A fanciful biography is sharply contrasted by an Australian exposé of its national icon.
“Trust no one but yourself.”
The creative process is never quite the same for any two people: some find it easy to “get it right” from the first measure (Mozart), others labour for years to turn out “good enough” (for them, we can only marvel) results (Proust), while still more rely on inspiration from life, loss or collaborators (too many to name).
But for Gabrielle Colette (Keira Knightley in an astonishing performance), it took a somewhat unexpected marriage (no dowry to speak of) to critic and man-about-town Willy (Dominic West most certainly worthy of an Oscar nomination) to unlock her inner muse and pen the series of “Claudine” books that, while financially and critically successful, were published under her philandering husband’s name (for who would purchase a book written by a woman?).
Westmoreland’s retelling of this tale of art, publishing, cross-dressing, whoring, cruelty, quasi redemption, revenge and love is an engaging, if at times fanciful, look into one of France’s best-loved authors—no matter who she/he was.
The locations, cinematography (superbly captured by Giles Nuttgens) and masterful editing (Lucia Zucchetti weaving everything together into a convincing whole: what fun that a steam train can also be a dramatic device on its own!) artfully combine to make this a journey to savour. Better still is the original score from Thomas Adès, paying quiet homage to the era of — time, mixed with a healthy dose of French/classic masters (e.g., Bizet, Debussy, Gounod, Saint-Saëns, Satie and Waldteufel), leaving the ear as satisfied as the eye.
In a sense, there are no heroes in this depiction of life imitating art becoming art trumping life, but a viewing is highly recommended, one Claudine at a time.
Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story
Kate McIntyre Clere, Michael McIntyre
Down under despair
After viewing this truly pathetic exposé of the slaughter of Australia’s hopping icon, any thought of keeping that country on my bucket list has been summarily dismissed.
Like so many species (not to mention Indigenous people) kangaroos have been living on the continent far longer than those who find them inconvenient to the growth of their wealth. When colonists brought in domestic cattle and sheep to fuel commercial industries, they soon feared the “wild” competition from these inquisitive, sleek animals for grass feed and water. With the connivance of various governments (notably in New South Wales) the hapless creatures soon had bounties on their delicate heads. “Happily” their body parts could be sold abroad (largely to the EU, Russia, the U.S. and China) as both dog/cat food and exotic meats (from burgers to steaks) for adventuresome diners who aren’t skittish about the possibility of ingesting tainted meat.
The production delves deep into the cruelty, myths and hopelessness of animal justice. By the closing credits, it seems that willful blindness and the status quo will Trump fair play (the metaphor of building fences to keep the unwanted “immigrants” away from entitled farms rang as true as the nighttime bullets, which wound but fail to immediately kill so many of the bewildered targets).
A few highlights:
- Bush country mantra: “If it moves, shoot it; if it doesn’t, chop it down.”
- Every kangaroo is (i) a pest (ii) a [harvestable] resource (iii) sacred.
- When asked to explain the government’s incredibly complex way of calculating quotas in layman’s term, the department spokesman was at a loss for words (and, hence, facts).
- An—almost literal—mountain of evidence about the systemic slaughter is painstakingly gathered over a 10-year period but even armed with that, Mark Pearson (New South Wales Legislative Council—Animal Justice Party) has his initial demand for a full inquiry quickly stymied by his fellow councillors.
- Canada’s seal hunt is compared to the annual destruction of millions of roos and their joeys.
Not dissimilar to climate change deniers, when commerce gets in the way of doing the right thing, the planet sinks into a more perilous position than ever before.
Imagine if the American eagle ever proved to be a threat to agriculture… JWR