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One Summer Again (1985)
A History of Australian Art
"One Summer Again" outlines the development of the Heidelberg School. Sometimes known as the "Australian Impressionists", the Heidelberg School was founded by Tom Roberts in the late 1880s and changed the course of Australian art. They sought to break away from the formal, academic style of English colonial art. Like their French counterparts, the Heidelberg School were interested in light and its effects on the landscape.
This three part television series mainly focuses on Tom Roberts. In the beginning we see him standing at an easel working on a landscape. A young boy comes up to him and says: "What are you doing?" Roberts almost sounds like he's in a state of awe when he whispers the reply: "Painting".
Tom Roberts left his secure position as a society photographer to become a full-time painter. The bushland around Melbourne (where the Heidelberg School was based) was captured on canvas in a looser, more dynamic, more realistic manner than that of the artists who habitually painted English trees in an Australian setting.
In one scene Roberts tells his friend and fellow artist Frederick McCubbin to use flat brushes, which were not widely available in Australia at the time. McCubbin marvels at the difference this new type of brush makes. As the story progresses Roberts' circle of friends widens to include such artists as Arthur Streeton, Charles Conder and Jane Sutherland. Being a female art student, Sutherland was not allowed to draw male models in the life drawing class. The disagreements she had with the establishment demonstrate the sexism prevailing in the art world in the 19th century. (Are things much different today I wonder?)
Ignoring the artistic conventions of the time, the Heidelberg artists forged ahead, Roberts creating his famous painting "Shearing the Rams". Although "One Summer Again" is supposed to take place in the 19th century, the outdoor scenes in the city make no attempt to hide the modern cars and skyscrapers. Rather than being jarring anachronisms, these give the series a surreal atmosphere. It also serves to remind us how much Melbourne has changed since the time of the Heidelberg painters. Melbourne in the 1980s would seem like a science fiction world to Tom Roberts and his friends.
"One Summer Again" highlights a momentous development in Australian art. It is a story that is sure to be appreciated by art students, connoisseurs and those with an interest in historical drama.
Got a Problem?
Until I saw this show I thought the Vicky Pollard character from "Little Britain" was exaggerated. Little did I realize how close to reality it was. When you see a few episodes of "Trisha" you get the impression that every teenager in Britain is a loutish, binge-drinking, drug-addicted gang leader with an attitude. (I'm sure it can't be like that in real life. It can't be!) For some reason other people's problems tend to attract audiences. Maybe it makes us feel better about ourselves when we see someone worse off. On "Trisha" an attempt is made to talk about whatever problem the guest has (it usually involves alcohol) and hopefully reach a resolution. There are the options of boot camp or a makeover.
Trisha Goddard is a good presenter with a warm, friendly personality. When she lived in Australia she was in the children's programme "Play School". She understands kids. In the past she has had her own demons to battle, so she speaks from experience when trying to help the guests. Members of the audience are also invited to give their opinion and offer helpful advice to the guests. It's usually along the lines of "Sort your life out, give up the drink, and get a job." They make it sound so simple!
"Trisha" is obviously a popular show in Britain, it even gets a mention in the film "Shaun of the Dead". In Australia it is shown on the channel UKTV, the episodes are from 2005. Seeing people scream and shout at each other may seem entertaining for a while, but there is the danger that it will become an unhealthy obsession. Watch "Trisha" by all means, but don't let it take over your life.
It Could Be You (1995)
Finders Keepers Losers Weepers
Douglas Hodge plays an electrician in this film about a dream shared by most of the working class: to win the lottery. In "It Could Be You" the dream comes true. But there's a catch. Hodge had concealed the winning ticket in a book called "The Gourmet Guide to Sex". Unfortunately, the wife got rid of the book, along with the ticket, not knowing what lay within the pages, and so begins an unusual chase, as Hodge frantically attempts to retrieve that elusive piece of paper worth millions of pounds.
Throughout the film the ticket passes from hand to hand, all completely unaware of its significance. At one point the ticket even gets folded into a paper plane. As time goes on, one desperate man turns into an entire mob, running after a little piece of paper that could change life so dramatically.
