Tuesday, 14 June 2011



Romper Stomper, Showgirls, Dancer in the Dark, Death Proof and The Notebook. What do these five films have in common? They are the films which have caused the most division between At The Movies co-hosts, and stalwarts of film review in Australia for the past 25 years, David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz.

And it was at Sydney Town Hall this evening where David and Margaret explained just what it was they liked/disliked about these films in the Sydney Film Festival event, Films That Divide Us: 25 Years of David and Margaret.

For the record, David loved Showgirls and Death Proof; Margaret was the defender of Romper Stomper, Dancer in the Dark and The Notebook. Embarrassingly, I've only seen Romper Stomper and The Notebook (and I tend to side with David's opinion of those two).

David's dislike of Von Trier's Dancer In The Dark (well, anything Von Trier, really: hello, shaky-cam!) came as no surprise but you may be surprised to learn that he refused to give the controversial 1992 Australian film, Romper Stomper, a rating. Not zero stars, just no rating. Of course, that clarification didn't stop the film's director, Geoffrey Wright, throwing red (or was it white?) wine in David's face a couple of years later at the Venice Film Festival. BTW If you haven't read David's biography, I Peed On Fellini, do yourself a favour.

It was also a surprise to hear Margaret say she thought that Quentin Tarantino (director of Death Proof) either didn't know how to write good women (Uma Thurman and Pam Grier might disagree) or that he simply found them boring. Equally surprising (disturbing?) is her love for Nick Casavettes' The Notebook (2004). Oh, Margaret!

David and Margaret are just as wonderful a double act live as they are on our televisions; actually David is much looser and funnier than viewers might think. Even though the evening had been loosely scripted, it didn't prevent the pair from correcting, reprimanding and talking over each other. They also answered audience members' questions (however few there were) generously and thoughtfully. Censorship, bias for Australian films, Tarkovski, and Terrence Malick's Tree of Life were all discussed.

Actually, Tree of Life could very well be the next love/hate topic of discussion between the two if the snippets of opinion they gave are any indicator. FYI Margaret loved it; David not so much. I look forward to catching that review in the next week or two - and many, many more in the years to come!

A special thanks to the Sydney Film Festival volunteers in the Media Office and the ABC for my ticket to the show. Very much appreciated.

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