Sunday, August 26, 2007

I Got Goosed.

I once spent about 18 months watching every Australian film I could get my hands on, raiding video libraries, university collections, the AFI, and so on. My memory of most of the films has gone the same way as my memory of why I did it exactly, but I think I recall determining that since the number of films actually made in Australia during the period in question was relatively low, it would actually be possible to see every single Aussie film and therefore be some kind of achievable goal that sounds quite interesting, as opposed to most of my life intentions which are as impossible as they are boring. I should note that the period in question was something like 1978-1995 or something. I can't remember why I had such specific dates - I think I'd made a list of all films made in those years and there weren't that many. Whatevs.

My laboriously constructed point is that I think I'm qualified - nay, obliged - to judge the greatest moment in Australian film history. And that moment is now available to you via the magic (by which I mean technology) of youtube.

Now, some might argue that what we're watching here is just two minutes of a guy riding a motorbike, and that devoting two minutes of a 93 minute film to such dull, indistinguishable shots is what we in the biz call "padding to ensure we achieve a feature-length running time". And you're probably also thinking that "Mad" Max Rockatansky did a lot more interesting things in the inaugural installment of his adventures than just cruise the highways enjoying the scenery.

What you might not realise is that this isn't Mad Max - it's his sidekick, the most awesomest sidekick in militant-buddy-movie history. It's Goose! And when you hear his name early in the film, you just know Max's sidekick Goose is cooked! I think they even use that awful line in the film somewhere, but that could be just wishful thinking. Either way, I'm sure it's no accident that Tom Cruise's doomed sidekick buddy in militant-buddy-movie Top Gun is also named Goose. Some might argue that that film was a superior exercise in homosocial eroticism conveyed through the use of excessive high-fiving and long sequences devoted to men in control of their cockpits, but did Top Gun's Goose get a whole two minutes of uninterrupted flying time? I think not.

When I heard that the real, original Goose himself would be appearing the latest MTC blockbuster, The Glass Soldier, you can imagine how I was leaping up on my chair at work spilling my chai latte and upsetting the work experience students with my fist-pumping chant of "BISLEY! BISLEY!". I knew that Steve Bisley would bring some of his Goosey brilliance to the show, especially since it was a war-time drama (which always promises plenty of uniforms, guns and overacting - it might as well have BEEN Mad Max!)

And was I let down? Hell no! Sure, the first half is pretty slow going and I spent a fair bit of it wondering why The Bis wasn't being utilised to his full potential. We had some Aussie guy in the trenches of WWI France pining for his love over in London before getting blinded by a Nazi salvo. At some point Goose turns up as one of his superiors and gives a rousing speech, but it's not the Goose I know and love. Blind guy goes back to Melbourne and meets up with his girlfriend and is a bit stressed out by his shell-shocked buddy who shot another guy in the head, and I'm sitting here wondering why Steve-o is even billed since he would be taking all this minor drama and really doing something with it, perhaps on a motorbike.

I'll admit, though, that even in these early bits where Bisley is relegated to the background, he more than shines through. In one scene blind guy is reunited with his girlfriend in a pub, and I'm sure it's an important moment, but there was Steve dressed in a sailor's outfit in the shadows camping it up with a little dance he obviously improvised, a shoulder-shimmy and shuffle routine that just commanded your attention. When somebody stormed off the stage (again, I was too spellbound by Bisley's dance to notice what was going on) Goose gave them a wrist-flick and a don't-go-there-girlfriend head move, and I saw just how a minor part can be imbued with genius by a great actor.

Later in the play Bisley took on the part of the older version of the shell-shocked dude, and as an abusive husband, traumatised veteran and alcoholic war machine, he gave the performance of the night. It was a little disappointing that he (along with his excellent older co-stars Robert Menzies and Kerry Armstrong) were kept in the wings for so long, since they really turned the piece into the kind of drama worthy of the Arts Centre's Playhouse. I spent most of the night enjoying the pleasant piece, but not really caring that much for the goings-on, at least until the heavyweights took centre stage.

Then again, there was a bit where someone told a guy who'd lost a leg in the war the "pull the other one!" and even the amputee had to laugh. When I arrived home after the show, I remembered that moment and laughed myself since it was pretty funny. That's the show, really - not the most amazing thing to sit through, but full of bits you'll relive fondly for a few hours afterwards.

Another wartime number I sat through recently was Plague at The Stork Hotel. It's an adaptation of Albert Camus' novel, and for me it was actually better than the book. I like Camus' stuff, but Plague always felt pretty heavy-handed to me. It just doesn't speak to me that much. I much prefer ennui-ridden loners shooting random dudes on beaches. Doctors observing a town's response to a bubonic plague epidemic is probably too much like my real life to actually elicit much of a response.

Plague's Adrian Mulraney takes on every part in this adaptation and makes it sparkle, though. He's a subtle performer, and he doesn't go for cheap dramatics or drive home the point of the piece. He distils the essence of the novel and adds a lively, unexpected level of nuance to the sometimes flat characters.

I think the season ended today and if you missed out, you could always read the book.

I've heard rumours that The Stork might be changing hands soon and could be turned into a block of apartments. I hope that isn't the case since Sunday afternoons at The Stork watching damn fine literature performed by top shelf actors has lately become one of my favourite ways to relax. Inner city apartment developments - what a plague. And what would Camus do?

I've seen lots of other shows lately and haven't mentioned them here. Angus Cerini's Chapters from the Pandemic was a head-messer-up-wither, and Talya Chalef's intruiging In Other Words introduced me to the fantastic Abbotsford Convent Basement. The return of Phantom of the Opera proved more enjoyable than I expected.

And Ranters Theatre's Holiday was one of the best pieces of theatre I've seen in ages. Again, it's over now, but here's a little hint: if you missed it, you will get a chance to see it again. Stay tuned for details.

In the meantime, here's a great new video from Icelandic band Múm. It's very unnerving.

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