"It Could Be You" is a rather improbable farce that shows us how far we will go for the sake of money. Greed is a quality of human nature that can drive us to extraordinary lengths. While it's true that money makes the world go round, it's also true that money makes people go round the bend. In this film about the treasure hunt to end all treasure hunts, there are moments of true silliness. There has been a lot said about money over the years, how money is power, or the root of all evil, and it's pretty hard to deny. Most of society's problems do come down to money, the lack of it, or the sickening greed for more of it. We are enslaved by it, corrupted by it, totally dependent on it.
While "It Could Be You" is meant to be taken as a comedy, it has some serious implications to it as well. No one who wins a large sum of money can remain unchanged. A world without money would be hard to imagine. Then again it would be a saner, happier one. But as long as we are driven by a desire to get the better of others, to have more than others, we'll never have utopia.
Doctor Who (1963)
It's About Time!
That battered old police box is materialising on our screens once again. Finally, after a ten year absence, ABC TV are bringing back this great series, which will replace that show about sick and injured pets (not "All Creatures Great and Small). Over the next three years, starting this month, just about every surviving episode of "Doctor Who" will be played.
I have fond memories of this show. I watched it all the time when I was growing up. Because I was six when I first saw it, I did find some parts a bit scary, but not to the extent that I hid behind the sofa. At that age I wasn't too critical of special effects either. They were convincing enough for me. I became a fan of "Doctor Who" just as it was celebrating its twentieth anniversary. Ironically, the show was only supposed to last for six weeks.
I probably would have been a different person if I hadn't seen this programme. For one thing, "Doctor Who" got me interested in reading. I spent much of my formative years in primary school reading "Doctor Who" novelisations, and collecting the magazines.
The show also proved to be very educational. From "Doctor Who" I learned that King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215, the Great Fire of London took place in 1666, and the dinosaurs were wiped out when a giant space freighter crashed into the Earth.
Unlike most fans, it was not the Daleks that I liked best. There wasn't any particular feature that I liked more than anything else. I think it was just seeing how the Doctor would get out of the latest life-threatening jam. For me the years 1970-1980 were the high point of the show. The Jon Pertwee story "Inferno" introduced me to the concept of parallel universes. Most fans felt Tom Baker's incarnation was the strongest. He inspired me to try jelly babies. As everyone knows, Baker played the role longer than anyone else. Among my favourite stories from his tenure are "The City of Death" (by Douglas Adams) and "The State of Decay", a story about a medieval planet ruled by vampires. "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" was a good homage to Sherlock Holmes.
Throughout its time on TV, "Doctor Who" was often featured in the newspapers, with articles alternating between praise and controversy. Many complained about the supposedly violent content, Mary Whitehouse called it "Tea-time brutality for tots", and parents were upset about children with nightmares. Other sources of concern were the inherent sexism. Female companions were just there to scream when they foolishly got into danger or to make cups of tea, although the companion Leela proved to be capable and self-sufficient, very handy with a knife. Another good thing was that the Doctor never got romantically involved. Until that 1996 TV movie.
I think Colin Baker gave a good performance as the mentally unstable sixth Doctor, I just didn't like the costume. He certainly seemed more "alien" than Peter Davison. "The Two Doctors" was his best story. (Memories of the grisly Shockeye come to mind.) I don't remember much about the final stories of the late 1980s, except for a Dalek that could actually climb steps. Even though the special effects had improved, I prefer the low-budget early episodes.
Overall, "Doctor Who" was an intelligent, thought-provoking show. It even gave an explanation of why all the inhabitants of different planets speak English. Companions can understand what the aliens are saying because of a telepathic gift imparted by the Doctor. I like to think I wasn't too traumatised by "Doctor Who". The companions seemed to be remarkably well adjusted too, considering their terrifying experiences. This show made an entertaining blend of science fiction, horror and humour.
A Good Show That Went A Bit Stale
"Bread" follows the lives of a close-knit family in 1980s Liverpool. We see their trials and tribulations, their daily battle with an outside world of crime, poverty, unemployment and immorality. Using their wits, the Boswells beat this world at its own game, exploiting every loophole in the welfare system to cheat the bureaucrats of the DHSS.
