Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, No. 25. October 8, 1968
The Scene Seen In Sydney
The Scene Seen In Sydney
Michael Heath views
Sydney-side. Noisy and certainly a race between all the hot-headed one-way drivers. Taking nearly half a bucket of saliva to flag a cab, and stand on shop-closing-time corners amidst a million of commuter-customers, watching the sun rise over their heads in a golden trail of back-projection.
Strine is served daily, and Luna Park has mysteriously closed down, to make room for more friendly and noisier dismemberments, no doubt. Newspapers belong to the comic world with their Mr Big and Mr Sin controversies. Morning editions arrive before bed, evening editions during the morning shopping. Great bundles of Greek, Spanish, French and occasionally New Zealand (Herald costs 35c!) papers flap on wire trellises on every corner, I was forced to purchase a London Times for 50c after opening it from its tissue-ironed virginity wrapper, and refused! The harbour to harbour ramp on a clear day (20 in 1) affords any visitor, if he can manage to stop a bus or unit (impossible) a perfect view of all the lanes. The opera house looks like a piece of angel cake banished forever.
The underground trains give me a fair chance to see what the curious green liquid thing was I've just swallowed, by spreading the wrapper on the spittooned floor of the mile-long elevator up, up, up to the Town Hall.
Dogs are allowed in most of the Cross's shops which means many things and the art of steady-poodle carrying is not to be overlooked. Blindmen lose great amount of newsprint by selling it for the noise of 5c, and limbless members of the Cross are tied into automatic commodes, like the comely fruit sellers, and shout megaphone nonsense all day.
The facade of the Cross is sometimes a great bourgeois cover with 90% of the people there to look at the other 90% causing a 1007c traffic jam eternally. The customs are busy reading Myra Breckinridge by Gore Vidal, a book you'll hear about and if the NZ tribunal are laughing themselves sick, reading it soon. What can't we get here I asked a meagre miss in one of the cities scungier caves. "Jean Genet, he's banned, but you can buy books about him" And Couples by John Updike? "Oh the customs have got that too." Never mind, the full quota of Panther, Olympia Press and Evergreens are in full view in all shops.
Recently, however, in a performance of the play America Hurrah, the cops raided the theatre during the "Motel" sequence. Several of the cast are still missing. Obscenity, it would lead one to believe, does not, in refrain, seem to be manifest in the glorious Aussie public's entertainment. And so, inevitably, it has lead to an expurgated edition (or version) of the new American play The Boys In The Band by Mart Crowley (with Wellington actor Kuki Kaa), a hilarious homosexual birthday party orgy, brought to the Sydney entertainment world through the courtesy of yours truly Harry M. Miller.
Cinemas are nearly at all times deserted and unjustly costly. The ads now take on an entire concept and length. After interval, everything dowsed, I saw yesterday something's fine drink sponsoring a 6 minute load of crap on the Metamorphosis of Chrysalids. Curtain across, darkness before main film. This is the height of absolute insanity. There's a 5 minute Craven A using Grand Prix stock, a Dubonnet where the femme-fatales looking like anaemic fish spout phlegm-scandale, and the Astro fuel teaser is straight out of a Lelouch bowser wowser.page 12
Not that the Australian censor is no mean back. Not being fully up to date with his fresh disasters, I have noticed with distaste his banning of nearly every Corman film, entirely mutilating the fabulous Leone Italian westerns and outright banning The Penthouse, Dutchman and The Incident (how thoughtful) and am not sure yet about The Detective. No films are restricted, just SOA (Suitable Only Adults) which was flashed during The Graduate. The St Valentine's Day Massacre appeared in a reconstructed version and no doubt For A Few Dollars More as a trailer.
The Gala is the most interesting cinema. While the degenerate 17 clogs up the NZ circuits for many months, a beautiful, but boring little Swedish epic Elvira Madigan would be more in the line of honest distributing. Its extraordinary colour, repetitive Mozart, Vivaldi and non-happenings, make it the pleasantest snore-off in years. It contains (for me) my first movie chunder, and it wouldn't hurt a fly.
Out or sheer boredom Mike Nichols's The Graduate seemed yet another hit and run, with hardly any hit and it runs too far. An oddly sombre little film, its commercial bearing has been staggery-plus. It stars Anne Bancroft and superb newcomer Dustin Hoffman (he will be soon appear ing in John Schlesinger's film of Midnight Cowboy) who makes the most marvellous terrier whimpering noises. It is very sad and wants to make you cry, and only at the end does it really sparkle, but then it will remind you of another film.
