adventure of Clay
compiled by Bill Mousoulis.
to Rosemary Mangiamele for documentation.
Image of Clay courtesy Raffaele
way you look at it, the case of Giorgio Mangiamele is a unique
one. In the early to mid '50s, when Italian cinema was arguably
at its peak (with maestri Rossellini and Fellini producing their
best work), Giorgio was a keen young film student wanting to enter
the world of cinema. It is at exactly this juncture, however,
that he chose to leave his home with its rich heritage, and emigrate
to Australia, with its promise of freedom and possibility. The
next 10 years were not easy for him, though, as Australia's film
industry was (a) moribund to begin with, and (b) hardly encouraging
towards "outsiders", but he managed to create some wonderful
works such as The Spag (1962) and Ninety Nine Per Cent
(1963). This endeavour culminated in the production of his first
(completed) feature, Clay (1965), a work stunningly different
from those that preceded it. Abandoning the rough neo-realist
stylistics, and also the Italian thematics, of the previous films,
Clay drove head-first into art-cinema territory, as exemplified
at the time by such directors as Bergman and Polanski. In this
context, it is not surprising that it was selected to screen at
Cannes, as it would have measured up well against other films
at the time. Instead of
signalling a triumph, however, the Cannes selection precipitated
what now must be seen as one of the biggest blights on the name
of Australian (film) culture: there was no official support given
to Mangiamele or the film to attend Cannes. And, in the years
that followed, Mangiamele struggled to make more films - in fact,
he directed only one other feature, Beyond Reason (1970).
Obviously the new wave of Australian feature film-making in the
early '70s declined to pick Mangiamele up, for whatever reasons.
As Scott Murray wrote on the occasion of the passing away of the
director just a couple of years back: "In vibrant film cultures,
filmmakers of all ages and cultures work together, the young gaining
immeasurably from associating with the experienced and differently
orientated. Australia was too ageist, too narrow in its view about
what sort of films ought to be made, for there to be space for
a sensitive, inventive, deeply-passionate filmmaker like Mangiamele."
Sadly, Australia does not seem to have learnt its lesson in the
intervening years, as its recent film history is littered with
directors who have been allowed to make only the one or two features.
I now present
some documentation from the time of Clay's adventure at
Cannes, to give a sense of the period.
road to Clay: a profile of Mangiamele from 1962, around
the time of The Spag, written by Colin Bennett, a consistent
supporter of Mangiamele.
makes the Cannes list and there is no government support forthcoming,
as this letter, item at left, in The Bulletin attests.
And then, second item, a mysterious woman casually steps into
Mangiamele's studio and hands him an envelope stuffed with
cash, to help the film's cause.
the flag in Cannes, or How a picture can tell a multitude
of stories - even the Australian flag wasn't readily available
at the time. Note the mixed look on Mangiamele's face.
a year later, back in Melbourne - "Giorgio Mangiamele
and his film group" four-wall the Palais for a series
of screenings, proper theatrical distribution found wanting.
to Giorgio Mangiamele profile