Thursday 29 September 2016

Remembering Colin Bennett (and Tim Burstall) - Ex-Melburnians Adrian Martin and Rod Bishop recall.

In a previous post, which you can find if you click here, devoted to remembering legendary Melbourne Age film critic Colin Bennett Phillip Adams asked "remember when Tim Burstall was going to give him a knuckle sandwich ..was it over 2000 Weeks? ". Some people have remembered that as well as Colin himself. So things have expanded a little but everything’s related.

Adrian Martin writes: Colin B. was definitely an influence on this precocious teenage cinephile mind in the mid 1970s. When I cleared out my Monash University office last year, I found, in an ancient box, a folder of clippings of his reviews and essays I had compiled back then (I duly donated it to my Monash colleagues for their Australian Film Culture courses!). I have an especially vivid memory of his pretty positive review of Welles' F FOR FAKE, which had a brief cinema run in Melbourne. I think I twigged pretty fast to the sense that he was an 'old school' film buff, neither 'auteurist' nor (god forbid) 'semiotic', but it didn't bother me overly - as you say, Geoff, he was one of the few people in public standing up for important 'film culture' issues of the day. I remember spotting him at least one Melbourne Film Festival (in the company of his teenage/young adult son, maybe?) after his 'last days chez AGE', but I never met or spoke to him personally. When I became a film reviewer on the circuit in the mid 90s, Ivan Hutchinson and Keith Connolly (another heavily 'social issue' old-school character) still reminisced warmly about him. In more recent years, I know there was some interest among scholars such as Deane Williams and Tom O'Regan in looking him up, getting him on record as to his days at THE AGE, etc. But I don't know yet whether any material like this has actually been gathered  ....Another flash: I think he even wrote about some film magazines as they emerged - such as CINEMA PAPERS.
Tim Burstall
In response to Phillip Adams question as to whether Tim Burstall at least thought of giving Colin a knuckle sandwich, Rod Bishop writes: Burstall tried to give everyone a knuckle sandwich, didn't he? Certainly tried to clock me at the AFI Awards in 1973 over an interview I did with him for a magazine called "Lumiere".  Decades later, (Tim’s son) Tom Burstall told me Tim had "revised" his opinion of me and now thought I was a "good bloke". I've been feeling better ever since.

Colin Bennett’s brother David was the founding Principal of the Education Reform Association School (ERA) in Donvale, an initiative of Preshill and the World Education Fellowship. It was based on the educational principles of A.S.Neill's Summerhill and is now referred to by its alumni as "that hippie school". David was Principal from 1970 to 1973 and died young.

More to come.....

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