Friday, 18 December 2009

Cinema paradiso

I've just spent my first day exploring Melbourne, and I'm so excited I've had to rush back to write this! Today I was mostly hanging around Federation Square, which is home to some outstandingly ugly - but strangely compelling - architecture, notably the Ian Potter Centre, home to Victoria's collection of Australian art. This in itself was fantastic - Hugh Ramsay, Russell Drysdale, Sidney Nolan and more - but it was also housed in the most spectacular space. Around every corner was a window onto the Yarra river, or a peek at some steel-and-glass corridors, or the contrast of the grand old, mellow stone Flinders Street station... I'm not usually a fan of all those self-consciously geometric angles, but somehow it works.

But the best was to come: the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, which is a film buff's heaven. If I was speaking I'd be stuttering with excitement - there are clips of early movies, from Georges Melies to The Story of the Kelly Gang from 1906, the world's first full-length feature film (though only a few frames survive now); there are celebrations of Australian film icons, from Mad Max (they even have the car!) to Christopher Doyle, a true artist and my favourite cinematographer. Even more excitingly I discovered that he only started in films in his mid-thirties, which gives me hope for myself - if I can achieve a tiny part of what he has I'll be the happiest woman alive. Plus there are amazing interactive displays showing the separate importance of colour, sound, light and movement to make a beautiful, coherent whole. And an installation from Anthony McCall, who experiments with solid light, as well as a short from the Australian animator Anthony Lucas, whose shadow plays are the most sensational things - watch this clip and you'll see what I mean... I've booked a ticket f0r Boxing Day for the centre's showing of a new print of Easy Rider, so I'll have the chance for another look, but I'm just overwhelmed with excitement - I could jump up and down!

That's going to be a hard act to follow, but I think that Melbourne's up to it. I'm staying up in Fitzroy, which has the feel of Brighton, somehow - slightly seedy and dirty, but hippieish and laidback, with second-hand stores and kooky cafes everywhere you look. In fact, I'm going to be putting on all the weight I've lost, because the food round here is sensational - every nation on earth is represented, most of them within a stone's throw of my hostel! I've already been taken to a Thai place with the most exquisite dishes (and beers from 100 countries to complement it) by Pearl, who was on the dive trip with me. Still to come is the Victoria Markets, with all that foodie produce. In short, I'm in heaven!

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