and the film festival starts with Taxidermia


it is 1901 and a hairlipped oppressed orderly fucks the fat wife of his superior officer on the carcass of a pig we’d just seen slaughtered a minute or so ago. the bastard child becomes a champion speed eater in communist Hungary and fathers a child with another champion speed eater. Their child when it grows up becomes the taxidermist of the title who looks after his by now enormous father while of course skinning and preserving the widest range of creatures.  In the course of the film, we see a couple of erect penises, a deadpan conversation punctuated with copious vomitting, some very nice closeups of internal organs and what appears to be real penetrative sex. So, is this magical realism, an elaborate metaphor of modern Europe or an exercise in grotesque style?

Whatever it was, I walked out of the refurbished Capitol theatre thinking that Taxidermia was a promising start to the mixed bag of film that is the Melbourne International Film Festival. The time passed quickly, I was entertained some of the time but never bored and I got to gross out a few people at the Northcote Social Club afterwards.

But as I thought about it a bit more, it came to me that Taxidermia was in many ways an example of what seems to be a growing proportion of MIFF films – the new grotesque –  the equivalent of a circus sideshow, an assembly of freaks for voyeouristic thrill seekers. Beyond its beautifully composed images, its cast of wonderfully strange characters, it didnt go much deeper. If Taxidermia is a sideshow, then it has all the flaws of a sideshow, it leaves very little after the last gasp of surprise and disgust.

friends and politics


last night, i had an old friend, a left-leaning doctor who also has a degree in politics, and her partner, a left-leaning lawyer. she was tired but her conversation was still as engaging as ever.

After they left, i thought about how i’d missed having people around me with a well read and considered opinion of politics. i also thought about how another friend of mine had said that she’d one day looked around herself and discovered that none of her friends and the people she associated with had the same depth of interest, level of engagement and grasp of political issues as she had.

It wasnt a boast and I understood what she meant. It really is to do with interest and maybe a sort of ability that is not satisfied by simple answers. My own grasp varies considerably and depends on how much I’ve read and thought about something but often the people I know have a shallow understanding – one that has no room for complexities – about most of what is happening. Long ago, I gave up having those kind of conversations with my friends (with the exception of the left leaning doctor and a couple of others) and migrated to the online world of media, various opeds, blogs and mail-lists. The online world suits me greatly for this – I have the leisure to think before I respond, I am able to formulate and construct an argument, I can perform whatever research I need. Compared to that, verbal conversation became very unfulfilling. I decided to avoid talking about politics and economics and stick to more personal matters such as the parlous state of my ex-relationship and the complexities of my dating life – a never ending source of amusement for my friends and interest for me.

however, last nights conversation made me re-think my stance a bit. I enjoyed the conversation – it didnt get anywhere really and didnt really go into any depth (these things generally dont i find) – but it was companionable and reminded me that there are others out there even if of a different political stripe that are engaged and are interested enough to dig around for themselves. I thought about how lonely it would be to not know many others like oneself.

Anyway, my friend is away at the moment but I’ve made a note to myself to invite her over for dinner the next time I have my doctor friend and her partner over. I’m also thinking of asking Mordwen along. Now, if I only knew a couple more centrists…

adjusting to an empty house


i came home to an empty house on Monday. It was the first night since she’d left for good. Riding down the path i realised i was still looking out for her car parked on the roadside. Even though things have been tough between us, the sight of her car or bicycle has always lifted my spirits. It didnt matter that a few minutes later we could be fighting, knowing that she was in our house doing her own thing was comforting and never failed to spark a bit of joy in me.

The other night Kate dropped by. She’d just been going through a relationship breakup, one where her ex was calling her every night until she told him that she needed a real break to move on. I told her about how we’d been split up for 8 months and that that was probably the longest I’d ever been single. Kate laughed (in a very nice way). Living with your ex doesnt count as being single, she said. Monday is the first day of the rest of your life.

OK, she didnt actually say that last bit but she might as well have.

*

One of the ways our house is designed is that our bedrooms are seperated by the length of the house. I got the front room which is closest to the road and is noisy small and dingy. She got the back room which is extensive, bright and looks out on the back garden. This arrangement suited us when we were together because the front room was mainly a study. Of course, since we broke up, I’ve been sleeping in the front room and feeling increasingly cramped. I’d been looking forward to moving my things to the rear bedroom but I havent yet been able to bring myself to do it. Perhaps tonight.

reasons for panic


in the larger scheme of things, i have no reason to panic. after all i’m not being bombed, i havent made a foolish bid to force Mr Howard to resign his leadership and hand it to me, I do not drive a gas gussling SUV and though I am mortgaged, I’m not mortgaged to the hilt.

Nonetheless, I woke this morning before my alarm due to an excessive amount of adrenaline. I have two reasons for this. Continue reading “reasons for panic”

my church plays bass


Dub reggae is only good when the bass is so powerful that it resonates from the base of your stomach down to the end of your spine touching every single erogenous zone on its way through. More Fire, the monthly reggae night that happens at Deep 11 has that sound system and the setting.

You enter by climbing down a narrow metal factory staircase that takes you into a dark humid pit of bass, ganja smoke and sweat. By midnight there is no where to move. It’s barely possible to breathe much less dance but the people keep packing in and the joints keep passing around and the bass gets deeper, louder and sexier. It’s at that point that the backbone of the night, DJs Jesse I who is also heard on PBS leading Chant Down Babylon and the incredibly stoned and maniacally grinning Ras Crucial take the decks and the ground opens up and swallows you up.

And that’s the beginning of the night.

I’ve been going to More Fire for some months now and last Saturday over two levels, the mix went back in time to roots and culture, to the early origins of reggae in the fifties and sixties when R&B influences could still be heard in a brass section, when black power and black pride pushed african rhythms and melodies through the bass and when the devotional passion of the early rasta’s voices shone clear through the crackly recording technology of that day.

“this is a church”, Michael had said to me a month before. He was a regular to More Fire – South African born of mixed ancestry, thick dreadlocks down to his waist and blessed with enough good looks to weaken the knees of most women. That night, reggathon, the bastardised hiphop breed of ragga and hispanic rap was clearing the dancefloor at five and it seemed far from a church to me. But last Saturday, I saw the light or rather, as this is reggae, felt the riddim of Ja and worshipped the only way you can by dancing.

But your mother would never have let you go to this church when you were 16. In true reefer madness fashion, the dance floor is a cesspool and if you’re female and alive, you wont make it through the night without unwanted close and personal attention. But these guys arent anglo boys pissed off their skulls and stumbling around in bleary eyed aggression, they are mostly african men, stoned sober, grinning cheerfully but dancing way too close. And I mean crotch right up against your back close. Some friends of mine dont go unless the upper dancefloor is open because that’s the only place you can breathe and they dont mean air.

Given the sleaze factor, the crowd is well mixed. The music is just too good and there is no agro, no fights and no bouncers wandering through the crowd. As Prince Far I, original rasta-preacher, sings, “ganja dont kill no mon” and most in the crowd wear their dreads, whether visible or not, not just as a fashion or countercultural statement but because it’s what you wear to church.