Friday, September 22, 2006

Benito Di Fonzo's Bitter & Twisted Book Reviews.

"Benito Di Fonzo's [hopefully not too] Bitter & Twisted Book Reviews"

now on 2SER 107.3FM last Thursday of each month

during ‘Overdrive’ with Angela Stretch. (4-6pm)

"On the last Thursday afternoon of each month Sydney's finest Irish-Italian failed poet, playwright, performer and journalist [except for all the other ones] Benito Di Fonzo BA will review the latest in fiction and non-fiction despite that fact that he is no more qualified than anyone else to do so and will desperately be attempting to prevent himself unconsciously harbouring deep feelings and fears about his failed career and personal life that he will hopefully not suppress into a tight ball of bitter resentment that can be aimed at those authors who have the temerity to get published more than he does, all in the best possible taste mind you, and followed by some nice cannolis and a Spaghetti Western [bourbon & chinnotto] over ice. Okay?"


article: Russian Resurrection, 2006 Russian Film Festival


Vladimir Mashkov and Svetlana Antonova in the Russian hit movie Piranha.

Benito Di Fonzo
Metro, Sydney Morning Herald. 22/9/06

"For me," says Russian actor Vladimir Mashkov down the line from Moscow, "a real disaster was the man who died a couple of weeks ago: Crocodile Hunter."

Steve Irwin?

"Yes, he's my favourite-in-the-world man, I have all the DVDs."

Perhaps he could play the Russian Crocodile Hunter.

"He's the only one in history for me. Please write, I want to play that part."

I'll start working on the script, then?

"I'm waiting, I'm prepared," he says with a hearty deep laugh. "I'll just go into the zoo to buy a big snake to do rehearsal with."

Until our Russian Crocodile Hunter gets off the ground, you'll have to settle for seeing Mashkov in three diverse roles at the Russian Resurrection film festival. They include a plump revolutionary in The Captain's Daughter, a terrorist in opening film Counsellor of the State and an action hero in the smash-hit Piranha.

Later this year Australians can see Mashkov opposite Robert De Niro in De Niro's Cold War flick, The Good Shepherd. De Niro will probably play De Niro playing De Niro, but you can never be sure what to expect from Mashkov.

"For me, first of all I must change myself, physically and mentally," he says. "I can't do two movies together, I can't go with the same face. For [The Captain's Daughter] I put on 20 kilos.

"I am from Stanislavsky school. My teacher Oleg Tabakov, most famous actor, director and teacher in Russia, he give me same advice Robert De Niro gave me: follow your instinct. All my life I lived in Siberia in Novosibirsk. That's very tough city, I saw a lot of different people with very strong character."

The late Irwin and Mashkov's other Australian friend, boxer Kostya Tszyu, epitomise the type of character he has made a career portraying in the former Soviet states.

"They are real men, because they have passion, they have destination," Mashkov says, deferring to the Russian word tsol or goal.

Mashkov's English is self-taught:

"I never learn English. I'm like man in the middle of river, somebody just put me in the water and I just swim."

Russian Resurrection organiser Nicholas Maksymow helps translate during the interview. Maksymow, born in Parramatta to a Russian escapee of a Nazi POW camp, says the Russian film industry "was certainly healthy in the old Soviet days". It took a few years to get back on its feet after the fall of communism, "[however] there were certain topics that were no-go zones".

One taboo was Afghanistan, where Soviet troops were fighting the

US-backed mujahideen. The topic was powerfully covered in Ninth Company, last year's Russian box-office hit and part of the festival program.

"I think it rams home what's going on in Afghanistan and Iraq today,'' Maksymow says.

Other highlights are First On the Moon, a mockumentary about Russia winning the space race, and top heartstring-puller The Italian. There will be a retrospective of Andrei Tarkovsky's work, whose Solaris influenced filmmakers everywhere.

"What I think is strikingly different about Russian as opposed to Hollywood films is that they have a sense of realism," Maksymow says. "Most of the time they have sad endings."

Mashkov explains why: "Because Russians in real life don't trust happy endings. We think, 'After this happy ending something horrible!' Our country changes every three, four years."

Mashkov admits the Rambo-esque Piranha is Russia's attempt at Hollywood fluff: "You put your head in a freezer, grab a box of popcorn, sit and enjoy yourself."

Mashkov says that films such as The Captain's Daughter, based on the classic Alexander Pushkin novel, give us "the spirit of Russia". Which is?

He laughs heartily.

