Tag Archives: 1970s

Six months of movie-going

I just found a list of the movies I saw in the first half of 1970, the year I turned 23, my English Honours year at Sydney University. I had just left the Marist Brothers and I was awfully lonely without the fraternal community of the previous seven years, but there were movies to fill the void: the ones in the picture theatres and the ones screened cheap by the Sydney University Film Group (of whom John Flaus and Michael Thornhill were leading lights). No film courses were offered at the university in those days, but it’s hard to imagine a course that would have been this eclectic or offered such startling double bills. I wonder if such an extended binge is a common experience.

Here’s the incredibly rich list.

I saw the first four films at home in North Queensland, with my older brother (the first three) and my parents. After that I was in Sydney and briefly in Canberra.

January:
whisperers25 The Lineup (Don Siegel 1958)
27 Summer Fires (also known as Mademoiselle) (Tony Richardson 1966, starring Jeanne Moreau)
28 The Whisperers (Bryan Forbes 1967, with Dame Edith Evans)
30 The Subject Was Roses (Ulu Grosbard 1968: the poster said, ‘Patricia Neal is back,’ but I didn’t know she’d been away, or who she was)

February:
culdesac13 Hamlet (Tony Richardson 1969)
14 If … (Tony Richardson 1968)
18 Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger 1969)
20 The Searchers (John Ford 1956; John Wayne, ‘As sure as night follows day…’)
23 The Killers (Don Siegel 1964)
23 Chimes at Midnight (Orson Welles 1965)
24 Cul-de-Sac (Roman Polanski 1966; Donald Pleasance bowled me over)

March;
mabuseStrike (Sergei M. Eisenstein 1925)
9 Targets (Peter Bogdanovich 1968)
12 Alice’s Restaurant (Arthur Penn 1969; Arlo Guthrie)
12 The Chase (Arthur Penn 1966)
13 Medium Cool (Haskell Wexler 1969; the 1968bDemocratic Convention – ‘Haskell, it’s real!’)
20 Dr Mabuse (Fritz Lang 1922)
21 Touch of Evil (Orson Welles 1958; Marlene Dietrich; ‘He was some kind of a man’)
28 Zabriskie Point (Michelangelo Antonioni 1970; amazing street art in San Francisco, and also kaboom!)
28 Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper 1969)

April:
coeurs3 Nanook of the North (Robert J. Flaherty 1922)
3 Les coeurs verts (Edouard Luntx 1966; the scene where the juvenile delinquents break into a swimming pool and suddenly there’s a wonderful naked underwater ballet; Gus Van Sant must have seen it)
6 Summer with Monika (Ingmar Bergman 1953)
Sawdust and Tinsel (Ingmar Bergman 1953)
13 Mickey One (Arthur Penn 1965)
13 Through a Glass Darkly (Ingmar Bergman 1961)
16 Repulsion (Roman Polanski 1965)
17 Twelfth Night (John Sichel 1969; one of the very few films in this list that I don’t remember at all)
18 Richard III (Laurence Olivier 1955)
20 Winter Light (Ingmar Bergman 1962)
20 Guns in the Afternoon (Sam Peckinpah 1962)
23 Barrier (Jerzy Skolimowski 1966)
24 White Nights (Luchino Visconti 1957)
26 Planet of the Apes (Franklin J Schaffner 1968)
26 Modesty Blaise (Joseph Losey 1966)
27 The Enforcer (Raoul Walsh 1951)
27 Vivre sa vie (Jean Luc Godard 1962)

May: 
burmeseMinistry of Fear (Fritz Lang 1944)
1 Where the Sidewalk Ends (Otto Preminger 1950)
5 The Blue Gardenia (Fritz Lang 1953)
9 The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah 1969)
12 The Burmese Harp (Kon Ichikawa 1956; maybe my first east Asian film, and I was gobsmacked)
12 Tirez sur le pianiste (Francois Truffaut 1960)
23 Frankenstein (Don Whale 1931)
30 MASH (Robert Altman 1969)