Re-runs(?) of Jean-Luc Godard's have been Vive Sa Vie (which I missed), Bande A Part (which has been to NZ) and recently I saw the science-fiction op-pop-plop-arty farty Alphaville. It is the most "intellectually dumb and unprofound load of bullshit I have ever seen. Taking for granted the neglect this now jet-set anarchist of the coming 70s has had in New Zealand (he has made 16 full-length features plus, recently, his first film in English One Plus One with the Rolling Stones) and the amount written on him (let's face it he is the most written about today) by the almost ritualistic devotees, I cannot really see myself bothering about all the others, for I know they won't be as bad as Alphaville now.
The most refreshing film I've seen is Michael Winner's I'11 Never Forget What's 'is Name, shortly to be seen in Wellington, I hope. Refreshing because it is so competently outspoken with a wise and beautiful script by Peter Draper and superb style, offset between the nauseous and witty. Orson Welles, tycoon of the ad world, and Oliver Reed a gorilla hunk of society's child weaned and extortioned by the demands and disintegration of the female bait. Winner, fortunately, laces his early Donner-ish tale, or rather metamorphosis of evil, with some sardonic and scalptickling scenes, some of which I know caused the NZ censor to be rather reckless. If you don't see Reed directly booting someone in the face, or Miss Marianne Faithfull bellowing an obscenity, there is still enough unnerving dialogue, pastry-visions of satire, and gradual discent into the origins of society—sideness (at home and at school!) to make it a marvellous moive, which I urge you to see.
There have been and still are some famous people in our midst. I could mention actor Rod Taylor's homecoming to launch a bilious thing called The High Commissioner and gave some poor Tumbarumba virgin a night on the town by naming Taylor's films in order of aescetic-puke, and then there was the Maharishi who preached with the usual bunch—of flowers—and giggled away on what he called his last trip (giggle) to Australia. Spike Milligan's here, living with his parents out at Woy Woy, and contributed a halfhour television programme that contained according to critic Phil Adams "naive Christianity, his Thoreau-like love of nature, his delight in children, and the sadness that permeates his humour". It was a bit too much to see this noisy clown in a deeply moving programme, the regular scungy Aussie must have thought.
Film director San Peckinpah (Deadly Companions, Guns In The Afternoon and Major Dundee) arrives here this week to start talks with various people about a film based on a gold rush quest in the 1910s, provisionally called The Ballad Of Cable Hogue", starring Jason Robards and Stella Stevens. Half-Indian Peckinpah is one of those rare people one may meet in a life-time. I am sincerely hoping Warners-Seven Arts won't mind us popping up the road to his Kings Cross Motel to speak to him. His career has been nothing but erratic and stormy. Charles Higham (who writes about films and things for the Sydney Herald) quotes Charlton Heston as saying that Peckinpah was a feisty little tiger." Aha!
To me the most profound encounter with a rare artist was that of meeting young English mezzo-soprano Janet Baker, and hearing her on two occasions sing with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. This beautiful Yorkshire lass has arrived at the height of her fame and should be in New Zealand now commencing her tour with the orchestra and on solo recitals.
Unfortunately I was not here to hear her sing solo, a concert in which Australian critic Wolfgang Wagner wrote: "Janet Baker's one and only Sydney recital last week was one of those rare occasions when it feels good to be alive and to be able to enjoy music. One could just not help to fall in love with this glorious voice and her winning personality".
On the first night Miss Baker sang Brahms's Four Serious Songs with such a majesty of tone and deeply profound enunciation I have never heard anywhere by anyone before.
The song "O Fod, Wie Bitter" was one of the most noble and moving experience of a lifetime. She applies this easy concept of delighting and shoping registers with a clarity and loveliness usually not associated with contemporary singers. 83-ycar-old Otto Klemperer's new version of the Bach B Minor Mass contains arias by Janet Baker that will serve in history as some of the greatest ever recorded.
The second night I heard her in the Brahms Alto Rhapsody, overcoming the wide leaps with a translucent subliminal tone and rising like a sonorous bird over the male choir. Artistry that manifest as intense as this is only served once in a lifetime. I do sincerely hope you hear her