Sunday, May 28, 2006

Kokoda; the movie.

It's been a loooong, long time since I went and sat in a cinema. Probably sometime in 1990 when I went to see "Kundun" in Brisbane. (thoroughly enjoyed that one, by the way.)

I can, however, remember the times when I went to the Regent in Adelaide. A 'proper' Theatre. Chandeliers, ornate golden decorations and plaster mouldings on walls, boxes and balconies with velvet handrails, Knight Barnett rising up like Mephisto from beneath the stage to entertain and delight the arriving patrons with music from his three keyboard organ.

A 'proper' night out. Cartoons, trailers, "B" movie for the first half. Interval; popcorn, Jaffas and Maltesers .. then the "main feature".

This time, Saturday afternoon, 5.00 pm, I went to the Marion "MegaPlex". Nineteen cinemas in one place. (Ah, the economics of "scale".) One foyer, One Box office, one big lolly shop. (Bought a packet of Maltesers for 'old times sake', didn't think that 'rolling Jaffas down the aisle' very appropriate, considering age.)

5.05pm. Handed paper ticket to teenager at entrance to long corridor. He rips it in half, says "Keep walking, last door on right". Walked along corridor past 18 other doors and very few people to Door 9. Entered, and was pleasantly surprised.

Small cinema, comfortable, almost 'personal'. Red curtains on walls, subtly lit. Four other middle-aged patrons occupy the silent 200 seat theatre. "Come on in," they say. "heh," say I, "singular lack of young people," and choose seat.

Four other middle-aged people arrive. Lights dim, a couple of advertisements, trailers for up-coming movies. I might be oldish, but not deaf. "surround sound" system had me wishing for a volume control knob.

At this point, please bear in mind that have had considerable experience in the industry in a past life, as an actor and technician, and am notoriously 'hard to please'. Even so, any comments that I make from this point are purely personal, and not based on 'rules of critical analysis'.

Kokoda; the movie, begins.

I shan't describe the short opening sequence after the 'voice over', probably the best bit. From then on it became a disconnected series of vignettes. The "Chocko's" wait, nervous, ill-equipped and unprepared. Claustrophobic jungle. Nobody knows what's happening. All close-ups, random shapes - either friend or foe - appear and disappear. Random gunfire. Instant inexplicable deaths. Mud, slush, rain. More mud, slush and rain. Where are we? Nobody knows. Lost contact. Unconnected random acts of sheer brutality by 'the enemy'. More mud, slush and rain. The group move from one undefined place to another undefined place. A wounding. Should they carry or leave? The wounded struggles on, gets lost. They see an Aussie bush hat dimly behind a tree. They call. It is a trap.

More losses and woundings. The jungle confuses all. A makeshift stretcher. Struggle from somewhere to somewhere. A brief respite in a native's bush hut. The original occupants have been killed.

Decisions. Move or stay. One decides to stay with the wounded, the other three move on. Up the hill or down the hill? Mud, slush and rain.

Three Chocko's eventually make contact with the AIF, are directed to the 'forward base', where 'the wounded' have collected. More mud, slush and rain. Word comes of an 'assault'. Every man who can still hold a gun takes up position.

A random series of images. Explosions, gunfire, deaths.

A brigadier thanks those still able to stand - in the mud and slush.

Now, it may be that the director intended to convey the 'reality' of all that, but the movie failed to 'engage' me. It looked like they had done an excess of 'mud, slush and rain' scenes, the editor just picked them at random out of the bin, joined them together and called it a movie.

Other 'reviewers' also say this, and I agree with them. The photography is brilliant. Performances excellent… but self also feels that there should have been less 'mud, slush and rain' and a little more on telling us WHO these people were.

1/3rd of the movie was wasted. Some 'background' of where they came from, allow us to see them in their 'hometowns', how they 'arrived' at the Kokoda track.

The final scenes are sheer, cliché'd "keep yer chin up" propaganda.

Personally, as I left the theatre, was disappointed, bored and annoyed.


Davo said...

almost 'Brecht..ian'.

Davo said...

oops "Brecht" ish.

JahTeh said...

Some of the Chockos have said that that was exactly what it was like. Nobody knew what to expect or when it did, what was happening.

The whole campaign rightly deserves a mini-series.

I wonder if they'd show Blamey nearly getting lynched by calling them cowards for running when they fought a controlled retreat.