The Guardian from London, Greater London, England on May 12, 1981 · 9
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The Guardian from London, Greater London, England · 9

London, Greater London, England
Issue Date:
Tuesday, May 12, 1981
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ARTS GUARDIAN Tuesday May 12 1981 I FILM C TELEVISION C SUDDENLY it's boom time . for the Australian film indus-. try. Last year only 'seven films were made, but 1981 will see between 25 and 30 double what the British film industry looks set to make (though the Cannes Festival, starting tomorrow, will boast four British films, all highly distinct, from last year's slump conditions). Among unforeseen results of the Australian boom are the desperate shortage of film crews to service the planned productions, and the need for more 'outlets than the existing three Australian distributors currently offer. Matt Carroll, the producer of Breaker Morant which is now in its fourth month in New York and making good money, estimates thafAustra-lian distributors can only fit in around 16 Australian films alongside all the American releases that they handle. MARGARET FINK was seeming. She felt she'd done more than her bit to put the Australian film industry on the map with her prdduction of My Brilliant Career, and yet here she was, stuck in Sydney, scrabbling around for money. Hassles have held' up what she describes as her "meagre" share of the profits from Career and anyway she'd expected everyone to have come running now that there appears to be so much money around for making films. "Well, of course, they have, but many of them are just a bunch of Philistines who want to get their hands on any crappy script in order to take advantage of the new tax incentives." . . That was a month ago. We met at a stuffy cocktail party in Sydney which clearly bored her so she livened it up by loudly bitching everything and everyone in the film world, using the obvious . four letter word like a comma, "ratshit" like a full stop and an earthy laugh to fill the pause before the next outrageous remark. B"'.t Margaret Fink can also purr when she wants to so it comes .as no surprise to learn, a matter of weeks later, that one private investor and the Australian Film Commission have come -up with some money. "It's not enough, peanuts really, but at least it will keep, me going until Christmas and fund the development of three films that I have in mind." And enable her to get out of Sydney and into London this week for talks with potential script writers. She has . hefty respect for such people : "Writers are the tops. Other producers want to rush them and pay them as little as possible. But you can't do that. The screen pjay is the blueprint for a good movie." My Brilliant Career went through eleven draft's, but that's another story. in London she intends to court Evan Jones, who recently completed the adaptation of D. H. Lawrence's Kangaroo. She'd like him to do Christina Stead's For Love Alone, which is con- FIRST NIGHT E NEW LONDON Michael Billington Cats CATS at the New London is an exhilarating piece of total theatre that demolishes several myths at one go : that the British can't get a musical together, that our dancers are below American standard, and that musicals with a literary source always dilute their origins. As anyone who recalls John Dankworth's Sweeney Agonistes will confirm, T. S. Eliot's verse often cries out for music. But the particular triumph of Cats is that it never simply becomes a series of isolated feline spectaculars. For a start John Napier has designed a wonderful environmental rubbish-dump set made up of huge tyres, rusting cars, dustbin lids and old bicycles from which the cats playfully emerge. Even more crucially, director Trevor Nunn and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber have raided Eliot's Col GOLD FOUND NEAR PICCADILLY! KEEP IT UNDER YOUR This sword-bearer's hat made from gold and silver is nowonshowatthe Asante, Kingdom of Gold exhibrtion.atthe Museumof Mankind, -just 5 minutes' walkfrom Piccadilly Circus. MUSEUM OF Burlington where cultures meet. Nearest Underground Stations: Green Parkand Piccadilly Circus fc We want S create an indigenous Australian industry Richard Yallop explains how , One of Malcolm Fraser's campaign promises last October was a fresh deal for investors in film. He had noticed that Australian films' were gaining far more coverage in American newspapers than Australian politicians like himself could expect visiting' the US. So now investors In Australian film projects can claim as a tax deduction half as much again as their actual investment for every 100 dollars invested, 150 dollars can be offset. And, on top of -that, .in order to encourage marketing of the product, the first half of the investment to be recouped from sales is tax-free. To make sure that these advantages benefit the Australian industry rather than