A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending some time with my niece, EMC. She was working on an English assignment – a school play (Children of the Black Skirt) in which her character becomes lost in the woods, only to be found (presumably) dead, 5 days later. Underlying themes aside, I found myself wondering what happened during those 5 days. It reminded me, I told my niece, of the novel and (1975) film Picnic at Hanging Rock, which I saw before I read. As I described the plot to her, I was reminded of how frustrated I was as the film and book ended; leaving us wondering what happened to the missing schoolgirls. Even the release of an additional chapter after the author’s death did little to elucidate the mystery for me.
Somehow our conversation then drifted to another Australian movie of my youth, Gallipoli – coincidentally also directed by Peter Weir. The story of two young men and featuring a young Mel Gibson (before Mad Max really took off and shot him to stardom; and before his life went awry). A tragic tale on so many levels and I have to admit to teariness even as I relayed the story (and its ending) to EMC.
I recall seeing these movies on sale a few years ago and contemplated buying them for EMC, thinking they would go someway to educating her in the history of Australian film and popular culture. But, I had learnt my lesson a few years before when, instead of buying Disney movies on her Christmas list, I took her Captain Jack Sparrow fetish one step further and bought Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Benny and Joon. All three remain in their plastic wrapping, though I suspect one day she will pull them out and watch them as – though only 13 – she is a smart little chickie and has sophisticated but quirky tastes.
The other thing that prevented me forking out my hard-earned cash was that I had discovered (the hard way) that some things do not stand the test of time.
One of my favourite bloggers is The Scrivener’s Fancy’s Avril Rolfe. We have surprisingly similar taste (she used to love Thirtysomething) and must be of a similar age as I find myself nodding at her pop culture references. Her latest blog references the 1982 Australian film, Starstruck (http://www.thescrivenersfancy.com/imagined-slights/2010/04/21/struck-off.aspx). Like many other teenagers across the country I loved the film. I also had the soundtrack (on cassette of course) which I came across about 10 years ago. Surprisingly it still worked and listening to my old favourites (Body and Soul and Monkey in Me) motivated me to track down the movie, which I found at a nearby video rental store. What I saw shocked and horrified me. It was terrible. Beyond terrible. A cliché. Surely even at 14 years of age I recognised that? Surely I looked past the quirkiness and cringed at the unlikelihood of the plot and uncomfortable acting? Obviously not.
Similarly, about 5 years ago, before we remembered its name and Fame became famous to a whole new generation, I was flipping through a catalogue and discovered that the TV series was being released on DVD. I possibly squealed with excitement. Possibly. I loved that show. Though the (original) movie shocked my 12yr old sensibilities, I was in my mid-teens by the time the TV series graced our Australian screens and I was mesmerised by the lives of the high school students which were far-removed from my own existence in a small regional Queensland town.
The sale-bins were bare by the time I reached the department store so my always-devoted mother (who still lives in that small regional town) tracked down the TV series for me and I wrenched it from her to insert into my DVD player. I don’t think I got through one episode. Actress Lori Singer – who I liked on the show, but hated cos she ‘got’ Kevin Bacon in Footloose – and her cohorts were unwatchable to my 40ish year old eyes. I don’t think I made it to episode two, so perhaps it improved because after all, it did air for five years….
But, I learned my lesson. Technology changes. Tastes change. Evolve. Our expectations change. Some movies and television shows can stand the test of time. They may be ‘dated’ but the quality seeps through. The Godfather movies, Grease, Taxi Driver, Platoon and even When Harry Met Sally, are examples.
So – I haven’t sent my niece in search of the movie Gallipoli or Picnic at Hanging Rock and I haven’t revisited them myself. Although… it is almost Anzac day here in Australia, so perhaps Gallipoli deserves another visit.