their lives for the cause. Eventually the excesses were reigned in, only for the authorities to commence with the executions of those involved who survived the initial carnage. Unfortunately, a quickly put together booklet of 109 photographs of those troubled few weeks, entitled ‘Paris During the Commune’, became a means of identifying the rebels. The soul who compiled the publication was only out to make a few centimes from his prescience of making a record of it, lugging his cumbersome apparatus to get those images of the Commune and its aftermath. Bruno Braquehais’ life went downhill pretty quickly after this attempt to turn a profit for his efforts.

Bruno Braquehais

Prior to that life had been pretty sweet for Bruno. He’d married the boss’ daughter and made a satisfactory living for engaging in what many a male would give their eye tooth to – photographing nude models – and doing so very artistically, you understand. The results of his labours proved, understandably, quite popular in exhibitions around the city on the Seine. Many members of Parisian society also sought him out to capture their features for posterity.

Bruno Braquehais01

Now back in my uni days I remember sitting in the Morris Miller Library on campus, amongst the stacks, pouring over his images of the Commune in dusty books. Back then my main attention was affixed on the causes, course and results of the upheaval, rather than the fellow responsible for recording it. My fascination with the pioneers of photography came much later. The Commune is also noted as a template for the events of ’68 in the same city, as well as all over Europe, when students tried to replicate its aims. This had happened only a few years prior to me being spellbound in that library. Braquehais’ most famous image was of the toppling of the Vendôme column, but he took many others during his days wandering amidst the barricades, as well as the effects on the city once the powers to be were back in charge. It was only after I recently rediscovered his handiwork on-line that finding out more about the person responsible for the pictorial account piqued my interest.

Braquehais was born in Dieppe in 1823. He was profoundly deaf from a young age. Initially he displayed a talent for lithography but, when he met prominent camera-smith Alexis Gouin in 1850, he found his calling. He soon joined the ageing Gouin who specialised in hand-coloured daguerreotypes and the amazingly popular stereoscopic plates. The person who did the hard yards with the colouring-in was Gouin’s step-daughter, Laure. In 1852 Bruno B set up his own studio on the Rue de Richelieu. Gouin died in 1855, so Braquehais returned to the fold, assisting his old friend’s widow to run the place. When she too passed he branched out on his own again, this time setting up on the Rue des Italiens. By now he was heavily into nudes, hand-tinted by Laure, his dutiful good wife. Whether he made a killing with them in the saucy postcard trade, conducted all around the city, is unknown – but I suspect it’s likely.


All was progressing quite well for him when, pushing fifty, he made his momentous decision to go out onto the streets controlled by the Communards with his gear. And, unknowingly, along with the great American Civil War camera-men, he became am early instigator of photojournalism.

After his death in 1874 Bruno was largely forgotten with his treasure trove from the Commume languished in the dusty corners of museums. It was in 1971, on the hundredth anniversary of those earth-shattering events he snapped, that his work came back into vogue. His images graced many a commemorative exhibition on those heady times.


Those who delved through the archives found that the years1871 to 1875 were not kind to our hero-of-sorts. Bruno’s work dried up – perhaps it was thought he was sympathetic to the revolutionaries’ cause. He was declared bankrupt in ’74, leading to a prison stretch. He only lasted after few days after his release.

Of course, he was never to know the esteem in which his work is held today. The nudes have gone by the wayside, in terms of significance, for he was the man who gave us the real Commune for posterity. It is sobering to think that many of those featured, if they survived the holocaust after the surrender, may have met the same demise by posing in group portraits for Bruno. Did that, in turn, weigh heavily on our man? The answer to that the ether did not deliver.


Sweet Caress – William Boyd

Biarritz worked its charms on me, as it did on Amory and her lover, Charbonneau, even further back. My visitation was in the winter of 1981, hers in the immediate post-war. I have no recollection of the hotel where I stayed, but I remember theirs, the du Palais ‘…perched on its rocky promontory at the end of the gentle crescent sweep of the grande plaige.’ And I remember, as her lover stated, that Biarritz had ‘…surf, real ocean – not lapping Mediterranean wavelets (but)… spectacular foaming breakers in endless succession.’ It was here Charbonneau took Amory, away from a Paris, still in aftershock from its wartime privations, to tell her he was about to marry another – but, of course being French, that was certainly no reason to end their liaisons. Amory, though, had a secret all her own too. And what of Biarritz for your scribbler? I loved its winter coat; its wild weather, the Atlantic stretching away towards infinity. I made a metal note to go back some day to see it in its summer guise. Three decades and some on that hasn’t happened. I suspect, now, it never will.