American investors looking for a tax holiday, all film Margaret Fink " Writers are the tops." Picture by Neil Libbert The producer of My Brilliant Career came to London yesterday looking for talent. Linda Christmas reports mt ttlhi (sirastt 5 a wave veniently set in both London and Sydney, and which is the tale of a woman seeking and exploring love and sexuality. "It is anti-romance. It exposes how women have been romantically deluded." And she also intends to see Alan Seymour, the Australian writer and former BBC script editor, who has also written many scripts for Australian television. "We've been talking for ages about the possibility of adapting Sumner Locke Elliott's Eden's Lost. It's a really juicy property and Gill Armstrong who directed My Brilliant Career is going to do it." lected Poems and some unpublished work to give the show a strong framework : a midnight pussy - convention (" The Jellicle cats meet once a year on the night when we make the Jellicle choice ") to choose one cat worthy of redemption. In this case it is the bedraggled glamour-puss, Grizabella, who is rescued from a life of solitary Blooms-bury prowling. What is particularly heart-en'ing is the way the poems are ' deftly integrated. Thus Gus the Theatre Cat (ibeauti-f ully played Iby Stephen Tate) is seen as a wistful, white-haired Victorian relic dreaming of palmier days. He is then transmogrified (or to:ans-moggified) into Growlt'iger, the fiutlass-lbearing Pirate cat who terrorises the. Thames and who is unseated by Mongolian Iiordes. This (becomes the excuse for much air-cleaving Oriental leaping reminiscent of the Peking Opera, and ifor Siamese-cat hissing from behind giant," green tans, uur oreath suitably taken away, Growltiger reverts once more to Gus (laconically telling us " These modern productions are all very well " and still reminiscing over ' Fireforefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell." But, although the show is all of a piece, Gillian Lynne as choreographer and assod- MANKIND Gardens projects 'are scrutinised in Canberra for their Australian bona fides. "The government is assisting the industry to reinforce Australia's cultural identity," says Jo s e f Skrzynski, the new 31-year-old general manager of the Australian Film Commission. "It's a form of cultural diplomacy, so it's no good aping Hollywood.- We want to create an indigenous Australian industry." The boom in the industry has followed a period when, despite the artistic success of Australian film makers during the Seventies, investment money had almost dried up. Peter Weir's latest venture, Gallipoli, the story of two friends who find themselves part of the Australian force landing in Turkey in 1915, was first dreamt up in 1978. The third film, as yet untitled, is an original screenplay by Bill Harding (described by Mrs Fink as a "literary Mozart") and is set in present day Sydney. "Ithas 15 characters and they are all awful and beyond that it is difficult to describe." But it's bound to be " anti " something. Margaret Fink describes herself as an iconoclast and her work to date supports this. "My first film was David Williamson's The Removalists, and that was anti-police ; Career was anti-marriage ; For Have Alone is anti-romance; and Eden's Lost is anti-family." The stance suits ' her. She ate director, has conceived some brilliant moments. Wayne Sleep's magical Mr Mistoffeles does some head-spinning turns, leaps and dives; the Macavity. number develops from a .bluesy duet into a big ensemble routine ; and the Jellicle Ball, with its somersaults, spins and catapault-motion, has that quality of terpsichorean joy I last saw in Bob Fosse's Danc'in'. The show is packed with dance hut it never kills the (language or overpowers the strong individual characterisation such as Paul Nicholas's sleek, black, fur-ilined Rum Turn Tugger or Elaine Page's mournful, spangled Grizabella who evokes the Tottenham Court Boad at three, in the morning. Many hands have made Cats work. But 'in the end one comes back to Lloyd Webber's remarkable ability to find tunes that fit each specific feline. And to Trevor Nunnls dazzling staging: he has cats' eyes glowing in the dark, he uses every inch of the auditorium space and he also keeps a balance between an Eliotesque preoccupation with time and memory and sheer outgoing exhilaration. The highest compliment I can pay is .that I don't think the poet himself would have felt that his material had been tarnished or betrayed. 