Tuesday 1 March 2022

Vale Colin Bennett - Ross Campbell and Peter Hourigan add some fond memories

Ross Campbell writes: At the age of 16, in year 10 at secondary school, I was thirsting for knowledge about this medium of film I loved so much. An article appeared in The Age  Green Guide indicating Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane was to be shown for the first time on Melbourne television. As a keen reader of the paper’s film critic, Colin Bennett, I recalled he would mention Kane whenever writing about a new film by Orson Welles. My radar was on full alert. We had not invested in a television at home but a schoolfriend’s parents had. It was decided. After dinner and homework: Citizen Kane at his place. 

Astonishingly, my friend’s father, a senior detective in Victoria Police, spoke just as the film began: “It’s the sled that’s called Rosebud.” The greatest ‘spoiler’ of all time. Somehow, this untimely revelation did nothing to diminish what followed. From the very beginning, it was to be a unique experience.

The next day at school, bursting with enthusiasm for what I had seen the night before, I approached my History and English Literature teacher. To my amazement, his only reply was, “Harrumph! Citizen Kane. Vastly overrated!” I couldn’t believe my ears. I decided immediately to write to Colin Bennett. 

“In the few years that I have been reading your columns, I have often come across references to Kane when you sometimes wrote of a film with Orson Welles in it. I often wondered about the identity of this Kane character until recently I saw an article in the TV supplement of ‘The Age’ about the film Citizen Kane which was to be screened that week on television… For those two hours we were awestruck, overwhelmed, and completely absorbed in the whole of the fantastic production. We had never seen anything like it before. The photography, technique, plot, camera movements and angles, acting – the whole thing – was breathtaking… I wish to know just where Citizen Kane stands in the history of film as an art. I would also like to know your personal views in regard to the film. Were our reactions in proportion to the quality of the film, or are we just a pair of easily impressed youths?”

Two weeks later I was astonished to find that Colin had fashioned an entire article around my letter in The Age Saturday Literary Supplement. What followed was a brilliant estimation of Kane, compressing into those narrow columns of type succinct and eloquent descriptions of Welles’ film and its place in cinema history. I was overjoyed – vindicated that my enthusiasm for the film and the entire medium of cinema was not only justified but publicly endorsed by my journalist hero. A copy of my clipping from The Age is attached below.

It was from that moment I resolved that film – this medium that uniquely encompassed all my enthusiasms – music, photography, lighting, drama, storytelling, editing, performance – this medium that had enthralled me from my earliest years, would now be the driving force in my life. Vale Colin Bennett.


Click on the image to enlarge

Peter Hourigan writes:  Colin’s support of what we now call Film Culture extended beyond his professional journalist responsibilities. His articles about films showing at the Festival were part of his work, but he also made many contributions in an honorary capacity, including work for the Jury for the Festival’s Short Film Competition for a number of years. (At that stage, the Festival’s international accreditation did not allow it to have a competition for Feature Films.)

      I had the privilege of being on his jury for a couple of years, including 1966 when one of the films we were considering was a 52 minute history of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union (of America( by Harold Mayer, The Inheritance. Colin had a strong interest in socially progressive films, and probably this was one factor in his strong support for the film.

       There were times when some of us thought this attitude led him to overrate poor films because they were tackling social problems such as racism (Think – Stanley Kramer.) But I was certainly more than happy to support him on this film, and it was awarded our Grand Prix for that year.

      Since seeing it for our judging, I have seen it a number of times, and I’m still happy we gave it the top prize. And it can now be seen on YouTube and other sites.   Copies are not all great, but this is probably the best. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EszSvYl_LC4&t=1795s  Watch it, for your own enjoyment, and as a thought for Colin.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.