Welcome to “In Salem Tonight with Bill Henson”. Yes, the Bill Henson witch hunt continues down under. Here is the latest news on the freedom of speech issue that is being hotly debated in the Antipodes.

Firstly, its no surprise that Bill Henson’s art work is now going up in price at Galleries, cha ching. See here.

The mother of the girl on the Henson exhibition invite has come out in defense of his work. See here. Disturbingly the article says that any media sources that have reprinted the image are also to be investigated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. And internet sites are being looked at by the OFLC. I mean how absurd. That will put The Daily Telegraph, The Age, The Herald Sun, Yahoo Australia and many other independent media outlets in the dock with Henson. This is all sounding more and more like a post modern performance of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. You have got to laugh… and cry really.

Alison Croggon, who penned the impressive letter that Cate Blanchett and others signed, also has interesting reflections on the issue of prosecuting web sites, like her own, that have reproduce Bill Henson’s art work. See here.

There is also a petition to sign in favour of Bill Henson’s work and freedom of speech here. Get to it, boppers.

MUFF banned filmmaker Tony Comstock has an excellent, “A Modest Proposal” on his web site inspired by this issue, see here. There are other good articles on his site about censorship. Comstock you’ll remember is the director of “Ashley and Kisha” and “Damon and Hunter”, two MUFF sexuality films, both banned at our humble festival. One of which we played a few years back, as a ‘fuck you’ to the censorship situation in this country. Comstock is very astute, lucid and clear headed about the whole issue.

I will quote him from his website:

“I have a modest proposal.

When contemplating whether or not the making of a photograph constitutes a criminal act, let us conduct a thought experiment. Let us imagine all the circumstances of the creation of the photograph: where, when, who, how.

Now let us imagine that there is no film in the camera.

Get it? Everyone is there, everyone’s been informed, consented, tricked, bribed, lied to, flattered, compensated. Strobes pop, motors whir. But there is no film in the camera.

If absent the creation of the latent image, there is no crime, then the creation of the latent image is not a crime.

If, absent the creation of the latent image, the circumstances – the where, the when, the who, the how — constitute a criminal act, then let’s prosecute the criminality, and let’s not entertain any foolish notions that including a camera in the undertakings (with or without film) changes the circumstances in a meaningful way.

Simple enough?”

Indeed, seems pretty simple and straight forward to me. I endorse this basic model for censorship as well. Your thought Idea Fix readers?

Tasty Dying Breed

May 29, 2008

Dying Breed, the new Australian horror movie, that features a family of keen cannibals, has its trailer up on line now and we have it below. And it looks shit hot! Starring Leigh Whannell, Nathan Phillips and good old Peter Docker from my film “The Intruder” and Jon Hewitt’s “Redball”, as the lead villain in Breed no less! This tasty Tassie flesh feast looks like perfect fare for my cinematic table in 2008.

Leigh Whannell was at the MIFF opening last year, on his way to begin production on Dying Breed and we had a chat about the film he was about to shoot, life and politics. Good to see Whannell back in front of the camera. I really liked him in Saw and his supporting role in Death Sentence, he has a good presence as an actor. Plus an intelligent look as a lead, not so ‘brickey’s laborer’, as some Aussie male stars ‘stink of the lamb’ of.

I love cannibalism in cinema, don’t you? Such a great theme for horror. Australia’s own Alexander ‘the Pieman’ Pearce provides the inspiration to some of the ideas in this film and is the source material for the up coming ABC special “The Last Confessions of Alexander Pearce” with Ciarin McMenamin, Dan Wylie and Chris Haywood. I hope this signals a flesh eating fiesta down under, as we sink our teeth back into the other ‘other’ white meat. Perhaps, a slate of classic Cannibal films at MUFF this year, might be just the ticket to inspire locals about the potency of this kind of cinema?

Tenderly Hooked

May 29, 2008

A teaser trailer has appeared for the John Brousek produced 1920’s period movie, The Tender Hook, directed by Jonathan Ogilvie. It stars Hugo Weaving, Rose Byrne and Matt Le Nevez and it looks rather good. I can dig Weaving as a nasty 20’s gangster, Byrne as a flapper and Nevez as a boxer. Its good to see ambitious period pieces being made again here in Australia, like “Australia” and this new film.

It seems the 1920’s is cool again too, with this film, David Fincher’s F.Scott Fitzgerald adaptation “Benjamin Button” with Bard Pitt and Cate Blanchett and my own Fitzgerald interpretation, “The Beautiful and Damned”, a modern adaptation with Ross Ditcham, Kristen Condon, Norman Yemm, John Brumpton, Paul Moder and many others, all due this year.

Here is the The Tender Hook trailer.

I know we have Phoenix on Mars and that Nasa somehow goes on, but really, gentle reader, what happened to the Space Age?

In the decade of my youth (the 1970’s and early 80’s) the Space age was all around us. You could have sworn that by 2008, I’d be organising trips to the moon. I mean, where is my flying car by now! All these things were, well promised by culture and media by around our current date but they show no sign of appearing. Just as we are entering what looks to be the second and final dark age started by the ‘war on terror’ and the ‘global warming’ crisis. The planet is closing down, not going up… into space.

