Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Big movie mess

My 93-year-old uncle Isaac Kennedy Walker—a former dairy farmer from my birthplace at Waterview, near Grafton—has been living for the last ten or so years in the Australian seaside city of Coffs Harbour. At that place, in the midst of the sunny slopes dedicated to banana production, a local guesthouse operator decided to erect a tourist gimmick, made of painted plaster, that soon became famous: the Big Banana.

This banana was in fact the first of a long series of Aussie big things, described on Wikipedia [display].

In France, most ugly monstrosities of this kind feature the Virgin Mary. You find big virgins from one end of France to the other, often at prominent spots in the landscape where everybody is obliged to observe these hunks of stone and concrete. Hopefully, future communities will surely dynamite them and use the rubble to build roads...

In the domain of big things, totalitarian states inspired by a personality cult have invented a spectacular gadget that has rarely been exploited in our so-called free democracies. This is the idea of erecting a Big Me.

In France, not so long ago, a guy was sly enough to take this interesting idea to its logical conclusions. An adept of yoga named Gilbert Bourdin [1923-1998], from the French Caribbean island of Martinique, founded a weird sect known as Mandarom. He settled in the superb Provençal landscape of Castellane and erected various pseudo-Tibetan statues including a gigantic representation of himself that could be seen for miles around. Finally, in 2001, after tedious legal wrangling, the French army dynamited this eyesore.

In France, the term "turnip" is used (God knows why) to designate bad movies, and everybody understands this curious metaphor.

In my humble view, the award for the Big Turnip goes surely to the film Australia by Baz Luhrmann, which has just opened in France.

On Boxing Day, I drove up to Grenoble, with my daughter, to see the English-language version of this movie. Frankly, I find it a bloody catastrophe, from every point of view. I have no positive evaluations whatsoever concerning this bundle of clichés tied up with pink ribbons. Above all, the entire final part of Luhrmann's overblown product, presenting a make-believe World War II conflict in Darwin, is technically appalling from a movie viewpoint. You can't believe an instant of it...

Someone said that the cinematographic encounter between the pale giant Nicole Kidman (former wife of Tom Cruise) and Hugh Jackman (the alleged sexiest man on the planet) has the sensual intensity of a Vegemite sandwich. Although I've never tried to eat this Aussie shit, that sounds like a pretty good comparison. The film is so ridiculous that I have nothing more to say about it...


  1. I was so disappointed in the film "Australia" myself, including the scenery. It was ridiculous and made a mockery of everything, including the Aborigines. What a terrible waste of multi-millions of dollars and time and effort... what could have gone so wrong for this film to be such a complete disaster? Will anyone ever dare to try to retell the story of Australia, and do it well?

  2. Catherine: Thanks, once again, for your perspicacious comment. I couldn't agree more with your all-important rhetorical question:

    Will anyone ever dare to try to retell the story of Australia, and do it well?

    The authentic story of Australia is light years away from the superficial camp spectacle of Baz Luhrmann... which is no more than a gaudy bunch of clichés crammed into a cardboard box and tied up with pink ribbons. Our true tale, on the other hand, is profound and fabulous. Listen to the great American writer Mark Twain [1835-1910]:

    Australian history is almost always picturesque; indeed, it is so curious and strange that it is itself the chiefest novelty the counry has to offer, and so it pushes the other novelties into second and third place. It does not read like history, but like the most beautiful lies; and all of a fresh new sort, no mouldy old stale ones. It is full of surprises and adventures, and incongruities, and contradictions, and incredibilities; but they are all true, they all happened.

    I'm an optimist, convinced that, one day, an inspired cinéaste (not necessarily—and probably not—a home-grown Aussie) will finally depict our true story.

  3. Dear William,

    You wrote: "The authentic story of Australia is light years away from the superficial camp spectacle of Baz Luhrmann... which is no more than a gaudy bunch of clichés crammed into a cardboard box and tied up with pink ribbons."

    Where did you learn to write so well? Do you have a hidden novel or biography in the works (or something out there, unknown to us)?

    Love the definition by Mark Twain. I had no idea; he must have gone there himself at some point in time. Ah, yes: "Matilda: Mark Twain in Australia" Nov 29, 2006 ... Melbourne University Press recently released a new edition of The Wayward Tourist by Mark Twain, an account of his travels in Australia in ...

    Thank YOU for your "perspicacious" post and comment! I had to look up the definition myself, and here it is below. I would say that this applies to you, more than me, although I wish it did! So thank you... (here we go adding to my vocabulary):

    "define: perspicaços

    Definicions de perspicacious a la xarxa en anglès:

    * acutely insightful and wise; "much too perspicacious to be taken in by such a spurious* argument"; "observant and thoughtful, he was given to ...
    * clear-eyed: mentally acute or penetratingly discerning; "too clear-eyed not to see what problems would follow"; "chaos could be prevented only by clear-sighted leadership"; "much too perspicacious to be taken in by so spurious an argument"

    * Of acute discernment; having keen insight; mentally perceptive; Having the power of seeing clearly; quick-sighted; sharp-sighted

    * perspicacity - shrewdness: intelligence manifested by being astute (as in business dealings)
    * perspicacity - judgment: the capacity to assess situations or circumstances shrewdly and to draw sound conclusions

    * perspicacity - Acute discernment or understanding; insight; The human faculty or power to mentally grasp or understand clearly; Keen eyesight

    * perspicaciousness - Perspicacity

    * perspicacity - intensity of judgment or observation

    * perspicacity - adverb form of perspicacious, meaning to have insight or knowledge. Used by Fields in film and radio.


    *# specious: plausible but false; "a specious claim"; "spurious inferences"
    # bastardly: born out of wedlock; "the dominions of both rulers passed away to their spurious or doubtful offspring"- E.A.Freeman
    # inauthentic: intended to deceive; "a spurious work of art"

  4. Here's an interesting critic about this film (when I tried to find out why and how in the world this film could be so bad):

    "FEMINIST Germaine Greer has savaged Baz Luhrmann's outback epic Australia, branding it a "disaster".
    Joining a chorus of critics who have panned the movie, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh
    Jackman, Greer picks apart its storyline and accuses Luhrmann of glossing over the exploitation of Aboriginal workers.

    She describes the film as a "fraudulent and misleading fantasy" designed to promote the Federal Government's policy of reconciliation.

    ... (more) http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/story/0,28383,24811051-7485,00.html