peteg's blog

David Malouf: Ransom.

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The major problem with David Malouf is that I feel I am committing great sins of cliche, repetition and irreverence by even attempting to appraise his work. Could anyone summarise the ambit of this work any better than by calling it "a reimagining of a great scene of the Iliad"? Simply, I cannot.

Somewhat like the obvious reference point earlier in his career, viz An Imaginary Life, the book starts slowly and is fixated on character; the plot provides some opportunity for interaction but the preference is rumination. Scenery is sketched with incredible economy. Part IV makes it all worthwhile.

Bell Shakespeare: Pericles, Prince of Tyre at the Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House.

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Featuring a plot that would embarass Michael Bay, Pericles is one of those minor Shakespearean comedies that I was and should have remained oblivious to. The laughs are thin on the ground, and according to Wikipedia it is of dodgy provenance.

To be fair, the acting was fine without anyone standing out, and the set design quite fancy and well-used. But what is a director to do when the plot cannot possibly captivate the audience? Throw the focus to exotic music (Japanese TaikOz) and dance (err) to enliven, to enbulk. The drumming, indeed captivating at times, seemed to be of little relevance to the action, apart from perhaps evoking some kind of heraldry, yet Pericles is no worthy king. Conversely a wan flute was more impressive than the dreamy sequence it accompanied.

Thematically there were no ruminations, no exploration of the human spirit, just a bunch of coincidences and commerce. The gods are Roman (Jupiter, Diane) not Greek, and lost their gravitas in translation; not so much in the machine as worn lightly in dialogue, to glue things together, for the wordy virgin to implore as her improbable fate unwinds, and to smite the weak king and his capricious consort as explained in the closing words-rather-than-action monologue. John Bell has been spruiking this as levity, a worthy piece of escapism from the morass of the moment. I must admit to wishing for a speedier return to my tribulations.

More prosaically I was a bit shocked about the lack of etiquette in the theatre, with the late comers that were admitted well into the performance pushing past me, interrupting my view of the stage, and the usher's flashlight too regularly shining brightly in my peripheral vision. This was a preview, and if I hadn't got in for $42.50 I would've been even more annoyed.

Moreover the refurbishment of the theatre foyer is a joke. The box office is slap in the middle, so the queue blocks people walking between the bar and the dunnies. The dunnies are artless. The cloakage counter is narrow and the bloke has to walk too far to retrieve the gear, making for incredibly slow service. Again the queue there blocks the free movement of people. The bar is on the opposite side of the ticketing desk, and yes, that's another queue to snake through. The entry doors are narrow and perpendicular to the ramps, leading me to wonder how the lady in the wheelchair gained access.

Has it really been a year since i last went to the theatre? I guess I've lost interest.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

/noise/movies | Link

The horror, the horror. It is one thing to pay homage to a style of movie and quite another to vacuously and resolutely clone it. I have never been a Harrison Ford fan, indeed never saw the point in him, and all I see here is an effort to fatten various bank accounts. I failed to recognise Cate Blanchett and am shocked, absolutely shocked, that she would deign to be in dreck like this. Shocked, I tell you. Good thing she did it in commie drag (or perhaps her customary anti-fame camo streetwear).

Twelve Monkeys

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Not as good as I remembered from my last viewing, approximately a decade ago for a first-year philosophy class. I am now convinced that even with the premise of time travel into the past, Bruce Willis should have no involvement.

Bread and Roses

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Another Ken Loach effort, sentimentalising the workers and brutally simplifying the bastardry of the lower echelons of management. A bit cloying but otherwise not too bad. Kind-of, sort-of, It's a Free World with lost angels.

State of Play

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At 10am in a small theatre at The Ritz, with quite a few oldies.

Abigail's Party

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An early Mike Leigh made-for-TV. Quite clunky by his later standards, a bit hackneyed and all too clearly failing to improve on Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

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On Channel9, perfect for an empty mind while minding the cat.

The Hangover

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At the Australia Theatre in Orange, with Dave, at the just-before-school-gets-out hour of 3pm. I think the last thing I saw there was the Footrot Flats movie, back in 1986 or so. For a while in the not-to-distant-past Orange had two cinemas, but Dave tells me the other one shut down, albeit not before inflicting another four or five theatres on this venerable edifice.

Richard Tognetti: Various Bach pieces.

/noise/music | Link

After happening upon Richard Tognetti's performance of Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin at the Orange City Library a while ago, I was keen to buy the five CD collection of his other Bach efforts. I lucked out at Boomers Books in Orange where they were still flogging it for $50, whereas the online ABC shop now seems to want $90. It's good hacking music, albeit slightly too plaintive.

/noise/beach/2008-2009 | Link

Early-afternoon snorkel with Rob at Watsons Bay. This trip had been delayed for many weeks for a variety of reasons, not the least being the steady rain in May and early June. Yesterday it rained, despite the BOM's promises of fine weather. Today was in fact beautifully clear and still, quite unbelievably so after the past weeks' cold dreariness. The rumour was that the water is quite warm, circa 20 degrees.

As we expected, it being a weekday afternoon and all, the place was pretty much deserted; plenty of space in the council carpark right next to Camp Cove. The water was bearable in a wetsuit, singlet, 1.5mm gloves and boots, after the icecream headache passed. Loads of fish, some young groper and other things I don't know the names of. We made it to Lady Bay Beach where it was business as usual, and walked back to the car in what could've passed for decent autumnal weather.

High Hopes

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Another pre-Naked Mike Leigh effort. Not as good as what came later, but not bad.


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Definitely not worth a second viewing. The CGI is still pretty amazing, perhaps due to the spaghetti camera work that makes the action quite difficult to follow.

I got thinking that it summarised the Bush era pretty well: a love affair with the military, particularly the grunts on the ground; a fascination with vacuous youth culture; strip-mining the 80s for franchises to blockbuster; unfriendly treatment of aliens, even friendly ones; and so forth. Doubtlessly there's a PhD thesis out there on precisely this.

I miss the cheese.

William Gibson: Mona Lisa Overdrive

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Another loose sequel-ish sort of follow-on from Count Zero, and yes, the cyberpunk style was wearing that thin by the end of the 80s. This is more a romp for Gibson with his favourite characters than any serious attempt to tell a story, or perhaps it is merely floating a collection of ideas for the Matrix sequels to raid. The metaphysics is almost completely auxiliary, the narrative weaker than ever and the new characters vapid.

Ghost in the Shell

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Cyberpunk? Perhaps, but for mine sliding into the post- category. The soundtrack is quite good, almost making up for the too much talking and not enough showing. What was that Don Marquis quote again? Ah, yes...

Terminator Salvation

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At the after-school session at The Ritz. It committed the ultimate movie sin of being boring, almost entirely illogical and uninteresting in the sum total, which was unfortunate as a lot of the elements held promise. Structurally the first two movies held our interest as there were only a very few antagonists, one of which was almost indestructable by the others. When there's a metric shirtload of terminating devices the suspense cannot be sustained, and this viewer left feeling that without the classic aesthetics this would have gone straight to DVD. Arnie's presence is not only totally fake but entirely tokenistic, perhaps the first time the big man has been so completely ridden.

On the ha-ha-they're-such-serious-artists front, we have Sam Worthington claiming there's some truth and reality to be had here, and I throw my lot in with whoever first observed that Christian Bale's blow-up is the most convincing part of his performance.