Nellie Boswell and her five grownup children (Joey, Jack, Adrian, Aveline and Billy) are fiercely loyal to one another. When one has a problem everyone else comes to the rescue, traveling in a convoy of cars, ranging from Joey's black Jaguar to Billy's clapped out old mini. You always see them walk closely together at the same pace, staring straight ahead. The charming, leather-clad Joey was always the first to speak, usually beginning with the word: "Greetings!" Not every episode had a happy ending, however.
When I first saw this programme I was still in primary school. It used to be shown on the ABC every Monday night at 8.00 PM. I liked it when it first started. 1986-1988 was the heyday of the show. But after a while it didn't seem so fresh. The show dragged on into the early nineties, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The mobile phones were still huge, though. They changed the actors who played Joey and Aveline, although I found the original Aveline's accent a bit annoying. The show seemed to have lost its sparkle.
When the last episode finished in 1991 we saw the camera draw away from the Boswell house in Kelsall Street (which looked identical to the surrounding streets), getting an aerial view of Liverpool at large, finishing with a shot of that old cathedral. And there it finally closed.
The Office (2001)
Caught in the Rat Race
Until I saw this programme, I never knew Mr. Spock from "Star Trek" was half human. Thank you, David Brent. Until I saw this programme I got really annoyed by people on T.V. saying how much they love their job. A show like "The Office" makes one question whether unemployment is really worse than being stuck in a job you hate. Most of the characters in "The Office" behave like school children, winding each other up with immature pranks, or getting involved in silly squabbles over something as trivial as a quiz. People never grow up, really.
In "The Office" we get a peek at what goes on in the utterly mundane, uninspiring paper industry. Like most offices, the workplace in this show is a demoralising, cheerless environment. The prospect of redundancy is another dark cloud in an atmosphere that weakens the spirit. We have characters who stare at computer monitors all day, their hopes and dreams unfulfilled; a boss with delusions of grandeur, believing himself to be a witty, fun-loving guy worshipped by all. One can't help but cringe when David gets his guitar and sings to the staff. We never actually see him do any work, mind.
While "The Office" is hilariously funny, it's also a chilling reminder of how bleak and disappointing life often is. The people in this show are stuck in a rut, and things are unlikely to change. It's quite frightening, really. "The Office" makes one wonder what the object of life really is. Is it to slave away in drudgery for half a century? For all but a lucky few (those who can afford a life of leisure) this seems to be the case. No wonder people look forward to the weekend, when they can get drunk in a club and forget reality for a while, before getting back on the treadmill once again.
"The Office" is probably the definitive portrayal of 9-5 routine. Mordantly humorous, depressingly realistic.
The "Reality" of Current Affairs
Mike Moore is the well groomed host of Frontline, a current affairs show that presents "the stories behind the stories". Just like any other current affairs programme on commercial television, it has its share of sensationalism, controversy, and cynical manipulation of the truth. All in the pursuit of ratings.
There are good days and bad days for the Frontline team. On a good day there are hard-hitting stories like the gun siege, where Mike becomes an impromptu negotiator speaking to a gun-man's children over the phone. On other occasions, when the show needs to spice things up a bit, there are stories about tabletop dancers or the lesbian netball team.
In an industry without ethics, Mike is an idealist who really cares about the show. But every now and then he needs reassurance, whether it be from the unctuous E.P, the enthusiastic weatherman, the fawning secretary, or the fan mail. (Unknown to Mike the hate mail addressed to him ends up in the shredder before he gets to see it.)
Needless to say, Mike's presentation of the show is all mapped out with precision. Without even watching the stories he can react with a deeply concerned "Mmmm", or put on a fake chuckle at the Friday night funnyman. (Mike has tried to get the funnyman axed on more than one occasion.) Sometimes the production team slip up and let Mike do a studio interview live. On each occasion the result has been a fiasco.
