Saturday, 18 June 2016
Vale Paul Cox
My last sighting of him was in a recent feature length documentary by fellow Melbourne film-maker Peter Tammer titled The Nude in the Window (Australia, 2015) a film which showed Cox, nearing the end of his life reminiscing about the journey that brought him to Australia and his gradual absorption into the world of film-making firstly through some short films and on into low budget features. By the time it was finished he had made over thirty short, feature and documentary films.
It was a case of learning on the job. Each film in his first decade or so, back through the late sixties and into the seventies, was a steep learning experience for Cox as well as a work that showed a progressing maturity. Cox learned throughout this time the value of close collaborators, writers, photographers, actors who assembled at his call in much the same way as the stock company did for John Ford long ago. People like Bob Ellis sought him out, finding in Cox a unique voice able to express much about the intimate lives of Australians.
Cox also liked to show the secrets of what might seem otherwise perfectly normal people and, without going into detail, more than a few perverse streaks of human behaviour were put on show usually with a mix of shock and fun.
All up, Cox was a worker bee, always making movies, sometimes making them before they were script ready and occasionally taking on the odd subject that didn't come off. But he always moved on fast, getting the team back together and, right up to near the end, with the drama Force of Destiny (Australia, 2015) he was contemplating life's ironies.
The tributes will be extensive and will come from many who knew him far better than me.
In the meantime perhaps it would be nice to remind ourselves of his contribution and the thoughtfulness he brought to his life. That could be done if someone does indeed arrange to show Peter Tammer's film, regrettably rejected thus far by every Australian film festival and other event, to remind us that a film-maker who made a great contribution to the national film culture has passed. That it was made by another film-maker now sadly out of the limelight is just another of the kind of life's ironies that Cox himself appreciated and indeed frequently explored.