Wednesday, August 10, 2005

cinema not so paradiso

It's bad enough that the Valhalla is dead, but the Chauvel, too? I read that the Chauvel needs only an injection of $250,000 a year to survive. Doesn't seem like a lot.
People often argue that it's not the taxpayer's job to fund unpopular art institutions. Some, like the Prime Minister, go on and on about how, in the Howardian utopia, business and industry have a sense of mutual obligation and come to the party instead of taxpayers (especially on useless, uneconomical things like the Arts). Would that it were so. It'd be great to see the huge successes of Australia's film industry--the Mels, the Cates, the Nicoles, but not just the actors of course--pitch in to save the Chauvel and similar institutions. To form their own fighting funds for dying icons of their own. Or perhaps they could even raise some money some other way, with their starpower.
I mean, I'm biased because I grew up going to the Chauvel about once a week (I think my parents, as migrants, craved European stories, and as we didn't have a TV we couldn't watch SBS). But it's part of Sydney's character that we always had a lot of art-house cinemas. It's part of what always gave the city its filmic character, and its strong spirit of indie filmmaking would've arisen partly from that. And it's a film city whose culture has nurtured a helluva lot of international careers and millionaires. How much of that identity will be lost as the icons of serious film go, leaving us with only mass-movies on offer? Maybe these places don't make a lot of money and you don't get stampedes of people queueing for the films. That's not their point, though, is it? They should never be seen as being in competition with the mainstream.
I know they're only little cinemas. But they're important. They give voice to a lot of voices that don't otherwise get heard.
Anyway, the market is dynamic and trends can change. Hey, art-house cinema could even get its renaissance. But close the cinemas and there's no hope of it happening at all.