Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. [Volume 39, Issue 8. April 1976]
Edward Weston Photographs
If every there was any doubt in my mind that photography qualified as "Art", that doubt has been well and truly dispelled by this exhibition of Edward Weston's work of the twenties and thirties.
Weston is one of the old masters of photography and, with Stieglitz and Strand, was one of the foremost exponents of straight or classic photography.
Straight photography employs the very minimum of darkroom manipulation.
Weston didn't use an enlarger because of the inevitable loss of quality of definition and clarity of image entailed in the enlarging process. He was the complete purist. He considered that he had failed if he ever had to crop the final print.
He worked with the classic 8 × 10inch view camera which enabled him to see the finished image in full size before he clicked the shutter.
This was the essence of his philosophy; the necessity to visualise the final result before making the exposure, encapsulating the moment and then not tampering with it.
Using the simplest methods, he married aesthetic and technique to the point of virtuosity: Unless I pull a technically fine print from a technically fine negative, the emotional or intellectual value of the photograph is for me almost negated", he wrote.
Weston was aware of a duality in his work. A philosophical commitment to realism on the one hand a strong tendency towards abstraction on the other.
In 1924 he wrote: 'The camera must be used for recording life for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself ... I shall let no chance pass to record interesting abstractions, but I feel definite in my belief that the approach to photography is through realism ."
The emphasis in the selection of his work exhibited here is on abstraction and pure form Except for a few landscapes, stunning in their sharpness of definition, one beautiful soft focus portrait of a woman, (quite atypical - there are no other photographs of people), a couple of highly evocative photographs of places, ( a Mexican backyard, a seaside settlement a harbour scene), the photographs are of objects Seashells, peppers, factory chimneys, piled up pots in a Mexican marketplace, artichokes, pieces of driftwood and church doors predominate. His nudes are depersonalised studies of form.
Weston was a sculptor with a camera. He died in 1958, but breathtaking beauty of the body of work he left behind must be considered one of the major achievements of 20th century American art.
A Fistful of Dollars
This is the first and best of the series of Dollar films starring Clint Eastwood. It is a Mexican-American-Spanish-ltalian western because each of these countries has a pari to play in the final synthesis.
"Just about every western cliche that went with the old formula of the cool mysterious gunslinger who blows into an evil frontier town and takes on the wicked greedy varmints, knocking them off one by one, is in this egregiously synthetic but engrossingly morbid violent film "
New York Times
Eastwood plays the half cowboy half gangster hero who comes bouncing back no matter whether he gets beaten to a pulp.
The film is full of spectator violences and the professionalism of these scenes is partly due to the fact that the film is a rewrite of a Japanese samurai film made by Akira Kurosawa, one of the world's most accomplished directors.
Every Home Should have One
I can't remember much about this film, except that I couldn't stop laughing from all those weird Marty Feldman faces.
This film is better described as a long Marry Feldman skit because it is totally based around him and the incredible situations in which he finds himself. Feldman plays an agent for an advertising company Trying TO come up with a jingle for a top roduct. He is sent out into the world with the advice to "think dirty". He does, and you'll have to go and see what happens!
The film about Sir Charles Gordon ([unclear: Charton] Heston), a glorious hero and tragic victim of British involvement in the Egyptian Sudan during the last part of the 19th Century.
Gordon is sent into Khartoum tO evacuate the British and the Egyptians from the city as it is being taken over by the natives of Sudan. The Tribes leader was Mahdi (Sir Lawrence Olivier).
Based on actual history, the film s packed with an incredible amount of historical detail, battle action and mystery.
Mahdi is the victor in the battles and is the moral victor as well, although the film -s based on the British Hero Even in The meeting Gordon has with Mahdi before the final battle. Mahdi's arguments are much stronger than Gordon's. Mahdi is brilliantly played by Olivier, and as with the real characters, has it over Heston who gives one of his best performances ever.
Film Review -
'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' is the most devastating film I've seen for a very long time - and, funnily enough, one of the most enjoyable.
If you do nothing else this week go and see it. It'll make you think a lot more than a week of varsity bullshit.