"When a person would give his last shirt on his back. The most important thing is that a Russian person never betrays anyone. That's what the spirit of Russia is, and that's the scariest thing in life: to know you've been betrayed."

I better get to work on that Irwin script, then.

Russian Resurrection
Tuesday to October 1, Chauvel Cinema, Paddington,

article: Push 3 & 4, Wharf2 Loud, STC.

(Metro, SMH, Sept. 2006)

If Lally Katz’s aunt hadn’t been dragged her to a New York transsexual karaoke bar she may never had written “Waikiki Palace.”

“When I was in New York I decided to get a ticket to Waikiki, but I lost my passport in a bar when I was drunk. My aunt took me to this transsexual karaoke bar, it was during the Republican Convention, there were armed guards everywhere, so I thought I’d have my passport with me. Then I got stuck [in Waikiki] because of my passport and ended up at a youth hostel where I met the people that are the inspiration for the play.”

Does that mean there’s a transsexual identity-thief travelling the world as Lally Katz?

“I’d be disappointed if there wasn’t.”

It wouldn’t be the first time the 27 year old playwright had juggled with gender: her last play in Australia contained two characters called Lally Katz, one of which was a male detective and neither of whom were played by the author.

“This is the first [play] that I haven’t been in for a while, I suppose I’m self obsessed.”

Along with Adam Grossetti’s “3606/202,” a sequel of sorts to his award winning study of 1930s Queensland Italian mafia “Mano Nera,” “Waikiki Palace” is the next in Sydney Theatre Company’s ‘Push’ series which gives writers and directors eight days to rehearse and stage a play that conforms to the ten-point ‘Manifesto’ of Wharf 2Loud directors Brendan Cowell and Chris Mead.

‘Waikiki Palace,’ directed by Chris Kohn, is the story of 30-something divorcee Prairie, and her affair with 22 year old backpacker Jack.

“They’ve had an affair but it’s coming to an end and she wants to have this night of connection and love but all these things happen to spoil it. I think it says something about women in our time, that it’s not cool to be affected by casual sex, that you should be like a man.”



Katz had no problem fitting into the Manifesto.

“I really like rules, especially obscure rules, because it means I’ve got something to bounce off.”

Others haven’t been so accepting of Cowell and Mead’s maxims.

Mead: “We almost had a fight at the launch between a couple of directors over whether it was a good idea or not.”

“There were lots of arguments,” says Cowell, “some quite heated, that was the whole idea. The theatrical event is only half finished when the play’s over, people have a few Amstels and suddenly everyone’s shouting at each other. That’s why we have the bar.”

And the bands, which will feature beforehand on Fridays, and Saturday DJs after, during which Cowell may be having a quiet word with Adam Grossetti who seemed a little unsure of his ability to fit in with the Manifesto.

“I find it quite hard to fit in anywhere,” he says from the corner of an Erskineville hotel.

Okay, Rule 1: No junk.

“What, heroin?”

No, milk crates or hip flasks.

“That’s going to be hard, I carry 17 hip flasks on me at any given moment. Perhaps there should be a manifesto about the manifesto?”

Grossetti’s ‘3606/202’, directed by Chris Kohn, examines fear-mongering and the resultant deterioration of human rights.

“It was inspired by the process my great uncle went through when he was interned during WWII. He’d been naturalised for 26 years.”

He was also president of an Italian-Australian social club, which brought him under suspicion as Mussolini marched into Abyssinia. However “3606/202” expands into the present to show the commonality of Grossotti’s experience.

“It’s the same guy or girl in Belfast, Auschwitz or a porn set in Hollywood, the significance is we’ve been doing this for a long time and haven’t learnt anything. I was struck with the idea of if you start at this point where do we go in terms of what we do to each other, the process of stripping people of their rights. It seems to me that it’s a quick and slippery slide down to the acts of depravity we’ve seen in Abu Ghraib.”

Grossetti utilised transcripts of interrogations from The National Archives.

“It was the beginning of ASIO. You know what? I bet they had a manifesto.”

Push 3: “3606/202” by Adam Grossetti. Directed by David Field. 7,8,9 September. 8:15pm

(Friday “Sarah Aubrey & The Audio Visual Club” 6:30pm, Saturday DJ Mostyn after.)

Push 4: “Waikiki Palace” by Lally Katz. Directed by Chris Kohn. 14,15,16 September. 8:15pm

(Friday “H*t Yeah” 6:30pm, Saturday DJ Mostyn after show)

Wharf 2, Sydney Theatre Company