Wednesday, April 11, 2012


I MUST be going through a bit of a sordid or subversive phase- maybe too much time on my hands. Amidst doing things like creating a birthday book full of lovely, innocent images, and reading about how fiction works, and having a nice, carefree time in Bendigo in the sunshine, and trawling the magnificent LaTrobe University library like the old days, I have been reading and watching these nasty pieces of fiction and non-fiction, mostly about complex subterranean desires. First there were the films SHAME and WOLF CREEK, and then Micheal Haneke's HIDDEN, all exploring complex notions of destruction and desire, now I have recently watched the recent Australian film SNOWTOWN, another Haneke film, THE PIANO TEACHER, and a factual study of the recent manslaughter of a local multi-millionaire businessman.

SNOWTOWN was gripping, at times brilliant, but often uncofortable viewing. A much more complex film than WOLF CREEK, it explores further the pysche of an Adelaide man's unquenchable desire to inflict pain and murder on what he ses as the degenerates of society, especially homosexuals and paedophiles. The violence was graphic and a bit nauseating. In cinemas some people walked out- perhaps partly because of the 'true nature' of the events that were being shown- the notorious bodies-in-the-barrel 'Snowtown murders' of a few years ago. The violence left me a bit shaken as well, especially a bathroom sequence- I walked around the house feeling like I was covered in some sort of awful grime- but this is not what I am applauding the film for. I am applauding the film for its incredible central performance of Daniel Henshall playing John Bunting. At first a very likeable, seemingly generous chap who ensures the poor kids in the dysfunctional family are fed well and looked after, something that is desperately needed in such a sordid and squalid town. Lucas Pittaway is also very good, playing the 17 year old kid, Jamie Vlassakis, whose mind is numb most of the time and whose expression is usually blank, until it breaks occasionally into torment and pain as he witnesses the horrors that Bunting unleashes around him. The cinematography and the dialogue are exceptional, particularly in one scene that takes place in the kitchen, with the gathered mob talking about what they should do to the local degenerates, considering the police seem disinterested or ineffectual. The film has a mesmerizing feel about it and is not easily forgotten.

I found THE PIANO TEACHER to be less interesting, although undoubtedly it is a very well-made and brave film. Isabelle Huppert plays Erika Kohut, a bizarre woman who teaches music and is a target of obsession of one of her impressionistic students. She is emotionally very complex and the student who pursues her can not have predicted what he was in stall for when he encourages her advances. The poster sums up a lot of the feel of the film, depicting a stark photo of little colour of the teacher and her student locked into a strong sexual embrace on the floor of the women's toilets. There is a shocking scene of genital mutilation that is reminiscent of Bergman's Cries and Whispers, and a number of scenes of what most people would classify as bizarre sexual behavior in a peep show, at the drive-in, and even with Kohut in bed with her mother. Haneke loves extremities and I admire the four films of his that I've seen. But I found this one depressing, emotionally uninvolving and less memorable than the others.


The non-fiction book that I read is called THE DOUBLE LIFE OF HERMAN ROCKEFELLER by Hilary Bonning. If you google 'herman rockefeller' you will discover the whole sorded story. What compelled a multi-millionaire to travel to Hadfield in Melbourne's north-west to have sex on a mattress with Bernadette Denny is anyone's guess, and one of life's mysteries. The book is an intriguing read for this reason, and also for the discovery of how the police glean facts in order to find the ansers to things. The police interviews of Denny and her boyfriend Mario Schembri are very telling, and there is also quite a lot of time devoted to the court appearances, and Rockefeller's amazingly stoic wife. We don't find out exactly how Rockefeller died, beyond being bashed by both Denny and Schembri in their garage in South Street. But the disposal of the body makes interesting reading. This was not a planned 'murder' by any means. The two accomplices must have received the fright of their life when they say it was who they had been dealing with on the news stations every night for a week. Schembri didn't hide Rockefeller's hybrid car very well. When it was found a GPS expert brought in by the police could tell them that the last address punched in was 125 South Street Hadfield! Easy detective work. The suburbs are full of strange occurences. I am about to teach the film LANTANA again.

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