Where did we go wrong?

I have been rewatching Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” and what a fucking beautiful and inspiring TV show it is and was. I find myself getting teary eyed at some odd moments, that explore the vast depth, beauty and wonder of the Cosmos and Sagan’s semi dorky, but completely sincere and passionate evocation of it. Where is this idealistic reaching forward of science today?

All the internet dot coms, billionaires and businesses are funneling millions of dollars to feed the wretched of the earth, but can’t some of this money go to NASA and to space exploration?

I mean human beings, we got plenty more where they came from. But Space and our first steps in it or onto another planet like Mars, are truly what, I thought, my generation was going to be about.

But, no, everyone is breeding without thought, stupid in their liberal ‘intelligence’, buying things endlessly without purpose and being so fucking bourgeoise, it makes me want to puke.

The soft Aldous Huxley style brain wash and dumbing down of the human species is so vast and complete, I don’t think many of us are left that really care about and are passionate about such subjects as space exploration any more. Outside the field itself, of course.

I mean 108 years after Nietzsche’s death, vain ‘last men and women’ run around making complete asses of themselves trying to be Jesus and setting up charitable institutions. Just so they can be God to the starving masses and reap the vast public relations benefits, that will push their companies or themselves forward… to nowhere. All the while the Cosmos awaits us and our small window of opportunity to explore it, closing as humanity turns this planet into a Mars like desert, whether it takes 200 years or 2000 or more. Wake up to Cosmic questions and the billions of years of evolution it took us to get here. And for what? Just so we can ruin it in a short time span of a few thousand years?

Its all in Darwin and Herbert Spencer. Evolution, Natural Selection, Mutation, Survival of the Fittest. We must evolve to the stars, or perish as a species, in the big picture.

Its like Jarvis Cocker, said “We were brought up on the Space Race, but they expect us to clean toilets”. The Toilet is fast becoming the world and the sooner we turn our attention to the heights of human endeavors, our greatest aspirations and away from pitiable retrograde charity, the sooner humanity may find itself back on the track to the stars. And our future, if we have one.

But, a Schopenhauerian voice tells me a second dark age has began. A great forgetting of Being underway, just with Nike’s, light entertainment and Playstation’s galore.

Can the supposedly educated West be so stupid? Such heights are possible and yet we stay in the gutter, looking down at the wretchedness and stupidity, like a reversed Oscar Wilde dictum. I for one may be in the gutter, but I still look up at the stars. And I sincerely hope some of you may still do so…

In a development to be applauded Cate Blanchett and some of her pals from the 2020 conference have filed an open letter in support of embattled photographer Bill Henson. See here.

This defense of Henson, penned by Alison Croggan, is aimed at Kevin Rudd, who is behaving in a way more reactionary way, than the Howard Government may have on this issue! In the open letter it says,”The potential prosecution of one of our most respected artists is no way to build a Creative Australia, and does untold damage to our cultural reputation.”. This is, of course, true.

Good ol’ Andrew Bolt has added his his ‘two bobs worth’ here.

He makes a few wry, humorous and sardonic points about a few of the defenders of Henson. Sometimes he’s right. He also postulates his own suggested defense of Henson, “If they want to defend Henson, there is only one morally admirable way to do so: to argue that the benefits of letting an artist show naked girls aroused to their new sexuality causes more good than harm, whether to the models or to other girls who’ll be watched with newly aroused eyes.” This sounds more controversial, than many defenses, he heaps scorn on.

For me, the main defense of Henson, is simply that of free speech and freedom of artistic expression. Like Graffitti art doco’s, David Irving, X rated films, Larry Clark and Pasolini movies, etc. Freedom of Speech is simply that. You either defend and support it or you don’t! And from my experiences at MUFF over the years many people in the arts community are selective in their support of freedom of speech and Bolt is right to lampoon these clowns, as the hypocrites they are.

Kim Kardashian, the new Paris Hilton style party gal, ‘reality’ show star and sex tape producer has been making jokes about the Burma Tsunami. See here.

In related news Sharon Stone, also, declared the Chinese quake ‘karma’ over their treatment of the Tibetans. See here.

I couldn’t really give a shit about Burma or China. Just not interested. But it provides an interesting context for the following…

Check out Kim Kardashian’s butt!

Naughty Kim Kardashian needs a good spanking, over her wonderful booty, for these comments, whether I care about them or not. Insensitive comments about Buma, “slap”, you naughty girl, “smack”. Sharon Stone, the Chinese Embassy just rang, stand in the corner, your next! Sounds like fun, don’t you all agree?

Local Melbourne filmmaker and Renegade films cohort, Julius Avery, took out the second highest prize for a short film at the Cannes 2008 Film Festival, with Jerrycan, produced by Stuart Parkyn and Associated Produced by Joe Connor. First prize went to short Megatron by Marian Crisan. Congratulations are in order to Julius and team on winning such a high award.