Briefly, the plot revolves around R.P. MacMurphy (Jack Nicholson), a free spirited rogue who feigns insanity at a penal farm in order to force officials to transfer him to a local asylum. He thinks life will be easier there and gradually, through his irrestible charm and cunning, he begins to take over the ward to which he's been assigned. The patients love him, the authorities don't - and there lies the conflict which must end in his ultimate inexhorable, extinction.
'Cuckoo's Nest' is essentially the story of a man. A man, like you or I. A man who is perhaps impetuous, over-emotional, rebellious but nevertheless someone who is part of us all R.P. MacMurphy is a totally real character - his humour, his exemberance radiate from the entire film - with him we laugh, we cry, we suffer, we identify.
The impact of the film comes from its total believeability. The story totally absorbs us - we become one with Nicholson. And then comes the savage twist of the knife. As the billboards says 'If he's mad, what does that make you'.
This question of mental illness - what is it, who's got it, and what can we do about it - is the central theme of the film. In talking about the film the director, Milos Forman, said: 'One of the challenges of the story is that you are describing mentally ill people at a time when doctors don't know what mental illness really is.... I can only define 'mental illness' as an incapacity to adjust to ever-changing, unspoken rules. If you are incapable of making these constant changes you are called by your environment, crazy.'
The power of the film comes from the realisation that MacMurphy, Billy, Stan and the other inmates are no more insane than the rest of us. They're real, everyday people who are destroyed by the asylum itself. Just as they go mad, so too would we.
It is here we see the true genius of "Cuckoo's Nest". The film is a delicate blend of subtlety and understatement. It is not a belaboured documentary film on the evils of mental hospitals, but rather the happy-sad life of a likeable guy.
The whole film works on the age old principle of getting the audience laughing, getting them on your side, then subtly twisting the knife. And it works the audience reaction at the film was amazing, people laughed, clapped and cheered and finally, were deadly silent.
This sense of understatement is further shown in the actual depiction of mental treatment. In only one brief scene do we see MacMurphy receiving electric shock. But there's so much more power in what we don't see, - in what Forman leaves unsaid The audience silently, desperately Understands the rest.
"Cuckoo's Nest" explores the conflict between individual and authority. MacMurphy represents the independent, free-thinking exuberant being who takes on the bigoted, unfeeling 'system'. His tragedy is that he is crushed just when he was most likely to succeed
"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' has all the elements of a very romantic film. But it is the harsh, savage Romanticism of the 1970's.
The full ironic sadness of the ending hits you when you realise that its only in the movies that the good guy escapes. Only one person can ever fly over the cuckoo's nest. For you and I there is no escape.
My final, lasting impression from the film was an unshakeable belief in the value of a single human being - the thinking individual against authority The film has an incredible sense of the dignity of man, which comes primarily from Chief Bromden - the frightened Indian who, through MacMurphy, grows to be a man. He gives to the film a dignity that few films have. It's something I can't describe - but it somehow gives the film a power that lives on after the cinema is long gone.
But don't take my word for it - go and see it.
I've tried to explain what I felt about the film and analyse the basic themes. But its only my point of view and it could well be a load of crap. The only way to check it out is to go see the film - and whatever happens, you won't be sorry.
— Ben Smith
Film Review: Lucky Lady
When a star is born a superb birth is in order, and Liza Minnelli certainly gave us that in Cabaret. But one also expects fur their greatness: Lucky Lady is her first film to follow and is an unqualified disaster.
The story concerns three small-timers running whisky from Mexico into the States in 1930 They develop an ostensibly lovable menage-a-trois, run into trouble with the local mob but manage to kill them all, and live happily ever after.
We are supposed to be watching a glorious series of jokes, slapstick, tomfoolery and sheer lunacy, yet all this is without exception embarrassingly-badly done.
Minnelli is Clare, a no-hope singer in a run-down Mexican night-club. Clare is not Sally Bowles, and while it is to Minnelli's credit that she so painstakingly tries to: throw off the mantle of the latter, it is unfortunate that her better moments occur when, just for a word or a gesture, she forgets to do just that.
Sally was a fascinating character; Clare is a bore. When the two men muse on her magnetism, one wonders whom the hell they are talking about.
