Tuesday, January 22, 2013


“...a little transition shot that’s all about Melbourne” Sam Neil

Sam Neil says this quoted above at the beginning of the audio commentary for the film THE BRUSH OFF (2004) he is referring to the shot, of the rowers on the Yarra, looking towards the rowing huts from Princess Bridge. This image also appears is some of the historic Melbourne films within the ACMI collection at their  Mediatheque, such as OLYMIC GAMES, MELBOURNE, AUSTRAILA 1956 (1956/1999) by the Straford Brothers (but as someone pointed out it doesn’t often appear in images advertising Melbourne to others). Sam Neil directed THE BRUSH OFF, the production design was done by Chris Kennedy he has also worked on THE PROPOSITION (2005), DEATH IN BRUNSWICK (1991), SPOTSWOOD (1992), COSI (1996) amongst other films.  In an interview with Chris Kennedy by John Flaus in 2007, Chris stated that in order to create the various houses for DEATH IN BRUSNWICK he visited 100s and 100s of houses in BRUNSWICK, while this may be not be scientifically ethnographic, it never the less distills for us something about how we live in Brunswick, and Melbourne and to some extent Australia, otherwise the images wouldn’t resonate with us. For the film SPOTSWOOD Kenney visited an old disused factory in Sunshine and it was here he tells us in the above interview that he found many of the things we see in shoe factory in the film - by capturing real historical elements of Melbourne it in some ways interconnects us with the film.

In the work of Chris Kennedy, and other filmmakers, through elements such as the objects, landscapes, and cityscapes used in film, we are it seems able to make connections to our stories - telling us something about who we are, and connecting us to the films, and the film to us, reminding us of common experiences, or uncommon experiences, reminding us what it is that we are apart of, what it is we have now, both culturally and individually.  Chris Kennedy appears to be interested in spaces that are old, full of signs of living; where we can see signs of the past. This reminds us of other times and places, we ourselves have been in, and we can also imagine other people’s lives, patterns of living, what other people have been left there, their impressions. In the film COSI there’s a record player that reminds me of my grandfather, not because he had one like it (he didn’t), but because I know it is old, and he liked to listen to records, and he grew up in Sydney, so at some time in some one’s lounge room, long before television, he sat and listened, to records played on a record player something like this one.

The representations of place connect us to the film. We see this happening in the cityscapes, such as the images of Melbourne in THE BRUSH OFF, and Sydney in COSI. The images, of the landscapes, in THE PROPOSITION, ask more of us, they address a collective history, the history of white people coming to Australia, (and all the damage that was done to the country and the people of the country who were here already). This film does not address these questions directly, but does point to questions about place and belonging.

Taking into account the tenuous nature of representation, it being fleeting, standing on the Princess Bridge with a camera, and filming for one minute, can only happen once, in that minute, on that day, in that year etc, it keeps changing (and we have different perspectives), but we find common points and perhaps glimpse ourselves in the image.

Louise Mackenzie_copyright_August 2011