Sunday, March 09, 2003

My other renaissance is an arthouse flick

“The Adventures of Barry McKenzie” and its 30th anniversary hype – surely this can’t be an attempt by a cash-strapped Oz government (the film’s financier, and therefore ultimate beneficiary of the lifetime royalties) to squeeze a few more drops out of the national fiscal toothpaste tube? Something makes me suspect that the answer is “no”, with the government having since long factored-out its Bazza receivables.

In any case, the above article is so awash with contestable quotes as to have a life of its own. According to producer Phillip Adams (yes the same one who’s been a tiresome sophomore – I’m talking junior-high here – columnist ever since), "the film was made on the smell of an oily rag". Gotta love such vapid mythologizing – for which Adams well deserves to be invested as an honorary baby boomer. There were, I assume, indy feature films being made in early 70’s Australia, just as now – and given that the production budget ratio of state-funded to indy-films is at least 10:1, I’m puzzled as to Adams’s sumptuous conception of an oily rag’s odours.

Then there’s: “Foster's lager wanted nothing to do with the character, despite the inordinate amounts of its product that McKenzie drinks in the course of the movie. Only when Barry Humphries [yes, that one] threatened to change to a rival brand did Foster's relent and agree to support the release”.

Just what digital tricks did this crew possess in 1972, to allow such a re-branding as part of post-production? More likely, of course, Humphries’s threat was hollow – but seat-of-your-pants out-bluffing “the system” is such an ingrained part of baby boomer oral history that presumably one such episode had to be mentioned here purely as a matter of form.

The article’s best apercu, however, belongs again to Adams: “Bazza” sparked a "renaissance of the Australian film industry". Well, it and other Oz state-funded films of the 1970s certainly did give that generation jobs in (what are now known as) the cultural industries for the next 30 years, at least. Whether this is a good thing generally – as "renaissance” must necessarily imply – is doubtful. Younger generations trying to get a foot in the door of the cultural industries might diplomatically suggest that the time is now perhaps ripe for a "re-renaissance” – which is code (in case you don’t get it) for “Fuck off, baby boomers and fellow travellers”.

Personally I’m too cynical about the prospects for a "re-renaissance” to bother asking, politely or otherwise. More realistic and achievable, I think, would be inventing and disseminating a pithy word to mean the linear opposite of "renaissance”. The absence of such an exact word is perhaps best shown by Gibbon’s awkwardly-conjoined title, “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. “Decline” lacks the drama and movement that an un-renaissance must surely have, while “Fall” is a boffin’s dessert, a mere military moment.

The literal opposite of "renaissance”, of course, would only mean to die again, which is a well-worn Buddhist solipsism. Thus, how about “denouessance” – with the prefix being a nice combination of denouement and denuding?

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