sweet caress

William Boyd’s sixteenth novel is a ripper and he’s on song, delving into the life of one of the great photojournalists of last century. Amory Clay is up there with Dorothea Lang, Lee Miller and Martha Gellhorn in recording the momentous events of their times. Amory covered the exotic erotic cabarets of the Weimer Republic with her camera – and got herself into very hot water – as well as the rise of Mosley’s fascist thugs. This resulted in great personal injury, with serious repercussions for her future well-being. She was embedded in the US army as they pushed towards the Rhine after D-Day and was with the GIs as they fought off the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. Here she fell in love with an Aussie war correspondent. She had her final fling with this larrikin.

In ‘Sweet Caress’ we have a goodly number of her photos reproduced, including ‘The Confrontation’ which garnered her the prestigious Matthew B Brady award for war photography.


The Controntation

Boyd’s imagining of her life is revelatory. We have her early years, dominated by a war-damaged father who tried to end it all by driving his jalopy into a lake, taking her along for the ride. He writes of her relationship with her other family members – the brother who did not survived WW2; her famous sister, Dido, a concert pianist. As well there were her own progeny – twins, who unexpectedly came along later in life. Boyd illuminates on the reasoning behind her self-imposed exile to a Hebridean island. He uncovers the men in her life and the wherefores of how she ended, by her own hand. her existence on this planet.

Mystery over 'face' of new William Boyd novel as writer reveals star of book is based on photograph of unknown woman found at bus stop.
The Young Amory

Although Clay had never really been on my radar as one of the greats, possibly because, unlike her more famous contemporaries, she never sought the limelight. So we have Boyd to thank for bringing her back into the light. And in doing so he is quite masterful in spinning a darn good yarn along the way so that perhaps one day her name will be as recognised on the same plane as those other female luminaries of the art of photography. But, at the end of the reading of ‘Sweet Caress’, there is still that one lingering question to set one googling.

The author’s website –

Woody Minus Woody

The first question that comes to mind, after we’ve had a taste of ‘Maggie’s Plan’, is ‘Did Woody write this?’ The answer is no – the screenplay was composed by its director, Rebecca Miller – but it certainly has Woody writ large all over it – no bad thing in my view. You half expected him to appear at any time. I grant you Woody Allen can be an acquired taste for some – but good Woody I just adore. Some of his oeuvre of Jewish idiosyncrasy, though, can veer towards the borders of tedium. This I would rate as a tad above mid-range on the Woody scale. Its no classic, but never remotely approaches tedium.


Maggie wants a bub, but is sans partner. As the film opens, she is investigating a stoner pickle maker as a potential donor. Now it took me a while to figure out where I’d seen this guy before. Then it dawned on me – Travis Fimmel, our lusty chief Viking, in a very different role. He was great, despite his sadly limited screen time. I half expected Maggie to end up with him, but I am not giving the answer to that away. His performance, along with Bill Hader’s voice, is one of the movie’s quirky treats. Throwing in Julianne Moore, playing an icy Danish academic, complete with intriguing accent, means we have all the ingredients for what’s described as a ‘screwball comedy’. And, yep, there are a few chortles to be had as the eponymous plan is put in place, but its hardly lol stuff.

maggies plan

I will never know now what it’s like to be a panty-melter and I sure figure I never was one – not, I think, would I particularly want to be if Ethan Hawke, in his guise as Maggie’s love interest, John, is any example of that so-called class of men. He’s another academic, unhappily married to Ms Moore’s character Georgette, so he falls in love with Maggie, quickly extricating himself from his co-habitation with the preoccupied, distant older woman and his kids. But, as a life partner to Maggie and the child they make together, he’s no great shakes and our heroine soon tires of his self-centred nature. Plus, she’s become a dog’s body for him and his former wife. It’s just not on – thus a conception of a plan – which, I admit, stretches it a little in terms of believability.

I can’t say I didn’t enjoy my time spent in the company of the ensemble living complicated 21st Century lives in NYC. Greta Gerwig is always eminently watchable as our unadorned heroine, reprising her schtick from the delightful ‘Frances Ha’. And my views on the glorious Ms Moore are also well known. Ethan Hawke is intentionally frustrating in his John persona and it’s no wonder Maggie soon wants to be shot of her panty-melter. So if Woody Allen is also your thing, give ‘Maggie’s Plan’ a spin on your DVD player, or whatever, sometime soon.

Trailer for Maggie’s Plan =