A week of sexual politics. First of all there was an Aussie film, Ten Canoes – a charming story-telling form and a fictional cum anthropological glimpse of pre-colonial Australia. The plot revolved around young men’s lust for the patriarch’s wives, a kidnapping of a woman and a ritual murder followed by ritual retribution. Polygamy produces silly men and bitchy women and it felt like Year 9 culture in the provinces to be perfectly honest, apart from great scenery and a moving death scene. It certainly wasn’t a romanticised portrait of the indigenous way of life.
And then there was the documentary on Mervyn Thompson, kidnapped by a group of radical lesbians in the early eighties and tied to a tree with his trousers around his ankles, for being reputedly, a rapist. Mervyn was an obsessive Oedipal case whose directorial need to create the emotionally authentic actress included bedding said actress. The director philanderer is slightly different from the producer philanderer: the former is process based, the latter involves ‘rights of ownership’. Mervyn responded very badly to his kidnapping. Rather than learning a lesson and keeping his head down and zip hoisted he proclaimed himself victim and things went steadily downhill. I was on the Depot committee when the banning of his work was discussed and I felt torn about doing so. The work and the writer shouldn’t be conflated. As well, Mervyn, as Downstage director had opened up the theatre to diverse voices. Ever the contradiction, he was determined to put his eyes out.
I also mused about the extremely popular, sixties film, The Graduate, and the issue of seduction (to lead astray, to tempt…) around which it was based. Probably not allowed any more, except on the web, which brings me to the final viewing: a very well-made dramatized documentary, Tender Trap, based on the real life seduction of a middle-aged woman via a dating site. The main character has had a high profile job − Maori Language Commission or something like that − been made redundant, and even though surrounded by whanau, is persuaded to register on a dating site. She is picked up by a South American gang who improvise a text-based romantic relationship with consummate skill and eventually entice her to Buenos Aires to pick up a suitcase with a hidden stash of cocaine bound for London. She is caught and the story told in flashback from the prison. The acting was authentic (even without Mervyn’s help) and I remain in awe of the skilful operating of the conmen and women, able to create what was virtually a play, in a booth somewhere. But one also becomes aware of the vulnerability of those feeling past their used-by date and their ability, like Mervyn and the young men, to become obsessive.
Freud would have it that sex is the basic motivator of human behaviour and this makes us very messy creatures indeed. Perhaps sex should have remained a finite and simple act of reproduction, but that statement makes one sound like a fundamentalist. Just have to remain messy I suppose.
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