Monday portmanteau ~ theatre notes

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday portmanteau

* I forgot yesterday to mention James Waites's continuing meditations on the Bacchanalian qualities in Barrie Kosky's work, including the recent production of Poppea. In the course of which he reveals that Kosky is unlikely to be working in Australia in the future, as his job with Berlin's Komische Oper looms closer. Which is sad news for us.

* The Malthouse production of Optimism finished its sell-out season at the Edinburgh Festival last week, garnering a swag of glowing reviews on the way. Mark Fisher (of Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Blog fame) described it as "the feelgood hit of the summer", while others, such as the Guardian's Lyn Gardner, suggested that it was too much fun to be serious. Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times, enjoyed the irreverence: "A decorous evening of high culture this wasn’t, but what the hell: surely we can take one night off from guarding the citadel." The Malthouse is crowing after Frank Woodley, who plays the terminally naive Candide, won a Herald Angel award for his performance in the show. Prost! Sydneysiders will get to Optimism at the Sydney Festival next year.

* Among the usual bloggish navel-gazing about whether critics are allowed to say what they think about a show or whether, especially in a recession, they ought just to be nice, George Hunka over at Superfluities has written a stimulating overview calling for a larger view of criticism in Theatre, Criticism and the Public Intellectual. Well worth a leisurely read.

* Another film festival, another censorship debate. Richard Wolstencroft, director of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival, is furious that the OFLC has banned MUFF's screening of Jennifer Lyon Bell’s Matinée, which was part of their Mini Muffs short season. In demanding that the OFLC repeal its decision, he says the ruling is "hypocritical, suppressive, and worryingly anti-women".

At issue is the depiction of real sex. Matinée is made by Blue Artichoke, a company which specialises in making female-centred erotica. Wolstencroft says the OFLC's decision negates the film's artistic merits: "Matinée is a picture which embodies many of the qualities which should be sought after in high quality artistic filmmaking", he says. It creates "a highly stylized, enigmatic and atmospheric world, the likes of which is often attempted in independent cinema but rarely so deftly achieved." Worse, he claims that an office which passes Lars Von Triers' controversial Antichrist, which featured high levels of sexual violence and mutilation, but bans a film that features frank sexuality but no violence, is displaying a worrying ease with misogyny. "Banning Matinée reveals a tendency in the OFLC to suppress films which strengthen female sexuality on screen and to allow films which encourage a view that female sexuality is damaged, fractured or violent."

He's also pointing to precedents where films depicting actual sex in complex situations (Shortbus, 9 Songs) have been passed for screening. Sounds like a case to me.


Matthew said...

"Sounds like a case to me."

The thing about Rich is he usually has one. People write him off for his eccentricities (which they exaggerate), but the man has a head on his shoulders and isn't afraid to call bullshit. We're lucky to have him.

Tony Comstock said...

When police came to collect Henson's photographs, the cream of Australia's "artists and intellectuals" howled with rage. But when police were dispatched to the 2008 edition of MUFF to prevent the screening of "Ashley and Kisha" there was nary a peep. (I guess you were all across town at ACMI watching "Destricted".)

Will you finally find your stones and defend Matinée, MUFF, and artistic freedom? Or are you going to dither on about whether or not the director has a "case"?

The only "case" there is a serious case of cowardice on the part of Australian's "intellectual" who rush to defend their well-connected friends and institutions, while happily throwing people taking real risks under the bus.

George Hunka said...

Thanks for the link, Alison. And I'll look forward to hearing about that honorary membership in the Melbournian bloggers guild, since my New York membership seems to have lapsed.

Alison Croggon said...

Thanks Matt and absolutely, George. We'll be sending the badge out soon.

Tony, get off my case. I told Richard I was afraid blogging about Matinee might lead to you harassing me again, and here you are, on cue, the proverbial bad penny. I'm not obliged to defend anything at all, and I'm certainly not obliged to please you. Why don't you go and attack the people who make these decisions, instead of attacking me for actually writing about the problem?

Tony Comstock said...

My Dear Alison,

If my harassing you is the worst thing that happens to you for standing up for Matinee and freedom of expression in Australia, I think you'd count yourself lucky. Others risk far more from other, infinitely more powerful pennies.

If my comments here on your blog are unwelcome, I do hope they won't dissuade you from doing what you know is right thing to do in continuing to speak out. And in all seriousness, I can't imagine you'd allow me to have that sort of power over you. ;-)