The Lives of the Writers, their Vicissitudes, Proclivities, Highs and Lows

By and | 31 October 2012

CHRISTINE COLLINS is sometimes seen as almost an interface between Bruce Nauman and Christine Brooke-Rose, a troubling entity to conjure with—and an eagerly awaited presence should it ever manifest itself. Early in her life Collins featured in Let Numan Write My Epitaph, the curious, late Jodorowsky remake of The Missouri Breaks in which Wayne Knight — ‘Numan’ in TV’s Seinfeld — is substituted for the bounty-hunting Marlon Brando. Collins’ character was thought remarkably ‘forward’ at the time.

SHANNON BURNS featured in the all too brief pilot series entitled Where’s Thursday. Many of you will remember that it used to begin with the character Frank Thursday, his head (Burns’ smiling head) under a yellow safety helmet, about to disappear down a manhole. Burns would smile, give a thumbs up, grab his lunch box & disappear down the hole. He was an electrical engineer. Down there he would travel back in time to various eras & help with the wiring. But more than that, he would become involved in small domestic issues & crises & lend a hand, often becoming good friends with the ancient Britons, or Romans, or 18th century Londoners, Ming Dynasty Chinese he had dropped in on. I always found it reassuring that he never went forward in time. Down there he would sometimes go past a big circular door labelled, ominously, ‘TOMORROW’. The camera would pause on it. But he never went in. So he’d be there back in the past, offering handy advice on some young Roman daughter’s betrothal say, & fixing the wiring. People often remark on how advanced Roman plumbing was. The electricals were way ahead of their time! Shannon’s head would appear above ground usually just as the foreman had yelled “Where’s Thursday?!” And that’s how it would end. I used to love that show. But it was dropped.

Burns featured a little later opposite Lara Bingle in I Married a Mobster. His was almost a non-speaking part—consisting of grunts & growls & sneers—tho weirdly he appeared to understand more of Bingle’s dialogue than she did. But as a fluent speaker, in fact almost desperately ratiocinative, it was better all round I suppose that Shannon ended up in the university: words are his forté. Though it must be said, one does miss Where’s Thursday.

TIM WRIGHT is currently mostly on location at the moment, in the long drawn out filming of Thirst for Dust, a kind of sandals & robes epic made after the model of El Topo and, indeed, directed by the great director Jodorowsky. Actually, it’s ‘sandals & loin cloths’ — so we get to see Tim Wright pretty buffed up.
Jodorowsky is, by repute, quite a bit past it these days and Thirst for Dust is rumoured to lack a strong narrative thrust—to say nothing of character development and a clear moral message. Or indeed, a beginning, a middle, or an end. Kevin Foley is about to step in, both in a starring role and as producer, in an attempt to get the movie ‘in the can’.

ELLA O’KEEFE starred in Harlot Be Wise, a film of extraordinary but touching ineptitude telling a tale of the casual rise and rise of the cheerfully feckless but readily opinionated good-time-girl, Francine, who, for free cigarettes, becomes a social worker then advisor to the Anglican Synod on social affairs whom she embezzles before achieving an epiphany and a kind of sainthood in the arms of her idiot boyfriend, punk rock singer with Danny Iscariot & the Lumpenproles.

O’Keefe’s ‘varied ecriture’ — Peter Craven quotes (with approval) Don Anderson as saying — ‘masks a strenuous, almost pietistic, tightness of focus on the problem of evil today’. Craven himself goes on to say ‘That this scrupulosity attains remarkable severity and sureness of judgment is but the corollary of their moral heft and the sheer muscle of their refinement.’ Writing at the very height of his powers, he concludes ‘Ethical to a fault, indeed! O’Keefe is prim yet elegant, suave, soignée, truly stupefying. If I were Dean Martin, I would proclaim ‘It’s Amoré!’ or even ‘Kiss Me, Stupid’!’

PAM BROWN, a lyricist ‘of fine but resilient tensile strength’ (Carl Harrison Ford), starred in June Fawn’s Afternoon opposite Simone Simon, with Cesar Romero, who played the part of Paul Valery, & Lee Marvin in the twin roles of Mallarme & Debussy.