June:
pointblank12 Crime and Punishment (Josef Von Sternberg 1935; could Peter Lorre really be who Dostoevsky had in mind?)
15 Bedazzled (Stanley Donen 1967)
20 Ramrod (André De Toth 1947; a Joel McCrae western)
21 Point Blank (John Boorman 1967; Lee Marvin!)
21 The Fearless Vampire Killers (Roman Polanski 1967; I laughed myself silly at the Aquarius Festival in Canberra)
26 The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short (André Delvaux 1965)
26 Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock 1946)
27 The Power and the Glory (Marc Daniels 1961)
27 L’Etranger (Luchino Visconti 1967)
29 The Damned (Joseph Losey 1961; ‘Black leather, black leather, rock rock rock’; Oliver Reed)
29 Persona (Ingmar Bergman 1966)

July:
gospel2 Rysopsis (Jerzy Skolimowski 1964; is this the one where the old people in the bar make their glasses resonate?)
2 My Way Home (Miklós Janscó 1965)
3 Bullitt (Peter Yates 1968)
3 Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn 1967)
3 October (Sergei Eisenstein 1928; Ah, by this time I wasn’t so lonely any more; I saw it with my girlfriend and her Russian mother, who didn’t like its politics)
Alfie (Lewis Gilbert 1966)
6 The Tall T (Budd Boetticher 1957)
6 Shame (Ingmar Bergman 1968)
8 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill 1969)
10 The Thirty-Nine Steps (Alfred Hitchcock 1935)
10 Memories of Underdevelopment (Tomás Gutiérrez Alea 1968; an independent Cuban film)
12 Juliet of the Spirits (Federico Fellini 1965; my first Fellini, I had no idea what to make of it)
13 Petulia (Richard Lester 1968)
13 Last Year at Marienbad (Alain Resnais 1961)
20 The Gospel According to Matthew (Pier Paolo Pasolini 1964; my first Pasolini, I was blown away)
25 The Roaring Twenties (Raoul Walsh 1939; screened to a small audience, Flaus stopped the projector and rescreened Marlene Dietrich’s first appearance three times)
27 Contempt (Jean Luc Godard 1963; starring Fritz Lang and Brigitte Bardot)
– The Wild Angels (Roger Corman 1966)
– Woodstock (Michael Wadleigh 1970)

Michael Dransfield revisited & LoSoRhyMo #12

Michael Dransfield, Streets of the Long Voyage (UQP, Paperback Poets 1970) and The Inspector of Tides (UQP Paperback Poets 1972)

Around 1970, when Sydney poetry readings drew relatively large audiences, a young Michael Dansfield, roughly my own age as it happens, created something of a stir. With unruly shoulder length curls, he looked every inch the romantic. He was evidently much loved by the community of poets and his death of an overdose inspired a number of moving elegies. I bought his books and applauded his readings, but it was my guilty secret that I found his persona and his poetry vaguely irritating.

Recently a friend who was culling her bookshelves gave these two books to me rather than tossing them or lugging them to a secondhand shop (where the Internet suggests they might have been worth a bob or two, if not for a small child’s large writing in the margins of ‘Still Life with Syringe’ and elsewhere). I’d long since disposed of my own copies, and was glad of a chance to revisit the poetry after some 40 years.

Half way into Streets of the Long Voyage I realised I was looking for irritants, and finding them: the self pitying romanticisation of drug addiction (‘a needle spelling XANADU / in pinprick visions down your arm / what of nostalgia when/ the era that you grew in dies’), the hi-falutin’ name-dropping (no John Forbesian Ramones for this lad, just Chopin, Scriabin, Taktakishvili all the way), the crude social commentary, the weird nostalgia for a fictional(?) decaying family home; and a pervasive self-absorption. The self-absorption came into focus for me in these lines from ‘goliard’:

The driver wonders what I’m writing
but with the superb manners of an Australian
merely asks, ‘Got enough light there, mate?’

