Wednesday 27 June 2018 6.15pm
‘Big Day, Biggest Day, Most Huge Day, Ever’ 2018
The fourth last day of this project (yes, I know you know it’s fifty-two weeks and coming to a close) was one of the most extraordinary of the whole shebang. Rattling, as I am, towards the end, there is nothing elegant about the way I’m pulling into the station.
[I think they will all be achieved, as I have The Bicycle Thief and Citizen Kane to go, with three nights left.]
I’m heading for the finish line, but, if any film sequence best sums up my approach on the final straight, it is that of Lightning McQueen from Cars (2006). I’m running out of petrol, my tyres are blowing, and I’m a wreck on wheels, lucky to scrape over in a three-way tie. If you’re wondering what’s at stake and what the three-way tie is, its:
1) the original plan
2) my goal [and]
3) my ego [to complete it]
But, this day was remarkable.
Of course, everyone’s most recent experience, is always the one that is most real. “This is the worst cold I’ve had in (<insert number>) years.” “I’ve never been so sick.” “I’ve made the most wonderful connection I’ve ever had with (<insert name>).” “This was the best day of my life.”
Looking at my entire life, I would say – today – this was a day that
a) was as exhausting as the most exhausting one I can remember (excepted the day my mum died and the all-nighters I pulled to record scores for films),
b) took me furthest and widest to watch three films (97km up and 96.2km back)
c) challenged me to achieve the most basic duty a parent can be required given the circumstances – to turn up to a parent-teacher appointment for each child – two – and take them to piano lesson – and read about VERTIGO for 2-hours
d) face-planted me with watching three great films in fourteen-hours
e) confronted me with two of the most horrific war films – in the space of fourteen-hours
f) (potentially) risked my life (and others) as I chicken-nodded all the way from Leura to Sydney, fatigued beyond belief
g) afforded me a second opportunity to listen to David Stratton, the teacher, introduce a film – and interact with David Stratton – the film historian, academic and critic – the individual – and watch a film in his own theatrette. The introduction wasn’t on SBS or in his History of Cinema course – but in his home.
Not a bad day’s effort I reckon, all things considered.
So, what did I do?
I left Sydney at 7.15am, headed for Leura, to visit this noted film academic, who had two films I was unable to get a copy of: Idi i smotri [aka. Come and See] (1985) and Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948). The former film was by a director I’ve never heard of, Elem Klimov, and the second was by Max Ophuls, who I only knew a little about. I’d watched Madame de… (1953) which was 93rd in the Critics Poll and intended to watch La Ronde, but never found the time. Letter from an Unknown Woman missed out on the Directors Top 100 by one vote, coming in equal #107. Idi i smotri was #30 in the Director’s Poll.
We began with Idi i smotri. He’d invited a couple of other film buffs to view the films as well. He gave a short introduction, telling us that it was a film which Klimov wanted to make for eight years. After completing the film he was quoted as saying he would never direct another film. He warned us that it was a very intense film.
Two hours and twenty minutes later, I sat speechless, in the front row of his cinema. I had just seen a film that was as brutal as anything I’d seen before, with the exception of Pasolini’s Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975). I can’t remember what I said when he asked our reaction. I think I asked something stupid like, “How did Klimov get the money to make a film on this scale? Who funded it?” He told me that it was made by a few different Russian organisations and that making films about the Second World War was something that Russian directors were committed to. There was some kind of patriotism or pride in showing what they endured.
After a cup of tea and a 15-minute break we watched Letter from an Unknown Woman, which David told us was Ophuls’ first American film. I had expected to watch a film in French, not English, and I was surprised to find it starred an actress I’ve always like, Joan Fontaine, and an actor I’d never cared for Louis Jourdan. Both were excellent. The film is as light as Idi i smotri was heavy. It’s about love and music, unrealised ambition and unfulfilled dreams. It was a clean and smooth as Idi i smotri was dirty and nasty. It was polished, just like Madame de… It was elegant and beautiful and everyone was beautiful and handsome. It was as starkly different as watching Saving Private Ryan and watching Mary Poppins fifteen minutes later.
David had some entertaining stories to tell about being on a Cannes Film Festival Jury with Joan Fontaine. Very interesting.
Back in the car, I battled sleep during the 90-minutes trip home. I had two parent-teacher interviews, took Charlie to a piano lesson and had dinner. The plan is to set up both of my girls watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) while we start Apocalypse Now Redux at 6.30pm, breaking at 8.15 to put the girls to bed, and then watching the rest.