Burt Reynolds plays Walker, an idiot through and through who can't even manage to be endearing. He looks (as he so often does) as if he hasn't a clue what's going on, and this time I don't entirely blame him. He is supposed to provide most of the slapstick, but has an uncanny knack of seeming to do something funny as if it really isn't meant to be.
Gene Hackman plays Kippy (the level headed partner), quietly smiling, but with an even more blatant lack of enthusiasm than Minnelli has for her role.
The basic trouble is that director Stanley Donen doesn't have the ghost of an idea of how to make a movie. Most of the conversations are inaudible and sound as if they were recorded on a swinging boom mike which made sporadic passes near the actors. (This isn't as annoying as it could be because one very quickly gets the impression one isn't missing much).
When one does hear the script, it sounds like an unhappy mixture of first-take improvised inanities and old jokes which the actors do their level best to ruih.
Visually the film is worse. Situations are painfully set up but completely lack the delightful predictability of, for exam pie a Blake Edw3rds comedy. To counter this (I presume) a number of visual jokes happen almost off-camera and do not play the role they should in creating a frivolous mood.
It is as if the cast consider they are not making a comedy but don't know what else it might be.
The gangsters look and sound like insipid versions of the old dummies in double-breasted suits toting machine-guns. To top it all off, even the big showdown with its requisite sharp-shooting, spectacular deaths and daredeviling-cum-buffoonery is unexciting.
At one point in the film someone asks of the three, "Waddya think they are, gangsters?' 'No', is the reply 'just Hollywood bums' I really couldn't believe it.
— Simon Wilson
Easter Celebration at the Hannah Playhouse: Downstage Presents 'Passion' by Edward Bond.
'Passion' was commissioned for the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament's Easter 1971 Festival of Life. As a piece of theatre then it is slightly 'dated', but for a small country tossing the coin over nuclear power, awaiting the advent of Atomic-War Ships and sabre-rattling on behalf of our 'ally' with the Ultimate Weapon, the play's warning is ominously relevant.
'Passion' is a powerful dramatic parable strongly evocative of Bertolt Brecht's 'Mother Courage' and 'Legend of a Dead Soldier'. Its opening is particularly effective. The old woman with her dead son sent back from the war; the stretcher-bearers masked in greatcoats and balaclava helmets; the narrator delivering Bond's lyrical prose in a clinically detached manner. Lighting, makeup and interaction between the characters make this one of the most compelling scenes in the production
The scenes that follow owe more to Spike Milligan's 'Bed Sitting Room' and Stanley Kubrick's 'Doctor Strangelove'. The old woman goes to the Queen to ask for her son back. She is told by the court magician that her son is to be covered in bronze and will continue to serve his countrymen as a monument to heroism.
That the Queen is only a constitutional monarch with no real power is characterised by her inability to make her yo-yo go-go With the help of her Prime Minister (whose yo-yo works) and the magician, the Queen launches a new bomb at the enemy ('May God bless her and all who sail in her') and unveils the monument.
There is a short gasp from the audience as the curtain falls revealing a crucified pigs carcass
In a brutally effective scene, the enemy retaliates and the kingdom is destroyed. Bhudda enters escorting Christ to the scaffold for his crucifixion.
Christ sees the pig and laments, 'I've come too late. Men have already crucified themselves.'
Unfortunately this is the least effective moment of the production. Christ is too full of false piety and anguish where quiet resignation or downright anger is required. His voice is too uncontrolled and breathy to be of much service to the play.
Bond's verdict is that we are all 'mad animals'. The pig is not only a sacreligious object designed to shock, but is a symbol for man's self-debasement. However it is a naive gesture. Naive because as a warning and statement, no one has taken any notice. After the play a common concern seemed to be how the carcass was to be kept preserved for future performances.
'Passion' is a black comedy, a play without humour. Bond takes himself very seriously. We laugh, but helplessly, at the inanities of the ruling elite and the simple-mindedness of those who follow.
There is a ressurection. The magician discovers a way of making a bomb from the dust of the destroyed kingdom, and cycle is all set to start again. We are not being offered hope.
The play ends with a voice-over Confession' from the body of the dead soldier. Here again, if the voice had been less emotive and more controlled the total impact of the play would have been preserved.