Frontline is an astute look at the unscrupulous manipulation that goes on in the high-pressure world of T.V. journalism. Some of the episodes are based on events from "real" current affairs shows, such as the three unemployed teenagers who turned down jobs at a holiday resort, the feeding frenzy over a grieving widow, or the time when Mike Willisee was drunk on air. The "big villains" who come under the spotlight are usually shonky repairmen, dodgy mechanics, and illiterate kids who don't want to work. The team at Frontline know their stories have to appeal to a vapid blue collar audience, because that's where the ratings come from. As Sam Murphy once said: "Why would anyone with brains or money be sitting round a telly at 6.30 each night?"
There have been many guest celebrities on Frontline, such as Jon English, who was used in a Frontline charity special: the challenge to build a playground for needy kids within 24 hours.
I think Series 3 was the funniest of the lot. We see a lot more of Mike's extravagant lifestyle while the E.P. vainly tries to sell Mike as a man of the people. One of the funniest moments is when Mike goes on "This Is Your Life".
Frontline has got to be the most credible of Australia's current affairs shows. It's the only one I take seriously.
Only Fools and Horses.... (1981)
"You Know It Makes Sense"
"Only Fools and Horses" is definitely one of the funniest shows ever written. David Jason plays Derrick (Del Boy) Trotter, a likable rip-off merchant who runs Trotters Independent Traders. Although Del Boy's cockney speech is riddled with malapropisms (such as saying goodbye with words like "bonjour"), he manages to con the public into buying (stolen) goods they don't really want, pay for services they don't really need, or basically give up large sums of money for whatever doomed enterprise he happens to be peddling that week.
Del Boy's gift of the gab comes in handy whenever he has to placate his gauche brother Rodney (Nicholas Lyndhurst), who, unlike Del Boy, happens to have principles. Rodney allows himself to be talked into the most ridiculous, humiliating situations, thanks to Del Boy's twisted logic and specious arguments.
Grandad is the third member of the team; often the butt of Del Boy's pranks, his cookery skills leave a lot to be desired. He spends most of the time taking care of the flat (filled with all kinds of gaudy junk) and watching two televisions. Grandad was later replaced by Uncle Albert, whose experiences in the Navy have provided him with a limitless store of anecdotes that invariably begin with "During the war..."
Among my favourite episodes are "The Yellow Peril", where Rodney has to paint the grotty kitchen of a Chinese takeaway. "The Russians Are Coming" is (or was) a timely episode where the Trotters spend time in their own nuclear fallout shelter and Del Boy ponders the idea of procreation with mutants. "A Touch of Glass" has the team cleaning 17th Century chandeliers. That episode also proves that the best solution to a problem is to run away from it.
John Sullivan was originally going to call this show "Big Brother". But then he decided that people take more notice of long titles. Sullivan also sings the catchy theme song. Each episode of "Only Fools and Horses" is laughter guaranteed.
Citizen Smith (1977)
"Power to the People!"
Wolfie Smith is a fanatic who craves revolution. Leader of the Tooting Popular Front ( a Marxist political party which numbers six members), Wolfie is a wannabe freedom fighter who likes to call himself an "urban guerilla". He wants to overthrow the Capitalist oppressors of the working class and create a fair, equal and just society (with himself in charge). While he waits for the glorious day, he plays the guitar and sings his raucous songs, dressed in a Che Guevara T-shirt and a black beret with one star on it.
Wolfie's attempts to seize power are thwarted time and time again, usually with hilarious consequences. Wolfie keeps a book containing a list of anyone who gets on the wrong side of him. Come the Glorious Revolution they'll be first against the wall, blindfold, last cigarette etc. But it's a very long list...
"Citizen Smith" was written by John Sullivan, who went on to write the even funnier "Only Fools and Horses". This show contains characters with similar personalities. Wolfie Smith is a fast talker like Del-Boy, Ken is artistic like Rodney and Tucker is vague and confused like Grandad.
"Citizen Smith" was a witty comedy from the 1970s that got better as it went along. The later series seemed funnier than the early episodes. Hopefully the show will be screened again. This is a classic.
The spider and the fly.
This is a rather creepy black comedy about madness and deceit. After seeing this film you won't be so trusting. It makes me think of that saying '"come into my parlour" said the spider to the fly.'
