Saturday, August 31, 2019

Adventures in Melbourne

Between 2 - 18 August, most roads led to MIFF venues, although my stimulating and productive Melbourne stay also set me on an unexpected path with a new series of works on paper. A recent bout of flu, from which I'm just emerging, has delayed this last post about my recent adventures in Melbourne, my first as a visitor, rather than as a resident.

The Plenary, situated on Melbourne's Docklands, was a first-time (and hopefully, last time) venue.  

The Plenary had all the charm of an airport lounge. Nobody I spoke to enjoyed going there.
Still, I'm rather proud of this early evening shot, taken after an afternoon of screenings.

English born director and screenwriter Peter Strickland was a MIFF guest and was
a refreshingly warm, engaging and down-to-earth speaker. I saw several of his films,
and by comparison, found the plots curiously distancing and off-putting and felt little sympathy
 - or any sense of connection for that matter - with his characters.

Below are 15 of my favourite films. (I tried unsuccessfully to limit the list to ten and could easily have added more):

God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya
The Nightingale
And Then We Danced
House of Hummingbird
Ghost Town Anthology
A Regular Woman
Ghost Tropic
The Juniper Tree
Talking About Trees
The Swallows of Kabul

Complete details of the above can be found on my MIFF 2019 schedule HERE. I made several alterations to it during the course of the film festival: subtracting, adding and switching session times. An annoying fault in the MIFF app is that not all the changes are reflected in the final list. Adding further confusion, a special MIFF screening I attended late last year is also listed. Nevertheless, it's a record of sorts and I’m still thinking about many of the films I did see. The MIFF Travelling Showcase heads to Ballarat soon, and I hope to catch up with some that I missed.

My MIFF was sandwiched between two noteworthy theatrical events: the dazzling Everything’s Coming Up Sondheim  at Chapel Off Chapel on August 2 and Sunday in the Park With George at the Lawler Theatre, which we saw shortly after MIFF had ended. Stephen Sondheim’s Pulitzer Prize winning musical drama, inspired by the pointillist artist George Seurat and his masterwork, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte, could not have been better served than by Watch This, the Melbourne-based company that specialises in his work. To my mind, no one does Sondheim better. Watch This finds the heart in his work like no other company I've seen. The entire cast, led by Nick Simpson-Deeks as George (pictured below) and Vidya Makan as Dot, his model, muse and lover, were sublime, as was every aspect of the production, which we saw twice. Over the years, I've seen other versions of Sunday in the Park With George, but this is the first time I've been moved to tears. On both occasions, I noticed several others discreetly dabbing their eyes. The sold-out Melbourne season was all too short. An interview with Sunday's co-director and Watch This founder Sonya Suares, is HERE. To read a review, go HERE.

Another highlight of my Melbourne sojourn was the Alexander Calder exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, which I caught just before it ended its long run. I absolutely loved this show and only wish I'd had a chance to visit earlier. Calder's sculptures and the mobiles with which he is most closely associated were well represented, but I was particularly enamoured of his wire sculptures.

The small hotel where I lived and worked for the duration of MIFF is nestled directly behind the grand, historic Windsor Hotel. On one particularly memorable occasion, Shane came to Melbourne for the day and took me out to dinner there. He is pictured below, admiring one of the paintings in the hotel's elegant foyer.

Directly below is an overview of the worktable in my hotel room at the close of MIFF. I'm continuing with the drawings back in Ballarat and will post updates in the near future.