16 May 6 June ONE MIGHT t STAND c riotouilifcfandlovttjj . ontheRoadbu COLISEUM THEATRE OLDHAM Box Office (061)614 l9 i But neither Patricia Lovell who produced Picnic At Hanging Bock, nor the South Australian Film Corporation which financed many of the successes- of the earlier Seventies, could raise the funds. Only when Rupert Murdoch and Robert Stig-wobd set up Associated. R and R Films in May last year, and provided the A$2.8 million budget, could Gallipoli start shootinz in South Australia and Egypt. Since that breakthrough, however, almost every Well-known director and producer in Australia-has announced a new film. Bruce .Beresford, director of Breaker Morant, is now making Puberty Blues, set in Sydney, a nostalgic Sixties portrait of three girls' recollection of teenage sex, surf discovered that she was a natural rebel after having led an extremely protected life until she was 18. "My life until then was dominated by school and church. I wasn't even allowed to go to the cinema because my mother thought it was common." Enough to make anyone an atheist anarchist another of her self-descriptions. So at 18 she opted for a rather more Bohemian lifestyle, wenf to art school and be.came a painter and teacher arm went to live with a man in his forties, Harry Hooton, poet and philosopher, often described as "a great guru" TELEVISION Peter Fiddick The Making Of Mankind IT WAS Peter Cook's original L. Wisty who regaled us with his gloriously idiosyncratic, version .of the Greek myth : " A very detailed account of what didn't happen, millions of . years ago" Richard Leakey taking us on a six hour trip through The Making of Mankind (BBC-2) must be in constant peril of much the same trap : of telling us in lavish detail, with blinding science, cloaked with that special brand of brief authority the television cameras confer on those they love, what probably didn't happen when man got off his haunches, four million years ago. Thankfully, Leakey seems set on skirting the pitfalls, and remaining this side of comprehensibility. The Making of Mankind is not building, this far, as a one man view of what the marks and fossils in the volcanic ash imply, seizing the chance to do in .this field what Bronowski and Lord Clarke did in their tele-celebrations. In fact one of the notable things in this , second episode was the way the zippiest moments and most earnestly argued case came .from people Leakey himself disagrees with. A professor from Kent State; argued an evolutionary line based on sex, which seemed reasonable,, and was illustrated with a relish only 1 rMfeffln and rock 'n roll. After that Beresford moves on to Fortress, about a kidnapping in the early Seventies in Victoria.' Philip Noyce, director of Newsfront, shortly starts the thriller Heatwave, with Judy ... Davis who was voted Best Actress by the British Acad-emy for her role in My Brilliant Career. There are fears that along, with the artistic projects the boom conditions will lead to a rash of porno quickies. David Williamson, playwright and scriptwriter of Gallipoli, which will open in August, says: "The accountants are crying 'Find me a film,' and there is more money around than films to invest in." But he is confident the Australians will have more quality to show for their new incen and still regarded by many as one of the most interesting men ever to have lived in Sydney. She lived with him for seven years until he died of cancer in 1961. How to follow that? By marrying a millionaire, Leon Fink, who owns much property in Sydney and Melbourne. "After ten years of freedom, I settled for a restrictive, respectable, bourgeois marriage, but I wanted children, and I had thrse, but it was all a little frustrating to be procreating instead of creating as a painter." By the end of her .breeding apes are allowed to show quite so boldly on television a theory our guide returned to label "speculative." And it was from Dr Don Johanson, co-discoverer of the Lucy skeleton, that we got one real taste of the excitement in discovery, from film of his team at work enthusing over the latest bundle 'of bones gleaned from the East African dust. Richard Leakey was specifically out of step with Johanson, and said so, but this willingness to give other views a- fair airing, is an important and refreshing element in his approach to The Making of Mankind, and it was notable that he argued without being tempted to crush with the luxury of the final word. RFH Meirion Bowen SNOGibson THUS Scottish National Orchestra concert at the iFesttrval .Hall .was part of a UK tour sponsored1 by General lAcddent, who here also provided free programmes ami seemed to nave taken the greater part of the expensive stalls seats. I was just a little surprised tthat no one commissioned a special "(March of the Sponsors" to jolly them back into their seats after .the interval. This Mahler performance sounded well considered and studiously prepared : only the sltrlngs lacked some of the refinement and variety of colouring which other mem- Television did not REALLY exist before . . L THE ULTIMATE AUVTUMJI BERTRAMS TAVERNIER's film frith Romy Schneider Harvey leitel Rom 14th MAY nflu tives than the Canadians managed when they tried a similar tax-change. Matt Carroll, producer of Breaker Morant, is against internationalising Australian films. "I don't believe we should make mid-Atlantic films