The story begins in an apartment occupied by an eccentric old man named Clement. On nearly every wall of the apartment are portraits of Fred Astaire. It soon becomes clear that Clement is a mentally unbalanced recluse living in a fantasy world.
Luc is a young cartoonist who has just moved into an apartment across the hallway. With grand plans to sail around the world and start a family, Luc's life is normal and happy until he makes a fatal mistake. He runs into his elderly neighbour and agrees to meet his "wife".
"Barracuda" follows Luc's plight as he becomes the unwilling "son" of Clement. The film is quite engrossing as we see how Luc tries to escape from his tap-dancing captor. We see what goes on in Clement's mind as he has conversations with Fred Astaire, and get some insight of his lonely, empty life.
"Barracuda" has some chilling moments. It might seem far-fetched, but it's entertaining nevertheless. Although if you watched it over and over again you can imagine the story losing its suspense.
One of the things I like best about the film is the dance music. It's quite catchy. Beware of your neighbours.
Very cynical, but very true
"Daria" used to be shown on TV at 5.30 every afternoon. Sadly, it is now finished. Personally, I think this is one of the wittiest animated shows after "The Simpsons". The characters are easy to recognise.
Firstly, I had no idea that "Daria" was a spin-off of "Beavis and Butthead" (a show I've never seen). To me it looks as if Daria and her friend Jane are the only sane characters in the whole show. At school they are neck-deep in a pool of shallowness: and they still manage to go against the flow. The show portrays high school life in a way that is very realistic: a place where people think popularity is the most important thing in the world, life revolves around fashion (or conformity to be more accurate), and being an individual is a major crime. Is there a difference between an individual and an outcast? I would say it's a very fine line. In high school there's no distinction.
Daria looks around her and sees everything through short-sighted, cynical eyes, and hardly ever smiles. She isn't part of the "mainstream", and she doesn't want to be. She has wisdom beyond her years. Most people don't realise that high school life has no importance until after they've left. How popular you are has no meaning in high school, as it has very little to do with the real world. But Daria already knows this.
In conclusion, "Daria" is a very good show. Everyone should relate to at least one character.
Bring out your dead
Survivors is a show about the aftermath of a deadly plague. The title of the show indicates the plague originated in a lab in the Far East, and was accidentally released after a beaker was dropped. Air travel helped the flu-like disease spread around the world quickly and wipe out most of the population.
In England scattered survivors of every age, race and creed band together in small communities, learning to become self sufficient. The survivors often discuss the future, struggling to preserve a sense of normality and trying to plan ahead for building a new world.
This series was created by Terry Nation, better known as the creator of Doctor Who's most deadly enemies the Daleks. I suspect Terry Nation got a lot of his inspiration from such books as Earth Abides and The Day of the Triffids. Particularly the parts about new societies. I've only seen the first series of this show. It was made the year before I was born. Apparently after the first series it started to go downhill, as writers were running out of ideas. Terry Nation was unhappy with the path the show was taking and disowned the later episodes. I think he wanted an ending more like Earth Abides, where post-plague society slips into primitive illiteracy.
Survivors is popular enough to have its own website, created by fans of the show. It has some interesting discussions and speculation about what it would be like to live in the post-apocalypse world, and recommends books with the same theme.
The Day After (1983)
I was nine years old when I first saw this film. At the time I was blissfully naive and unaware of the nuclear threat. I found the beginning of the film a bit slow and couldn't understand terms like NATO or airburst. All the time I was wondering "when does everyone get blown up?" I really only wanted to see this film for the explosions, having seen previews for it on TV. After the war it was just people wandering around, or worse, talking. I didn't sit through the film right til the end. This was because I was bored, not scared.
The next time I saw the film I was 13. That was when the film made a much deeper impression. I was amazed at how graphic it was. I wondered how countries would ever get the nerve to launch a nuclear war even if it meant mass extinction. This disturbed me for a long time.
Ten years later the film doesn't quite affect me in the same way. When I look at this film now I know that this isn't the worst that could happen. The Day After was made a few months before the nuclear winter concept was put forward. A much more realistic and disturbing film is Threads, set in Sheffield, England. In comparison, The Day After looks more like the aftermath of an earthquake.