It’s good to see an Australian film take an award at Cannes, breaking the drought of Australia’s general acceptance and recognition at the festival. See photo below, Avery is on the left.

You can see a trailer for Jerrycan here.

It will premiere locally at MIFF 2008.

See a list of the Official Winners at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival here.

One thing I have noticed in my years of running MUFF and making independent cinema, is an absurd prejudice in this country to low budget aesthetics. It’s as if years of government funded, technically well polished (but crap!) films, have Australian film industry personal and potentates all hooked on the fine tuning of a films aesthetic. And not worrying about its content, excitement, originality or quality as a work of art. I mean Esther Blueberger was polished, but it was a polished turd. Am I right, people?

At Accent Underground (AU), the MUFF DVD label we set up with Accent Film Entertainment, we have been releasing these less polished and low budget gems to the Australian public. Just watch “demonamongus”, “Welcome Stranger”, “The Garth Method” and others on AU and tell me these are not great local films?

They may not have the millions wasted on them polishing every detail. But they are all ballsy, original new Australian movies.

The Magician, by Scott Ryan, was 90% the same movie that played at MUFF compared to the version that came out after the FFC got involved, adding 300K or so to polish it that extra ten percent. I’m all for doing that polish, if you can and The Magician is better for it. But the original was equally as impressive as the finished product. It just had a new ending, decent sound mix and some proper credits. But the talent revealed in the early cut was clear to see.

Whenever I watch a low budget movie, Australian or otherwise, I enter into an agreement to expect some rough edges. It comes with the territory. That’s why its a low budget movie! I call this expectation ‘the low budget impressionist effect’. Things are sometimes not as polished as they could, or should be. For example, the sound may be a little low in one scene, a music cue not quite at the right level in another, a visual effect that could be slightly better, etc. These things all can be fixed given large $ in post. But the point is low budget films often don’t have the lolly of big budget films and should not be scolded for their inherent limitations. In fact, these drawbacks should be understood and appreciated!

Lars Von Trier’s whole Dogme 95 movement pulled us away from this absurd obsession with over polish in modern cinema. I mean, do we look at impressionists and ask of them why they didn’t paint a clearer picture? Of course not.

Low budget aesthetics are a form of cinematic impressionism that varies depending on the resource, budget or even intention of the films creator, and should be acknowledged as such.

If we embraced a more rough and tumble aesthetic, that recalls many great movements in cinema from Dogme to the French and British New Wave movements, back to early days of experimental, underground and even silent cinema, we can see the excellence in low budget cinema, for what it is. And perhaps reward it, next time around, with a more comprehensive budget. Instead of pouring millions down the gurgler on crap like September, Blueberger and other recent flops.

Like Robert Connolly says in his ‘white paper’, and in what he said was canvassed at 2020 conference, we should reward talent, innovation and success. I say to do so, also, from whatever aesthetic tier a work of cinematic art may emerge from.

Again, your thoughts are welcome in the comments page…

Its no secret I love the music of the eighties, especially that of the electronic variety.

Here is a funny/cool video of 80’s band The Twins, they were sort of like a German Pet Shop Boys, but with a Giorgio Moroder LA style flavour. Made up of Sven Dohrow and Ronny Schreinzer they had a string of excellent singles and albums in that golden decade. The music of local bands like The Presets and Cut Copy would kill for this retro style and sound. Dancing space girls, weird colour coded suits and little hip insignia badges, Idea Fix gives you all a blast from the most musically significant decade post WW2, yes, the 1980’s.


Also I just found this video called “Life of a Toy” from a band called “My Favourite Toys” produced by Ronny Schreinzer from “The Twins”. It’s tres cool. Does anyone out there in internet lands have a copy of the “My Favourite Toys” album or single they can burn onto CD for me? If so comment with your email and I’ll get back to you. I love to discover this, rare, 80’s electro shit. Cheers!

My Favourite Toys clip.

Bill Henson Hysteria

May 26, 2008

Australian photographer Bill Henson is causing controversy and a stir at present with his recent, now banned exhibition, at Sydney’s Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery. See here. And here.

Another Gallery has also removed his work and an article shows how the Government has backed his exhibitions (of naked teen photography and other subjects) before, showing their hypocrisy. See here.

It all seems absurd to me. Henson’s work is clearly art and this attack upon him smells of a media beat up. Everybody is caving into this hysteria about his works and removing them from galleries. Until recently he was considered controversial with the art world and public alike, but respected. What has changed? The issues raised are clearly issues of artistic freedom.

To make it even funnier, all the reactionary press condemning the exhibition, all publish reprints or portions of the art they supposedly have a moral objection with. Thereby, bringing wide public attention to it and also implicating themselves as distributors and exhibitors of the art they, supposedly, want to ban. I have reprinted a photo all these media sources have been running with.

As long as the photographic subjects were willing, had permission from their parents, etc., I can’t see the problem. Henson work is not overtly erotic or pornographic in tone either, it has a dark, moody, slightly sickly quality to it, that goes against it being labeled ‘porn’.

What do Idea Fix readers think of the controversy? It just seems like the latest witch hunt and example of repressed sexual hysteria, to me.