because that way no one will go to them. I'm extremely nationalistic about what I want to make. I firmly believe that our part-British, part-bushranger, part-convict background gives us a peculiar vision of things, which is attractive. News-front, Caddie, My Brilliant Career, Breaker Morant, Devil's Playground, Picnic At Hanging Rock, they all have this Australian-ness about them the sense of isola-' tion and the feeling about our own country. I don't think we should drift away from that." The Australians had four titles in Variety's list of the 50 top grossing films at one stage last year. There is the evidence to back Carroll's hunch. decade, 1971, she turned her mind to film-making which she did not see as an improbable leap. Her millionaire husband funded her early ventures, short films, and he put up half the money for The Removalists. Her critics at that ' stage saw her plunge into film-making as a superior version of pottery classes or a town-planning degree. A rich woman's whim. But Leon Fink left in 1976 and with him went easy access to money. " It took me a while to get over that, but it may have been a good thing. I got on with . making My Brilliant Career. You never .know what gives you impetus, do you ? "I read Miles Franklin's book in 1965, right in the middle of my marriage and I knew that I had to make it into a film. Sybylla was a prototypical feminist and so was I. I'm not anti-men but I am aware of the devastating weight of our patriarchal society and how it has kept women down-trodden. Sybylla was a talented writer who has the opportunity to settle into comfort and an una-chieving life. Her dilemma is the dilemma of millions of women today. She chooses not to marry. "I only got the money in the end by 'agreeing' to change the end so that Sybylla marries. We played along with this right until the end and then when the distributors came to see it, they said to us 'you naughty, naughty girls. But it works ! ' " I had the best crew available for that film and that is what I want again: I must have first class everything. Of course that's not easy with 30 films being made in Australia at the moment. There are only two decent crews anyway. So while I'm in London I shall be looking around. And I must make these films on my own. Lots of people have said that they want to set up different deals for me, but I don't want to be under ' the aegis of anyone. I have faith in my ability and I know my des-. tiny is in film-making." Ibers of the SNO could offer. Sir Alexander .Gibson directed a leading of the Fourth Sym-(phony in which (the exact (dramatic emphasis has been (thought out for each section hi turn. As one moved from the superficially comfortable opening of the first movement towards its nightmarish development section where Gibson encouraged the clarinets to be as strident and the trumpets to sound- as threatening as possible and then again back into the daylight, every expressive ingredient seemed fully motivated. Some- of, the ironies of the scherzo were under-played but the slow movement had a wonderful radiance. Mar-garet Marshall was the soprano in the finale, conjuring the pleasures of heaven with the right angelic innocence of tone. Earlier, there was some indecision in the orchestra over the tempo of the slow introduction to Beethoven's Prometheus overture, but its tempestuous allegro was well articulated' with Gibson keeping a tight rein throughout. Brahms Violin Concerto also suffered from occasional uncertainties of attack and evert Graham Salter's excellent oboe solo in the slow movement had a tendency to drag. It was only in the finale of the concerto, with its Hungarian flavour, that Gyorgy Paulk's interpretation came completely alive. Peter Fiddick reports orr a snub to arts programme makers Panel-beating AT THE Very time when the BBC is launching a new initiative to bring lively, wide-ranging, and topical coverage of the arts to the general audience on BBC-1, the barons of ITV have descended like a ton of corporate bricks on a modest attempt by producers around the commercial network to explore much the same territory. ' Though Melvyn Bragg's The South Bank Show, from London Weekend, is' established as the network's flagship in the arts field, most ITV companies also have some arts coverage in their own regions, from Scottish-Television's tie-ups with Scotland's opera and theatre through Granada's Celebration to Westward Television's Preview West. For the past two or three years some of the people involved in such programmes have been meeting informally to share know-how and ideas through a forum they called the ITV Arts Panel. Today they were due to meet the Arts Council and on June 10, a Museum Day was planned on which the Inter-Museum group would meet the programme-makers to discuss problems in covering exhibitions and look for new ways to bring painting and sculpture to the home screen. Both meetings have been cancelled. A