Admittedly this film made me more aware of the tightrope we've been walking on. One slip and we could be history. At the time of release this film was quite controversial. But looking back, I think the aftermath has been romaticized, making the film look like an expensive soap opera.
Under the Mountain (1981)
Saving the World
Under the Mountain is a science fiction adventure, based on the novel by Maurice Gee. Set in Auckland, New Zealand, two red haired twins called Rachel and Theo are staying with their Uncle and Aunt for a holiday.
> An old man called Mr Jones is interested in the twins for a special reason. Mr Jones is the last surviving member of an alien civilization. His people were at war with another race of creatures who go from planet to planet, turning worlds into mud and stone. The Earth will be next unless the twins can stop them. The invading aliens are shapeless, tentacled creatures who can assume human form. They are known only as the Wilberforces...
This was a very good show. The first time I saw Under the Mountain I was actually living in New Zealnd. I recognized a lot of the places Rachel and Theo went to because I was born in Auckland: the familiar volcanoes Rangitoto and Mt Eden, the district Takapuna, even the library. When I saw it again some years later I actually felt home sick. The story was also good because it wasn't too predictable. You actually wonder if Earth really has a chance when the future depends on two young twins.
Threads is a graphic movie about a nuclear holocaust. The war, which took place in 1988, broke out between East and West after a Red Army incursion escalated into full scale conflict.
The story, written by Barry Hines, takes place in Britain and concentrates on two families in Sheffield. Survivors of the war face the horrors of living in a devastated country, contending with radiation sickness, epidemic and starvation. This is probably the most realistic and disturbing anti-nuclear film ever made.
Early nuclear war films from the 1950s imagined most of the human race being wiped out instantly. Usually a small group of middle class people would survive and start again. In reality this just wouldn't happen. Threads doesn't just portray the immediate consequences of nuclear war. The long-term effects over a number of years are also shown - a terribly shrunken population, the loss of skills, knowledge and technology. In other words, a race doomed to extinction.
No film about nuclear war could be more grim than this.
The Simpsons (1989)
The Simpsons is currently the longest running animated show of all time. I see this show on television nearly every day. When it was first shown in Australia in 1991 I wasn't such a big fan then (I was 15). Now that I'm older I appreciate the humour and subtlety a whole lot more. Much of the humour lies not in the stories, but in the crudeness of the drawings. Bart's head reminds me of a paper bag (with a serrated edge). Lisa's hair is like a paper sun.
Being an adult, I'm not ashamed of watching what looks like a children's cartoon. This is a cartoon with adult content, a pioneer for the shows that followed. What makes the show so cunning is that the adult humour is so cleverly hidden. There are many jokes within each episode that children just wouldn't get.
Among my favourite episodes are the one where Homer joins a religious cult. I also like the one where Bart goes on a road trip with his friends and has to get work as a courier. Then there are those ones where Bart is a frequent target for Sideshow Bob's revenge. Has anyone noticed the number of Christmas and Halloween specials? None of the characters seem to get any older.
The characters I like best are Sideshow Bob and the obnoxious guy who runs the comic book store.
The Tripods (1984)
A fight for freedom
The Tripods was a science fiction adventure based on John Christopher's award-winning Tripods Trilogy. This futuristic story is set in a world where mankind is enslaved by alien rulers - the Tripods. The Tripods keep humanity under their control with the aid of "Caps". The Cap is a mind-control device which makes people obedient to the Tripods. Capping is a mandatory ceremony which everyone must undergo when they reach the age of 16.
Will Parker and his cousin Henry are due to be Capped themselves. They run away from home to make a dangerous journey to the distant White Mountains, where a group of un-Capped rebels plot the overthrow of the Tripods.
This story is about a fight for freedom. The people who aren't Capped are up against overwhelming odds - the might and power of alien oppressors, and the mindless obedience of their Capped slaves. But as long as people remain free hope stays alive.
Sadly, this programme was axed before the final volume of the trilogy was dramatized, due to low ratings and the high cost of production. This was a disappointment because a good show was left with an "up in the air" kind of ending where nothing was resolved. If you wanted to know how it really ended you would have to read the book.
