On Saturday evening, I set forth with a couple of companions to see a screening of The Misfits at an outstation. The occasion was the celebration of some tourist venture involving Aboriginal stockmen/women. An eccentric couple from the east side of Alice thought The Misfits might be the go to screen as a cowboy film.
The outstation was maybe thirty, forty kilometres north of Alice, off the Tanami. The word 'outstation' always has romantic reverberations for me, tho it's really no more exciting a word than 'watertank'. An outstation is a place like a farm or homestead where an Aboriginal family or group has decided to return to their country and live off the land, often observing traditional practices.
We didn't see anything of the outstation proper. We drove off the main road and along an unsealed one, with red dirt hard-packed by the rain and shimmering pools of residue by its sides. The film was screened in a clearing, with nothing but some communal sinks, toilets and a generator as signs of civilisation. It was projected onto a screen suspended between two trees and powered by the generator, which broke down a couple of times. It was quite cold, maybe 11 C (there was a flash flood in town the day before, and temperatures dropped). I had my swag with me and was glad to find I'd left a thin sleeping bag inside. J had brought half his bedroom with him, and L sat behind us on a camp-chair like old father time.
I must admit, I thought the film was an unusual choice, hardly the generic cowboy number. One of those moments when you wonder what the Aboriginal members of the audience made of the whole thing. The cinematography, particularly of the horse-wrangling scene in the salt lake at the end, was beautiful, but the dialogue often seemed stilted and cryptic, and the characters underdeveloped. And there's something about Marilyn...she was better off playing ditzy blondes in screwball comedies. I've never been quite able to buy into the 'tragedy of Marilyn' or any idea that she might represent elemental forces, as Arthur Miller who scripted The Misfits apparently did (he was probably still m*ffstr*ck). She's always sounded like a monumental pain.
J said something about whether scripts in general are better these days... I have no idea. I don't know enough about the history of film-writing. I suspect there's more and slicker formula-writing in certain quarters. I said it's a kind of arthouse film of its time: the three act formula's still there, but not as clearly as in a mainstream film. It's not the upbeat commercially viable rom com that SA would want to finance, tho it has stood the Test of Time and all that, tho maybe on the basis of the names involved. (Another thing that interested me were the parallels between The Misfits and Desert Hearts, filmed maybe 25 years later...not enough time to go into that here.)
Anyway, such are the lengths people will go to watch cinema in central Australia. The rather murky phone-photo above is of the clearing...I took it for the dogs (there are two, but one ran off) and the red dirt. There are quite a few somewhat Gothic paintings of central Australian settings that feature both dirt and dogs. The light was fading rapidly, so I didn't try again.