the Leader by
than Bill Mousoulis, less recognisably avant-garde than Ben Speth,
Mark La Rosa ranks among the forgotten men of Melbourne independent
filmmaking, despite or due to the stringent eccentricity he's
maintained over twenty-odd years. Small wonder that his most recent
mini-feature, The Captives (2004), is premised on the spectacle
of art minus the audience - or, more broadly, life as an endless
series of rehearsals.
La Rosa works, The Captives is rife with conspiratorial
intrigue, enacted in poker face by an ensemble of dim-bulb public-servant
types - in this case, a student theatre troupe engaged in interminable
run-throughs of Aeschylus' The Persians.
Art for art's
sake is fine in theory, but the absence of a scheduled date for
opening night eventually gives rise to discontent among the cast
members, notably the sulkily cherubic Carl (Taylor McVean). "Suffering
is part of the deal," announces Vincent (Anthony Marks), the collective's
tight-lipped demiurge. "I made that clear from the start."
his followers and making tiny adjustments to their frozen postures,
Vincent is a literally hands-on director. Something similar might
be said of La Rosa, who treats his actors as "models" in the fashion
of Robert Bresson, selected apparently for physiognomy and vocal
timbre rather than talent.
removed from theatre of the absurd, the essence of La Rosa's cinema
is a kind of epic mundanity. Richard Tuohy's elegant black and
white videography fastidiously expunges background life from each
scene; the university courtyards and suburban railway stations
might as well be portions of a vast amphitheatre or locations
on the far side of the moon.
threats and pleas, nothing really happens till the stunning final
scenes of The Captives - when, again, nothing happens,
but in a different sense. La Rosa's usual abrupt endings resemble
acts of God, arbitrarily sealing off a pocket universe; here,
a similar gesture has more definite implications, retrospectively
clarifying the film's allegory by revealing what stakes the characters
have been playing for all along.
singular vision, The Captives is among the strongest Australian
films of recent years, but viewing opportunities have been scarce
since its premiere at last year's Melbourne Underground Film Festival.
Also on the bill of tonight's screening at the Erwin Rado Theatre
are two shorts by Jason Turley, Dirty Work (2003), and
Wooden Heart (2004).
his twenties, Turley so far looks like a more straightforwardly
naturalistic filmmaker than La Rosa, but displays a comparable
homely rigour. Despite some stiffness of exposition the observation
of blokey manners is dead-on, particularly in Dirty Work,
where a sullen teenager (Adam Scott) is forced into mateship with
his older, overbearing neighbour (Chris Bidlo).
Heart depicts a comparably uneasy brief encounter between
a sex worker (Meredyth Tasmyn) and an IT sales representative
(David Tulk). The pay-off here is less satisfactory but the theme
of blocked communication remains constant: like many earlier anti-heroes
of Melbourne cinema, the protagonist never gets far beyond wandering
the streets of the city, gazing at a world that shuts him out.
Jake Wilson, June 2006.
to Mark La Rosa profile