Weird, bizarre, and brilliant
Eraserhead is, without a doubt, the weirdest film I have ever seen. This was David Lynch's first serious film. It's set in some sterile, dark city which may or may not be in the post- apocalypse future.
I first heard about Eraserhead five years ago when I saw an article about it in the newspaper. The news that Eraserhead had just been released on video. What really caught my attention was the photo of Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) looking like he was in a trance, his hair sticking up wildly.
The story (if "story" is an appropriate word) follows the fortunes of Henry Spencer, a solitary, reticent printer. One night he visits his girlfriend Mary and meets the rest of her family. Mary's mother then drops a bombshell. Henry is a father. Normally, a man might be overjoyed by such news. But the child Henry has is no normal child...
Eraserhead is sometimes very hard to watch. Paradoxically, you can't take your eyes off it either. You can't always tell when Henry is awake or dreaming, and this can be disorienting. In the background there is the constant noise of machinery. Organ music adds an extra layer of strangeness. I didn't find Eraserhead as disturbing as I expected. Sometimes it made me laugh. My parents hated it. I love anything with a touch of the bizarre, and Eraserhead is, in all sense of the word, bizarre.
You may need a bit of patience to appreciate this film. There are long gaps between dialogue, characters take ages to go into action. But the film is a worthwhile experience.
The Day of the Triffids (1981)
A vivid adaptation
A vivid adaptation of John Wyndham's classic novel. Nearly everyone in the world has been blinded, and humanity is at the mercy of the triffids, a genetically engineered breed of carniverous plants. The last time this was shown on television was back in 1987, when I was in Grade 6. I taped each episode and watched the serial so many times I knew the script off by heart. Regrettably, it was taped over a few years ago. I enjoyed the programme so much I read the novel, which I still have (in fact I have two copies), and I've also collected John Wyndham's other books. "The Day of the Triffids" was the first story that got me thinking about the end of civilisation. For once television can't be blamed as a medium that stops people reading.
Hard Road (1988)
A story of escape
I came across this film last year by sheer accident. I think "serendipity" is the appropriate word. My father turned on the television and I saw this boy and girl sitting in a Ferrari in the dark. For some reason this intrigued me. I was wondering what a young boy was doing driving around in a Ferrari so I looked in the TV magazine to see what the film was called. The title, of course, was "Hard Road". It's about a girl called Kelly who is bored with her life at home. When she meets the well-to-do boy Max she dares him to take her on a joyride to Brighton. The film follows the experiences they share on the journey. I had the good fortune to see this film again from the beginning as it was on cable television.
The two leading characters are very well drawn. Francesca Camillo is perfect as the compulsive liar Kelly, who frequently rings Child Line with stories about her "abusive" father. Max Rennie plays the son of a wealthy businessman. He too is unhappy with his life and expresses his rebellion with fake suicides. His prized possession is a 1959 Ferrari, which he cares for in the same way a doting father cares for his child.
I believe this is essentially a story of escape. The two characters are breaking free, discovering themselves. The film covers issues like class (Kelly is the poor one, Max is the rich one),the need children have for independence and their impatience to grow up, and most of all the freedom of leaving home. Although Max is breaking the law by being an under aged driver, he is still a sympathetic character. The two children seem to have a cynical and negative outlook on life despite their young age (both are 13 years old), they are children who are just beginning to discover what the world is really like and try to reject it.
What I find appealing about this film is the reminder of childhood. I was 12 when the film was made, and I remember how different everything seemed at that time from a child's perspective. More innocent and naive. Other good points of the film are the pleasant scenery of the English landscape and the music score. "Hard Road" is a good way to spend an hour and a half, a nice blend of drama and humour. I even wanted to know what happened to Kelly and Max after the film ended, but of course this has to be left to conjecture. I have to confess I am curious about what became of the two leading actors, who would now be in their mid twenties. Max Rennie has appeared in one other movie, made the following year, while Francesca Camillo made her only screen appearance in this work. The acting of these two people was above average and it seems a shame that they have since slipped into obscurity. I hope they are doing well in whatever paths they have followed.