meeting of ITVs top executives has ordered the dropping of the ITV Arts Panel title and an end to meetings with outside bodies. And they have, invoked the ultimate sanction. The programme makers have been told in a letter from the director of the network bosses' central secretariat, Berkeley Smith: "Of course no one would think of raising the slightest objection to you meeting and discussing professional problems and to studying each other's work, provided of course that the company managements are willing to pay the fare and expenses involved. I think you will find that a number of companies will not do so." The supporters of the panel have got the message though some have greeted it with derision as much as sadness. They observe that meetings have been relatively infrequent, in many cases combined with other trips on company, business, and in a least one case have already saved a company many times the cost through information gained about copyright fees. What they have developed is an awareness that ITV. is not just capable of more arts coverage but is actually producing it : four and a quarter hours weekly around the network, is one estimate, excluding The South Bank Show, whose producers have not joined the panel The significance lies in the developments other ITV companies could offer to Channel Four next year: one idea floated was that a new arts magazine could be created from material made for the regions 'of wider interest and of network standard. The ITV Arts Panel members had already had a meeting with Jeremy Isaacs, chief executive of Channel Four, to discuss new arts programmes, tt such initiatives are now barred. The companies, it seems, are wanting to keep such discussions as the prerogative of Howard Hughes left MeMn Dummar $156,000,000 in isss&n gaBffiaagawuL.iail FROM TOMORROW CINEMA-NOTTING HILL Separate programmes daily: 1.00 (not Sundays). 3.00, 5.00,' 7.00, 9.00 top management. i The irony is thaVthis . heavy-handed squelclwva modest middle-rank"ereMwe initiative, to which tBlwsses themselves seem to Hfwa&gjjo particular alternativi'&co-incides with the BBC'&pwe to 'give its own mainsofelm arts coverage new ijjjjjietus Not that Maiostrea(vi a word the corporatioa'wfjjig that was the Mtte. oflast year's frenetic arid shot-lived shot at a live weekly BBC-1 arts magazine. The key to the latest move lies in last week's appointment of Christopher Martin as editor of BBC-l'e more enduring arts series; Omnibus. This has. -.bad several incarnations over the year, under different editors and on different days of the week, but has most often been the vehicle for the single 50-minute film , .'Martin's'. brief, and. aim,Sis to turn "it into a lively, probably live, studio-based, reasonably topical arts magazine, with a new presenter With eight months to go, plans are still sketchy; but what was evident, when , I spoke to Christopher Martin is that the BBC senses, a void in the. television arts market left by BBC-2 and also-by ITV; 'VThe South Bank Show covers, more than one subject more often than we do, but increasingly it devotes vits time; to a big profile - Bedford, Elizabeth Taylor, OJmi, Walton, Colin Wetland,'' When Omnibus -. if flt'is still called Omnibus',;-. Returns next Januaryit will e screened at around 10pm, earlier than it or the South Bank Show this season, and early in the week. From the following autumn it will run 30 to 40 weeks a year, a major network presence. " When I talk about topicality, I don't mean critics . rushing from the theatre," Martin says, " but a sense of reflecting current activity and debate as well as the more reflective themes;' Lots of subjects don't need . 50 minutes and I hope that the magazine format will give us more scope for fun, for experiment, for taking risks." Topicality also includes matters of controversy. Christopher Martin himself has shown his ability to deal with that, in such projects as the six-day series. Where We Live Now, including Christopher . Booker's notable anti-planners polemic City Of Towers.- Architecture and the environment will certainly be part.of. the jiew programme's scope but as another example he threw up ' the changes in the Book of Common Prayer. Martin recognises he has a difficult course to steer, between the Scylla of Mainstream and the Charibdis of Monitor in its "tweedy period." But there is no doubt that the upper echelons of BBC television are putting some muscle behind the new arts vehicle and it is no accident that it should be really rolling in the autumn of 1982, as Channel Four makes its debut. The ITV companies might by then have felt the need for a bit of initiative from their own ranks. For the moment : "... of course any possible conflict with the views of your own managements could not be tolerated." I His Telephone: 22(3620 Separate prtwrammw dally : 3.50, 5.40, 7.30, 9.30. Advanced Booking taken

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