Anyone who understood the idiom would realise, as the speaker evidently doesn’t, that ‘the driver’ was indirectly – and yes, politely – asking what his passenger was writing. One imagines that the driver’s account of that moment would not include the phrase ‘superb manners’; nor for that matter would it include the essentialising ‘Australian’.

The Inspector of Tides was more of the same: more ‘this world is going to the dogs so I’m leaving it on a needle’; more ‘ah, my ancestral home now in ruins’; more social commentary that seems quite untouched by the upsurge of optimistic activism that was happening at the time. There’s even a unicorn. ‘Endsight’ got up my nose with its reference to

00000000000000000000000the Official Poets, whose genteel
iambics chide industrialists
for making life extinct.

Since the poem is dedicated to A D Hope among others, this is a reasonably transparent jibe at Hope. I couldn’t lay hands on anything by Hope about environmental issues, but perhaps Dransfield was thinking of something like ‘Inscription for Any War’:

Linger not, stranger, shed no tear;
Go back to those who sent us here.
We are the young they drafted out
To wars their follies brought about.
Go tell those old men, safe in bed,
We took their orders and are dead.

Iambics, yes, but genteel chiding? I don’t think so. It would still take guts to read that at a military funeral, or even a parliamentary debate on Afghanistan.

There are plenty of things to enjoy in both these books – especially when the poetry relaxes, as in ‘Ryokan’:

at the window
rain

the sparrow
feathers puffed out

sings brightly but alone

my hand makes
black marks on white

the sparrow
pink marks on grey

But this is a blog entry not a review. Dransfield is a much better poet than, for example, I will ever be. He just brings out the irrits in me.

And since it’s November and I’m behind on my quota of sonnets, a quick question in rhyme:

Sonnet 12: Re-reading
Oh you who love to read again
the books you loved, who tell us how
the love you had for Austen when
you were fourteen is burning now
with brighter and more subtle fire,
how Dostoevsky, then so dire
a challenge to your questing brain
now sparks your neural paths again,
you haven’t said, do you re-read
the books that stirred you not at all,
or those, perhaps, that made you fall
asleep mid sentence, ‘Meh!’ indeed?
If it annoyed in sixty-seven
what hope for it in twenty eleven?

History acknowledged

In a little strip of green not far from Harold Park Raceway, near where a bridge crosses Johnson’s Creek, a new object appeared the other day: a squat, squarish thing beside the path,  looking more than anything like a cardboard carton fallen off a passing truck – or given its distance from any road, perhaps from a helicopter. On approach, it turned out to be a block of sandstone with a plaque on top.

Over the logo of Leichhardt Municipal Council, the plaque explains itself:

In the early 1970s resident groups,
including the Glebe Society, joined with the
Builders Labourers Federation,
led by Jack Mundey,
to impose a Green Ban on expressways
planned to carve through
Glebe, Annandale and Lilyfield.
This plaque commemorates all the men and women who fought this battle.

Well, I’m chuffed to be commemorated, and so I’m sure are the rest of the raggedy coalition of anarchists, Maoists (who created a poster showing a US flag as highway ploughing through tiny houses, because of course the expressway was a product of US capitalism’s relentless pursuit of profit), students fresh from the Vietnam Moratorium demos, out of work actors, etc, who joined the ‘battle’ with the starchy Glebe Society and the fabulous BLF. In those heady days I remember overhearing a conversation between a Philosophy Lecturer and an Eng Lit Honours student deciding not to blow up the beginning stages of the expressway because although they had it in their hearts to do it, they lacked the practical knowledge of high explosives. Inspired by something someone had read about successful protests in San Francisco, we built an adventure playground in a little park in Darling Street, Glebe, though as far as I know very few children actually availed themselves of our crude constructions. perhaps these are the kinds of reasons why we are being commemorated rather than honoured.

