17 May 2007

Art imitating life #1

John Howard (XI) , as IMDb describes him to distinguish him from his namesake and fellow actor John Howard (II), has emerged as a drama critic some days after the screening on ABC TV of Bastard Boys , a dramatised documentary about the 1998 waterfront dispute.

The PM has lambasted it as "one of the most lopsided pieces of political propaganda I've seen on the national broadcaster in years".

Others have expressed their, generally predictable, opinions. They include Chris Corrigan (who was depicted in the production looking very similar to Greg Combet), in today's
Australian ("...a tedious portrayal of predictable stereotypes....the program's only contribution to the political landscape is a well-timed piece of puffery for Combet's run for Canberra.") ; Robert Manne in The Age ("Possibly the left, certainly the right, will tell you that Bastard Boys is biased. Neither camp will be telling the truth. By its conclusion, through intellectual rigour, a historically accurate and politically fair-minded balance has been achieved") , and Michael Duffy in the SMH ("most blatant union propaganda").

Of those depicted in the drama and who have commented publicly, only Julian Burnside seems to have accepted the way he was portrayed with a measure of equanimity. He is quoted as saying that the actor who played him "
picked up on my mannerisms [ which included a penchant for Pepsi and rolling his own cigarettes] with great accuracy".

I thought that the program did make an effort to present both sides of the question yet I was left ( no pun intended)with the impression that the union side was presented more sympathetically. This was partly because the actors who played the unionists (especially Colin Friels as John Coombs) on balance were IMO better than those playing their adversaries, and partly because the unionists' lives were fleshed out with more scenes of their domestic circumstances.

One thing I didn't like, and stating it may brand me as old fashioned, was the nature and quantity of the language used: it was far too salty. Many other things were changed to fit the production: the language could have been moderated with little if any loss of dramatic impact.


Miss Eagle said...

Congratulations, Short Shadow - you did that well and all without mentioning the Bill Kelty wig!

Shortshadow said...

I was reluctant to comment on Mr Kelty's hirsute appearance as he's threatened to sue the ABC for misrepresenting him: whether he's aggrieved by the depiction of his hairstyle, his behaviour, his language or any combination thereof I'm not sure.