It is this unsubtle and emotive heavy-handedness which characterises the production. The narrator turns a box on his table to denote condition changes. A larger corresponding box is simultaneously turned on the stage. When the bomb falls the narrator dramatically crumples the box
This is unnecessary. The narrator does not need to make this comment. The actors onstage make it for him.
It's a pity also that John Banas resists the temptation to make the Queen an obvious caricature or personification of Queen Elizabeth II. There is no need for subtlety here. The satire should have a sharper edge, cutting closer to the bone.
Of all the characters, the Prime Minister was the most authentic and the best sustained. Here was the well thought out balance between fantasy and caricature.
Despite its pessimistic nature, this was an important production for Downstage. Rarely do we have an opportunity to see roughly contemporary works from Britain and America produced here. An increased proliferation would not only give us an insight into the development and progression of modern theatre, but may provide a much needed stimulus to N.Z. writers who are starved of worthwhile examples.
— Richard Mays
Working in a World of Dreams
Here Michael King, the research man and script writer, tells about the treatment of the six hour-long programmes and the making of the first one.
We were outside a cottage on the shore of Aotea Harbour. Our contact man, Dave Manihera, was inside with the old woman Nohinohi. She was tattooed and spoke no English. The crew and I were waiting for her final decision about taking part in the filming of 'The Spirits and Times Will Teach'.
Dave, shaking his head, waded back through the grass from the cottage. "No," he said, "she's changed her mind. She's had a dream."
Dreams, They were the making or unmaking of us. More than any other factor they persuaded or discouraged people from working with us.
"She likes to spend her days more with the spirits than the living," Dave told us. "Last night she dreamed that Mahuta (the third Maori King) was here. As she walked towards him, a tatooed man threw a barbed spear that stood up in the ground in front of her. It was a challenge.
"Are you going to sell your people?" Mahuta asked her. "After your people, what then?"
"You see she regards her moko as her mauri, her life force. It surrounds her and belongs to her and the ancestors who gave it to her.
"You tell your pakeha friends," she said, "that when my time comes I want to go home with my moko unseen and my voice unheard. No one will take them from me. No one will diminish my aura."
"Dreams always tell you something," Dave said. 'They carry a message from somebody of somewhere. You don't ignore them."
So we became accustomed to working in a world of dreams, omens and premonitions.
For the remainder of "The Spirits" film we were blessed. Tom Porter, son of the last tohunga to tattoo, was instructed in dreams to help us. Eva Rickard of Raglan dreamed well of us and as a result her whole family agreed to let us live, eat, sleep with them in the intimate relationship essential for the making of a good documentary.
Most important, Eva's dream brought her tattooed kuia, Herepo Rongo, into the project. And the old lady's role quickly increased to that of main participant.
Through these people we explored the role of an old person in a rural Maori community - her view of life; her past and the ways the comunity relates to her, Moko, or tattoes, in the film became a symbol of an older pattern of life that was changing but not disappearing.
Tangata Whenua gives an impression of a distinctive set of life patterns foreign to most New Zealaners - foreign but affecting: Herepo Rongo leading her people to restore a desecrated grave; the same womar crying over Raglan Harbour to her ancestors and dead children; Waikato people marching on to a marae with their Queen for a demonstration of loyalty and solidarity; members of the Ringatu faith praying through their 19th century ritual composed in exile; John Rangihau of Tuhoe affirming what makes him Maori.
In most places tribal identity was more potent than Maori identity. The more we heard people talk about differences in history, etiquette and values the more difficult it became to claim things for Maoridom as some kind of mythical whole.
For the core of the crew who filmed Tangata Whenua - Barry Barclay, cameramen Keith Hawke. Rory O'Shea and Michael Hardcastle, soundman Craig McLeod, and myself - it was an experience unlike any other.
Immensely rewarding things happened to us and frightening, inexplicable ones: lights toppled and broke for no apparent reason; fires ignited on location. On one occasion we had to put all our gear through a tapu removal process. We were persistently reminded that the things we were doing were not to be taken lightly.
It is no exaggeration to say that our lives will never be quite the same. And I have learnt to be attentive to my dreams.