Thursday, December 2, 2010

Greatness #2

People can be great. They can be capable of greatness. And they can choose to ignore it or shun the people who strive for it.

Giorgio Mangiamele, who arrived in Melbourne a young man - a post war migrant in a deadened city of 6 c'clock closing, extreme cultural conservatism and intense hostility to anything non-Anglo - went on to struggle through the production of a handful of remarkable films. To my mind, he was pretty damned great.

He made as many films as he could, off his own back, taking risks in trying to get his films made that would make most of us these days look sheepishly at our toes for lack of adventure and backbone. Yet, for the most part, you'd be hard pressed to find filmmakers in Australia who know the first thing about him, even though he made a handful of bold experiments in neo-realism and character drama in the 50s and 60s (Il Contratto, The Spag, 99%, The Brothers) and then, as his interests became more interested in the mutability of the narrative form, in more experimental films - 'Clay' being his gateway film from the neo-realism, embodying, as it does, a meld of realism and formal experimentation - prior to more rigorous experimental works made in Papua New Guinea in the 70s and 80s (Sapos, The Caring Crocodile, The Living Museum').

I love sequences of imagery, moments, little exchanges of perfection within his films without necessarily adoring any one of his films above another. Yet, like a journeyman boxer, he kept stepping into the ring, taking his licks, winning hard fought bouts only to rest for period before turning up again for more. This, to me is the good stuff. Those who never lay down. Those who don't turn back in the face of how fucking tough it must have been for them. Instead, they let their voice flourish, grow, evolve, and they find their own way - DIY style, punker than punk - to go on making films, telling stories, playing with form, image, sound, assemblage. All the good shit. That, to me is greatness. Not one flashy film by some enfant terrible or a perfect point of confluence (though that, too, is great). I prefer the brawler and scrabblers, the grifters and gleaners. Those who fought hard long before they land their first punch and fight long and courageous well after they've landed their last glancing blow. That is greatness.

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