Boy Gets Girl (Rebecca Gilman) – Sydney Theatre Company production at the Wharf Theatre

We included this play in our subscription mainly because it had both Miranda Otto and Barry Otto in it. Going in, however, I found I didn’t have the faintest recollection what the subscription guide had actually said it was about. So when I opened the program and discovered four pages of information about stalkers, I was a little taken aback. It seemed that this was not going to be a fun night at the theatre.

In fact, there was quite a lot of humour in the play. In particular, Barry Otto’s relatively minor role as a film director obsessed with big breasted women was a scream. (It also explained why, after the information about stalkers, the program had two pages about Russ Meyer, the director of, among other things, Faster, PussyCat! Kill! Kill!.

But on the whole, the play was very serious and a bit creepy. The character of Tony only had three or four scenes, quite early on, plus two or three walk ons during scene changes – but he cast a malevelent shadow over the whole production (during which time the actor was, presumably, putting his feet up in the dressing room).

The Constant Gardener at Hoyts, Broadway

It took me a while to get into The Constant Gardener. I found the handheld camera work distancing rather than engaging, and possibly that was why I couldn’t get really interested in any of the characters. Eventually I got caught up in the story, but not as much as I would have liked. On At the Movies, David and Margaret both admired the “combination of the love story and the political thing”. The two sides of the film are certainly well meshed, but ultimately I didn’t find either of them quite fulfilling.

I’ve only actually read one Le Carre book – The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. It was when I was doing the Pulp Fiction course at uni – it was the last book on the course, and I felt this incredible sense of Le Carre being on a whole different literary level from the other authors. It didn’t inspire me to read his other books – Spy Who Came in From the Cold was a bit too depressing for my taste – but it did give me a level of respect for what he was doing in the genre. The political thriller side of The Constant Gardener film seemed to lack the the depths and subtleties of Spy Who Came in From the Cold (which may or may not have been in the book of Constant Gardener) but at the same time it was too dark to be enjoyable in the same way as, say, the film of The Bourne Identity. So it just didn’t, quite, work for me.

I liked the idea of the love story taking place after her death, as his increasing knowledge of him makes him understand and love her more. But because it took me so long to get engaged with the characters, it didn’t quite work either.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang at Hoyts, Broadway

I really enjoyed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I thought it was funny and clever, but not so impressed with its own cleverness that it lost its appeal (which can sometimes be a problem with films like this). The dialogue was great, and Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jnr’s delivery was spot-on.

It’s very influenced by Raymond Chandler – all the chapter titles are the titles of Chandler books/short stories – but it could not be more different from the other Chandler-influenced movie I have seen recently, Sin City (see my comments on it). The two films may have come from some of the same places, but they found totally different things in those places, and then took them in completely different directions.

Gallipoli at Norton Street Cinema

I was not as moved by Gallipoli as Margaret Pomerantz clearly was, but I nevertheless thought it was a very powerful documentary. I think the technique of using voiceover readings from actual letters is perhaps the strongest method of conveying what things were really like. The visuals used to complement this were also very successful – the still images and contemporary film footage were supplemented very effectively with modern re-creations. I think much of the modern footage may have had the colour pulled back, to blend in more subtly with the archival material, and I also liked the way the modern stuff never focused on the faces of the actors (and, more often than not, didn’t actually use actors – just scenery, guns, trenches and flies on food).

The letters from the two Australian brothers were certainly the most poignant. However, the character I found most gripping was Guy Nightingale (British officer). His letters were written in an almost Boys Own Adventure style: describing truly horrific events in a completely matter-of-fact and impersonal – even jokey – manner. It hardly seems possible that he could be so completely untouched by what was happening – and some of the later letters begin to suggest that he wasn’t – but if that was the case, how could he write about them in such a way? Or, if he was trying to protect his family, why even mention some of the things he did? I just couldn’t get my head around what he must have been thinking and feeling. Right at the end, when it said that he survived the war, I heard someone sitting near me whisper “bastard” to her friend. But then it went on to say how he ultimately killed himself. There must have been huge amounts of stuff happening with him underneath, that simply didn’t show in the letters. It was really thought-provoking.

It was interesting that there was a huge amount of criticism of the decisions made by the Allied high command, but almost nothing about policy decisions made on the Turkish side. Maybe their leaders weren’t so culpable, or maybe there are fewer decisions made when you are defending rather than attacking, or maybe there just isn’t as much information available. But it still felt just a bit unbalanced. For instance, there was a night when the Turks just attacked and attacked, and were shot down in their thousands – but nothing about why this attack was ordered, and what kind of intelligence it was based on, and whether the decision makers had actually referred to the recommendations of the intelligence officers. But with the original Allied landings, and at least one of their attacks, quite a lot of time was spent on the assumptions made by the decision makers, and the intelligence reports that they simply appeared to ignore.

There was a mix of Australian and UK historians, but, oddly enough, only one Turkish expert. There was also a much greater range of letters from Allied soldiers (though that is probably explained by the fact that there was only about 5% literacy within the Turkish army). But this all seemed to come down to giving a greater emphasis to the Allied perspective (which most Australians would already be at least somewhat familiar with), and less than I had expected showing the other side of the story.

A powerful film, and an important one. But for some reason, although it moved me, it somehow wasn’t quite as distressing as it should have been.