Sunday 11 September 2016

A Sydney Melbourne Cinephile Divide - Paul Harris responds to Gary Maddox

In a previous post,  click here to find it, I published a letter sent to the Sydney Morning Herald about a piece written by Gary Maddox for Fairfax Media which you can still find online if you click here. The hardcore cinephile community were simply outraged at what they saw as simplistic stupidity in trying to suggest that Sydney was cinephile heaven.

But up to the plate stepped Sydney's supercinephile Barrie Pattison with a letter setting the record straight and which I published in the first post linked. Now I have a long note from Melbourne's super buff Paul Harris, moderator and presenter of the long running Film Buff's Forecast who read the Gary Maddox piece in The Age (online) and responded. Paul focussed on the notion/implication that all was well in Sydney and the it appeared the author was confident Sydney was the Australian leader in these matters. Here is Paul's response first published on the Film Buff's Forecast Facebook page

A Tale Of Two Cities (1)
It could not be clearer than this Age article inadvertently illustrates. In Sydney avid movie buffs are well catered for on all fronts with copious opportunities for star spotting and ' acclaimed international filmmakers promoting their latest international releases ". As for the various niche festival events, masterclasses, promotional Q and A's and outdoor screenings don't they already operate on a national circuit ?

Paul Harris of Film Buff's Forecast
We are informed that "old school film buffs " can attend art gallery screenings of films like Solaris (two years ago in Melbourne you could see an imported Tarkovsky retro featuring 4 of his features in 35mm.)

Admittedly the Scorsese 'festival ' sounds enticing until you compare it with the the size and scope of the Australian Centre For The Moving Image's exhibition on the same director. ACMI, an organisation, like the Australian Film Institute, is based and founded in Melbourne

The article goes on to spruik how successfully Sydney has attracted offshore producers back to Australia, thanks to the drop in the dollar . What this has to do with film buffs in an article carrying the banner " How To Be A Film Buff In Sydney " is not readily apparent .

And then a bombshell in the third act, so to speak. All that's missing from the mix 'to get really cooking' is a cinematheque which is condescendingly described ' as "an awkward French word for a cinema dedicated to classics and other historically significant films".

I've read some twaddle in my time but this is in a class of its own.

On the commercial front the Cinema Nova complex in Carlton is one of the largest arthouse cinema complexes in the world and operates 15 screens (at last count) . A significant proportion of the films screened at the Nova can't find any screens in Sydney at all. Over the years there have been various attempts to bring the Cinematheque model to Sydney but have been continually met with indifference.

Sydney's MCA , once mooted as the site of a Cinematheque model under the patronage of Dr. George Miller never advanced beyond the planning stage. Now, that would be an interesting article .

I have noticed the MCA is running digital weekend screenings with a forthcoming mini-season guest curated by Adrian Martin
. Interesting that this initiative does not merit a mention in the article.

The other aspect of this that seriously bothers me as a longtime Age subscriber is the general preponderance of ill-informed Sydney-centric commentary . What happens early next year when The Age is possibly being reduced to a single weekend edition is anyone's guess.

I don't get a kickback from the Melbourne Cinematheque and it is hardly my intention to turn this into a Melbourne Vs. Sydney stoush but I strongly feel that this organisation should be recognised for the outstanding and unique service it has provided to the film cutural community for over 30 continuous years in its current guise. Most of the films screened are not publicly available elsewhere and certainly not in the rare archival prints which the Cinematheque specialises in importing .
Here's a Wikipedia sumnation of their activities :
The Melbourne Cinémathèque is a non-profit film society screening programmes year-round, dedicated to presenting the history of world cinema on the big screen in carefully curated retrospectives. It started out as Melbourne University Film Society (MUFS) in 1948 and changed its name to Cinémathèque in 1984. It screens at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI)
The Melbourne Cinémathèque screens archival 35mm and 16mm film prints from organisations such as the British Film Institute, Library of Congress (Washington, USA), UCLA Film & TV Archive etc. The Melbourne Cinémathèque's mission is to present films in the medium they were created, and as closely as possible to screen them the way they would have originally screened, (i.e. big screen 16 & 35mm prints, not video or DVD). Programmes include a diverse selection of classic and contemporary films showcasing director retrospectives, special guest appearances and thematic series including archival material and many new prints. Seasons have included A Band of Outsiders: The Cinematic Underworld of Jean-Pierre Melville, 'All Art is One': The Visionary Cinema of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, Life is Art: The World of Jean Renoir, Glacial Crossroads: The Cinema of Michael Haneke, Surviving Kane: Around the World with Orson Welles, and The Music of Time: The World of Max Ophüls, as well as programmes dedicated to German Noir, Yasujiro Ozu, Marco Bellocchio, Agnès Varda, Manoel de Oliveira and Barbara Stanwyck, amongst others. The Melbourne Cinémathèque is self-administered, non-profit, membership-driven and relies on support from individuals, foundations, corporations and government funding to maintain its high standard of excellence.

1 comment:

  1. Next year Sally Darling and I will stage an architecture and design film festival, ARCHIFLIX, in Sydney and in Melbourne, with the best A&D films from across the globe.

    As we have been talking to folks in both cities the most frequent comment in Sydney has been "we've been talking about doing this for years, but haven't got there".

    It seems Sydney likes to talk, but in Melbourne we just do it. Might be the pre-occupation with making money in Sydney, as cinematheques rarely are profitable concerns, which seems to concern art lovers in Melbourne far less.


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