Yesterday I wandered down to the National Gallery Victoria to take in their permanent art collection. The NGV is currently showing a blended exhibition of works by Andy Warhol and Ai Wei Wei, and Melburnians are all, without apparent exception, obsessed with it. However I’ll be attending that next week. Today was just about acquainting myself with the free bits – the 600 year old religious icons, the delicate 300 year old Venetian glass that has miraculously survived the centuries, the exuberant 19th century oil paintings with literally more square meterage than my apartment, the 20th century masters and the 21st century indigenous collection.
Like all modern public galleries, the NGV has a school holiday program, because apparently having hyped-up little kids rampaging through a hall filled with defenseless 13th century artworks is a great idea. The rarified hush of the fine art gallery is somewhat broken when it’s punctuated by children screaming at the top of their lungs, whether in joy or indignation or anything in between.
I noticed one woman (wearing yoga pants in the NGV because you never know when you might need to Salute the Sun in front of a Caravaggio) as she called out to her upset daughter and revealed the child’s name to be Maisie. I wondered why all fashionable little girls these days appear to be named after Edwardian scullery maids? You just know that Maisie’s next activity was going to be babyccinos with Millie, Tilly, Elspeth and Dora at a local café, making life miserable for some waiter with a man bun.
In the evening I was invited to the Australian Centre for the Moving Image to see ‘Querrelle’, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s final film, and the only film ever to be shot entirely inside Jean Paul Gautier’s head.
A handsome sailor in an improbably low cut singlet goes through something of an existential crisis, alternately stomping taciturnly around the streets of Brest and having wild bouts off histrionics. Then he murders one of his fellow sailors for some ill-defined reason. But people seem willing to look past that, because he’s hot.
Meanwhile a construction worker flirts madly with the younger brother of the girl he’s supposedly keen on, to the extent that his fellow workers mock him. He responds by glassing his supervisor in the throat.
We’ve all been there.
Investigating these two murders is the local Inspector. However, he’s more fond of sitting at the bar in the local bawdyhouse flirting with the owner, while wearing an open leather vest and a leather hat with Police written on the front - apparently in Brest you can qualify for a job just by hiring the kinky version of the uniform at your local Sinsations store.
Querrelle is a surreal film, and has a certain beauty in its use of light and its evocative stagey set, but there’s a limit to how many scenes of actors reciting portentous dialogue in artistic poses an audience can take before it gets fidgety. It’s the quintessential art house film. Stylised gay sex? Check. Pretentious narration? Check. German and
French involvement? Check. A famous but elderly actress playing a floozy? Check. Audience laughing at moments that probably weren’t meant to be funny? Check and check.
Afterwards I finally got to visit one of Melbourne’s cocktail bars, Eau-de-Vie
. There I drank a cocktail made with bacon bourbon and blood orange marmalade out of a ceramic skull… if only I’d been wearing a leather bus conductor’s uniform, I could have been in a Fassbinder film.