Death. It does play on the mind in the wind-up years of life's passage. There may be a decade or two left, but how one goes out still vexes. This troubling is not in the nature of a stultifyingly vice like grip, it is more in the nature of a light fret - at this stage. It's the missingness of it all – no more books, no more movies, no more music. No longer will there be the radiant touch of my loved one's hand on the small of my back to help the dark hours pass, and no more the following of a Poppet's journey to reach her dreams. But there is much life in this old dog yet. I want the contentment I've finally reached, after forty years at the chalkface, to last a good while yet. Life is so wonderful, so fulfillingly rich and happy. Why am I pondering all this? The answer rests with a film.
Tasmania, under the leadership of Giddings/McKim continues to be brave. They did the hard yards for peace in the forests and gay marriage, and now euthanasia is in the spotlight. The upper house, the throwbacks in the Legislative Council, have stymied the first two, and no doubt will do the same with the latter, as always disrespecting the wishes of the general populace. I would suggest, though, a viewing of said film, of 'Amour', be made compulsory before consideration of any bill to legalise mercy killing of the terminally ill is considered. It puts it all into perspective. Despite death not coming quietly in this imagining of a couple's battle with the inevitable, it is to the film-maker's credit that the experience is not overwhelmingly harrowing. It says something that David and Margaret both gave it five stars. I wouldn't have done so immediately after the closing credits. The fact that I viewed it on my first night of this most recent visit to Melbourne, and spent a big percentage of the remainder of my sojourn reflecting on it means, therefore, that I now concede those doyens of film reviewing were correct in their assessment.
I would not wish my final hours/days/weeks, whatever, to be as were Anne's in the film. Bravely played by Emmanuelle Riva, (definitely worthy of her Academy Award best actor nomination), this story, in the skilled hands of director Michael Haneke, showed the demise of her character, the once vibrant Anne, into a painful, semi-vegetative state. It did so in an unsanitised, jolting way. You wouldn’t wish it on yourself, or on anyone you love. The venerable Jean-Louis Trintignant came out of retirement to play Anne's husband, Georges, a role in my view every bit as testing as Riva's. Needless to say the latter didn't attain the golden statue – and Jessica Lawrence earned that right without any qualms from this armchair critic. It was a 'no brainer' that 'Amour’ walked away with best foreign film gong.
Whereas the movie takes us to a place that we'd perhaps rather not venture, any doldrums for your scribe it caused were, at least temporarily, put aside by a visit to NGV (St Kilda Road) and its 'summer masterpiece' of 'Radiance – the Neo-Impressionists'. For each of my days in Old Bearbrass the temperature was enervatingly up over the 30º mark, sapping my energy. In the cool of the vast gallery all this was forgotten as this sun-saturated exhibition retrieved my mojo. I basked in the pointillistic magic of Luce, Signac, Seurat and their acolytes. These guys took how to render light and colour on canvas to a new level. As an added bonus, I had the delightful and knowledgeable company of a friend, Lisa, to add the icing. This continued on, after our viewing, with the addition of hubby Graeme, to explore other locales, and the partaking of some welcome pear cider at a Brunswick St pub. The combination was a Melbourne highlight.
Prior to the above contemplation of Cote d’Azur renderings, I started the day with a treat – another gourmet breakfast at Hardware Societe – no guesses in which laneway this addictive cafe is located. I was boosted by a morish rice pudding, swamped in marinated strawberries and lubricated by cinnamon milk and, of all things, served in a jar! It rivalled the wild rice porridge of my winter visit. It was also great to catch another lunchtime paella at ‘Simply Spanish’, just outside the South Melbourne Market. On my final day, because it seemed to be the right habit to get into when in Melbourne, I had a devilishly naughty, cream sodden iced coffee at 'The Blue Room', Claredon Street.
The last time my presence was noted at the Melbourne Zoo was in pre-digital days when a roll of film couldn't be squandered with snap-happiness. Thankfully, those days are gone, so it was high time I, your scribbler, revisited, in the knowledge I could point and hope at every beastie in sight. And yes, meerkats in the flesh are indeed super cute. The butterfly house again beguiled me as much as I remembered, with the azures and emeralds of countless bejewelled wings a-flapping. The snow leopard, frisky seals and lugubrious real 'rangas' were brill as well. What really stole my heart, though, was a native from closer to home. For a few precious minutes I was alone in the Sidney Meyer Platypus House with its seemingly sole resident, and he/she was in a playful mood. I felt with this little fellow I was safe in placing my head up against the glass of his aquarium, and so every-time he surfaced we had eye linkage – his/hers, of course, being shut in dive mode. I cast my mind back to the previous weekend when I was doing something the same on a quiet creek’s edge, south of Hobs, at Geeveston. It felt so similar. It seemed I would have been happy eye-balling this captive specimen for hours, but all too soon a chiacking group of young men entered, breaking the spell. No 'eyes of the tiger' at this zoo, but the window to the soul of a monotreme had as much magic.
Sex with strangers – that's the disconcerting experience I had, at the venerable Kino, on going to see 'Elles'. The little, 'intimate', theatrette was crowded, so the naked 'in your face' bodies on the screen of this over-heated movie left little room for delicacy. I ended up finding myself as interested in the male patron next to me as I was in the rather turgid goings on presented by director Szumowska. This guy was definitely out of his comfort zone – he didn't know where to put himself as he squirmed through proceedings. On his other side was his very beautiful, elegant 'date', and I suspect they did not know each other all that well. Perhaps he had been misled by the promise, put out by the promoters of this distinctly confronting movie, that it was 'racy and sexy', and that, 'Elles simmers'. Whoever dreamt up that piece of patently false advertising was at a different movie to me, and the poor fellow to my right would have been better advised to have taken his belle to the PG rom-com next door. This French affair would definitely not get anyone 'in the mood'. At the first hint of closing credits he was out like a shot, his bemused companion trailing in his wake. Still, as always, Binoche acted 'her pants off'. Excuse the poor taste pun, but even in this dross she is a revelation.
As for celeb spotting – Bob Brown and his partner strolling down Collins, and Brian Nankervis et famille at the NGV.
The morning newspaper lauded that over one hundred thousand were in attendance; that evening's tele news reported three times that amount – and it seemed like a million to me. It was by far the biggest crowd I had been part of, and clearly, judging by the chaos, it was unexpected. What they, and I, were there for could only be described as beyond awesome. And I think it is going to happen again in twelve months time so, in the words of the great hatted one, 'Do yourself a favour' and try and make it to the next one. The word will spread how marvellous this one was, so book early. It was my first go at night time photography, but on the computer screen, at least, my images give hint at what came to pass. The atmosphere around Fed Square/Flinders Street, for the amazing laser light projections, was electric, with the throng ready to party every hour till dawn. I wasn't, I couldn't – but it's called 'White Night', and it is fantastic!
The other good stuff – well finding out the tram trip to South Melbourne Beach takes half the time as the one down to St Kilda to catch a breeze off the briny. There were the delightful shop assistants in Coventry Street who had all the time in the world for a chat. There was the animated driver on Tram No 1 who did his best to give his passengers a cheery start to the day. Here now, a couple of days later, I am still exhausted – but I can't wait to get back!
Melbourne's White Night = http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/melbourne-captured-by-the-charm-of-white-night-20130223-2ey3q.html