But why in this park? And why now? Isn’t there already a site-appropriate plaque in Glebe that gives more detail? This morning I took the dog to visit that pleasant little park, between 77a and 79 Darling Street.

and found this:

Yes, a pale patch of rock where once a plaque had been. Was this was the work of vandals or the result of Glebe being taken over by the City of Sydney? Did the Councils talk to each other? Is the new plaque some kind of replacement for the stolen/removed one? I’ve phoned Leichhardt Council and emailed the City of Sydney Council. The latter’s web site promises a reply within 14 days.

To be continued …

Melancholy derangement

Kate Jennings, Come to Me My Melancholy Baby (Outback Press 1975)

jennings coverI’ve mentioned Kate Jennings once or twice in my blogs, mainly because her New York based writing has given me much pleasure. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that she won a place in my heart nearly (gasp!) forty years ago with a speech she gave at a Vietnam Moratorium meeting on the Front Lawn at Sydney University. On that day, after a number of rousing speeches from various anti-war organisations, a number of women, perhaps there were ten of them, came to the front of the speaking area and fanned out across its full width, standing with legs apart and arms folded. I was off at one side near the front of the thousand-strong crowd, and was impressed by the deliberate drama of the moment. I noticed that the woman closest to me was trembling, and realised that they were doing something that terrified them. Kate stepped to the microphone – the painfully thin designated speaker – and delivered her speech in a voice that shook but didn’t break. The speech was intemperate, overblown, bitter, profane and inelegant. It changed my life.

The speech was printed five years later as ‘Moratorium: Front Lawn: 1970’ in Kate’s first book, Come to Me My Melancholy Baby. It’s a slim vol of poetry, plus the speech and one other short prose piece. I lost my copy decades ago, and was delighted when a slightly battered arrived in the mail last week from a friend who was culling her bookshelves. The poems, it turns out,  haven’t generally aged well, though the pain in some of them fairly leaps off the page. When Kate was interviewed on the ABC by Julie McCrossin a couple of years ago (published in Hecate Vol 14 Nº 1), Julie asked her about this book, and in particular about that speech. Here’s a relevant bit:

KJ: I think you’d call that speech ‘in your face’. They were wild, rackety outrageous days and we were not getting the attention of the men at that point. We were a very small group that started meeting and that was the speech I gave. I’m not sure that we can actually say it out loud on radio. It was that outrageous.
JM
: But what was the core content, the cry from the heart?
KJ
: The cry from the heart was that we were all Vietnam activists and the men were all gung-ho about fighting that cause, and nobody cared about women, and at that stage women could not have legal abortions.
JM
: And when you look back are you amazed at the courage you had, that was a new voice then, the voice of women saying: ‘Look out over here, something’s happening, or not happening?’
KJ
: When I look back at all my life I am amazed, I do keep walking a plank. I thought those days were terrific.
JM
: Why?
KJ
: We were very inventive. We weren’t as earnest as people are making us out to be now. I don’t think of course those tactics are necessary now.

The bit of the speech that made me sit up and listen wasn’t the vile man-hating rhetoric. What made it possible to listen to that and hear what was being said was the opening lines, printed in the book as an epigraph:

you’ll say I’m a manhating braburning
lesbian member of the castration
penisenvy brigade, which I am

I’d remembered the last three words as ‘Well, I am.’ The thing that so affected me was that Kate and the women who flanked her were proclaiming that they would no longer be silenced or kept in their places by even the most vicious putdowns anyone could throw at them. If need be they would claim the putdowns as badges of honour. It made my young, impressionable, male heart sing.

The poems that precede and follow the speech recount some of the personal cost behind that stand:

If it’s not booze, it’s drugs
if it’s not drugs, it’s poetry,
if it’s not poetry, it’s feminism,
if it’s not feminism, it’s love
if it’s not love,
well, you’re just plain crazy.
When you are crying like that
how long before you stop?
I’ve stopped.

Part of the pleasure of her more recent books is in their sheer urbane poise, a great relief to the reader who followed her through the derangement, rage and ‘racketiness’ of this book.