Sunday, March 30, 2008

my father as South Pacific - the movie

copy of the cover of the dvd for the movie, South PacificI have more memories of my father as he did not leave this world until I was 13. Many are dusty and shoved away into an attic in my brain, others are quite fresh, bouncing back to life with a key stimulus. In this case the movie, South Pacific (1958).

No, I didn't see him as Rossano Brazzi! And he couldn't sing, nor was he a murderer in fact or fiction, and he didn't live in a world where sudden colour-shifts took place. My mother had been a singer and had taken lead roles in musicals, and could easily have played Nellie Forbush (Mitzi Gaynor). This may have explained my father's passion for live and film musicals - all of which I went to see.

I remember very clearly being taken to see the movie at the plushly theatrical Roxy Picture House in Leicester. I can remember being bowled over by the scale and colour, the fabulous songs, and the incredible exotic (I suppose 'foreign' would have been the word then) landscapes - but not the length of the movie (3 hours), nor that it had an intermission. I can clearly remember the length and the intermission in Lawrence of Arabia (1962). OK this was 4 years later, was epic, long, had lots of sand, camels, blown-up trains, sword-wielding Arabs, and Peter O'Toole giving the Turks what for (and missed the significance of what they gave back to him) - and while it did have a huge and haunting orchestral soundtrack, it didn't have any songs...

I watched the movie for the second time in my life in December 2007 in Whitstable. It was a revelation. So many things look totally different from my childhood memories. South Pacific did in some respects, but it was also so faithful to my (near 50 year old!) memory. The scale, colour, songs, scenes, wonderfully exotic landscapes and Rossano Brazzi were the same. The subtexts invisible to an 8 year old in the 1950s were glaringly obvious now. The homo-eroticism of the servicemen, the overt racism/sexism, the status/class divisions, the dysfunctional storyline and continuity. I wonder how much of this was obvious to my father?
cactus, Helsinki
This was all kicked-in by a cactus on my table in the lounge of my hotel in Helsinki - there was one on each table - this seemed the happiest. We had a very sad version of the same variety which used to survive in the hallway of the house where I lived with my father. It never got any sun.

On a brighter note, I now know that the movie was shot on location in Hawaii, Bali and Tioman - at least I've been to Bali...

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