Her own work, despite its oft remarked delicacy, was for a long time lumped with that of the HARD-MOUTH poets of the 1970s, yet broke through into critical acceptance. Dorothy Green, in one of her last reviews, detected Brown’s ‘lyrical astringency’. Gig Ryan observed a ‘fugitive charm’, ‘light yet tough withal’. Peter Craven remarked that ‘the poems have plenty of bang’.

JILL JONES’ entire celluloid career was ‘lost on the cutting room floor’ — excised from scenes in such films as, memorably, Barry Lyndon and Westworld. Her verse, too, is possessed of a fugitive charm, ‘light yet tough withal’, as Alan Wearne has remarked.

Famously, Jones bought the mobile phone (at a garage sale) that Peter Reith used to communicate with John Howard in the ‘Babies-overboard’ scenario. This purely contingent happenstance has been — as Adorno might have had it — both the flaw in the lens and the means of sight & objectivity in Jones’ work ever since. ‘Warped for good!’ as Ann Vickery advanced, in ‘All The Young Vixens’, her survey of recent women’s writing in Australia.

CATH KENNEALLY’s police description says ‘slight of build, a clear-eyed, knowing stare … a savage, aggravating, clawing style, a southpaw, a scrappy but effective fighter willing to go the distance: advise call for back-up before approach.’

For a time promoted as the Delphine Seyrig of the French B-Movie, Kenneally starred in a series that included the infamous Les Jeunes Filles Sans Morals and Vixennes Des Etudes Hautes & other films of the sort (the latter was a punkish take on the English ‘St Trinians’ formula but with a characteristically perverse and sly—French philosophical twist.)

This louche image has unfairly clouded responses to her work, which have found its chaste propriety difficult to reconcile with the film career.

LAURIE DUGGAN played the serial killer, opposite Anita Ekberg, in Screaming Mimi. His own work has baffled critics & poets alike: vigorous, unashamedly frank, yet hermetic in a way that Rodney Hall found ‘barbed’ & Peter Craven found ‘pointy’. Lord David Cecil dubbed Duggan ‘the Hulk Hogan des nos jours … but pensive, pensive,’ a remark that has been found hermetic itself.

DOUG MASON works in real life as a free-lance hacker and web-pirate for small multinationals & their smaller antagonists—and, on-the-side, has directed and produced a number of films: most notably one in which Tristram Tzara (played by Kevin Foley) explains to Albert Einstein (played by Doug himself: you need to imagine wig & glasses) how to tie his shoelaces & how—tho this is an inference Einstein draws himself—the shoelaces are a probable model of the universe. Which is a mistake, because if he’d paid more attention he wouldn’t be always tripping over his shoes. A lesson for us all.

People inevitably leave the theatre and pause, looking at their shoes & then up at the stars in the night sky. They sigh, shake their heads and move on.

STEVE BROCK, as many will know, featured in the the Alain Robbe-Grillet film, Last Year At Marienbad. Well, so it is usually phrased. In fact, Last Year At Marienbad reprises in a solemn & highly charged manner, the earlier avant-garde film Do I Know You?, produced & devised by Bertolt Brecht during his Hollywood years. It featured Larry, Mo & Schemp and is the sole directorial endeavour of Peter Lorre (Brecht’s own favourite actor). In it, all action & violence of the sort we normally associate with the Stooges, is eschewed. Instead, Do I Know You? presents a series of portraits, faces that appear as if out of a fog, & stare, wonderingly, stupefied, puzzled & exhausted, bereft of understanding — only to be replaced by another solemn, blank but hurt face — Larry’s, Mo’s, Schemp’s, one after another — in a style that anticipates that of early Bergman. Many critics regard it as their finest moment. Anyway, Last Year At Marienbad is being filmed again and now in a manner more akin to that early Brecht-Lorre endeavour. Steve Brock plays the part of the male lover. Jean Riley, former TV weather girl, is rumoured to be the principal female lead. Puzzling casting.

KELLI ROWE featured as one of the more demure floozies — oh, it says here ‘one of the more brazen floozies’ — in the vicious Nick Cave re-make of I Sailed to Tahiti with an All Girl Crew. A shocking movie, I gather, it ends with the boat idling into a small marina, with its sole occupant, Cave, drunk & singing sea shanties, surrounded by dissevered limbs and empty rum bottles.

We must put this from our minds now, though it’s an amusing thought. Perhaps Kelli Rowe was a fan.

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