Janet McAllister on the arts

Janet McAllister looks at the world of the arts and literature.

Janet McAllister: Hometown homages for common people

By Janet McAllister

A shared affection for home - Kiwi film director Florian Habicht (right) and Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker.
A shared affection for home - Kiwi film director Florian Habicht (right) and Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker.

Will 2014 be remembered as the year of the Scottish musical? The Proclaimers' Sunshine on Leith was a gentle, lovely film about energetic Edinburgh youth from good working-class stock, with a briefly noted but very dark counterpoint: Ally rejoins the army because nobody wants him at home.

Now the film festival has given us God Help the Girl, written, directed and scored by Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch. Murdoch takes gentle and lovely and makes it wet and twee. Floating young souls in berets wash up in Glasgow, and there's a glossed-over but rather dark ending: Eve leaves for music school in London, because nobody can satisfy her at home. She prefers aiming for generic sound and big-smoke kudos, to making dippy ditties with her now-betrayed friends. Although, to be fair, the friends put the wuss into wistful.

In contrast, beautiful Bomar Faery, a Sheffield local in Florian Habicht's Pulp documentary whose purple eyeshadow matches the river weeds behind him, says he moved to London once for six months by accident.

He came back because London mugged him, not that, he adds, muggings don't happen in Sheffield, "but they're funny. You probably know the people."

That affection for home is in keeping for this movie by a small-town boy made good, about a small-town band made good. Edinburgh, Glasgow, Sheffield: will 2014 be remembered as the year of the hometown homage?

(As for Habicht's own hometown: a mutual friend once told me that Habicht, New Zealand's favourite goofball - perpetually smiling, nodding, clever, friendly - actually inhabits the magic world that his films seem to create, where anything seems possible.)

My hometown - or at least those parts which have not yet succumbed to the creeping zombie virus of corporate coffee chains and frozen yoghurt outlets - has been at its creative best recently. In the interludes between festival flicks, it has offered our omnibus art gallery, protests against international massacres and local chicken torture, Giapo's icecream, poetry and zinefest.

I stumbled out of the Pulp movie last Friday evening and into the Auckland Central Library launch of Essential New Zealand Poems: Facing the Empty Page. Poetic wildness isn't what it used to be: the water and orange juice ran out before the wine. (James K, can we get a miracle in reverse?)

The launch was lovely, it was gentle. Riemke Ensing asked poets present to autograph her copy of the book - whether their poems were included or not. The wonderful grandfatherly Peter Bland was first up to read, but he'd forgotten his spectacles. Luckily the third pair donated from the audience worked a treat.

Zinefest also harboured hometown homages. I bought Into the Dark Woods, a wordless graphic serial of five booklets exquisitely packaged by the Sheehan Brothers. Chapter 1, Frozen, shows Khartoum Place sans corporate coffee outlets and, page by page, as the view moves up into Albert Park, the familiar gives way to more fantasy. I expect to find Habicht in the next instalment.

- NZ Herald

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