Sunday, February 19, 2006


Last week two nights in a row, at the same hour, I went to the Dendy Cinema at Circular Quay to see a film. The first, the premier of a short I'd been invited to because I'd been speaking with the producer about another matter; the second, the opening of the IndiVision Screenings for this year - I was a participant in the IndiVision Lab last year. Neither film was quite satisfactory but that's not what I'm here to say.

I always prefer being early to the movies so I caught the train about 5.15 and was at the Quay by 5.45 for a 6.15 screening. There I was, ambling along, in no hurry, intending to stop in at an art shop where you can reliably see lithos by the likes of Chagall and Miro and Dali and Bonnard, when I look up and see this:

She was moored in West Circular Quay and took up the whole length of harbour on that side, seeming as long if not longer than the bridge, which kind of grew out of her bow. A few lights on, a few idle figures lounging on her decks taking the evening air - they were all David Niven types in white cravats to me, smoking Sobranes - while hanging below her funnel, bizarrely, was a hand written banner saying DO NOT APPROACH CLOSER THAN FIFTY METRES. For terrorists, I guess.

Big old ocean liners always make me think of Fellini's Amarcord, the night scene where the characters row or wade out into the water to see one passing by, like a space ship from some wonderful, perhaps alien civilization whose planet you might one day be lucky enough to visit.

Thursday was hot and then about four the thunderheads rolled in, with a spattering of big fat drops which, by the time I went to catch the train, had turned to steady though not hard rain. The train must have travelled with the cloud because it was raining as well in the City, which had been clear when I left - I can see it from my balcony. I don't mind getting a bit wet, I was enjoying it and anyway, there's a covered walkway from the Quay to the Toaster and the Opera House and the QE2 was still there, looking more like this:

though rather more beautiful in the after storm light. I knew by now that she was departing for Melbourne that night and could already see a thin thread of diesel smoke drifting from her funnel. I was hoping that after the movie was over we might be lucky enough to see her steam out - that would have been something. The film, from Israel, was an inconsequential tale about a unit of girl soldiers patrolling Jerusalem which somehow managed to be trivial and claustrophobic at the same time and, instead of ending, just stopped. The last shot was interminable, two girls on one motorcycle riding through the city with, for some reason I will never know, the word KIWI written on each of their helmets.

It was dark by now, we stood around in a roped off enclosure in a bar area under the Opera House as canapes and wine waiters circled and networks got worked. I was with a director friend and she was with an actor friend and none of us could raise much enthusiasm for working the nets so, just as they served trays of boxed stir-fried beef noodles, we left and ate leaning over the rails looking at that fabulous apparition which, while it was smoking more than it had been, did not look like leaving before we ourselves wandered off into the night.

So she's gone now but, if I'd got around to the other side of the Quay in daylight, I might have seen something like this: