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Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Leaf On The Wind

Last night I went to the Sit Down Comedy Club to watch the Queensland final of Raw Comedy.  It was a wonderful show, but that is another story.

I had heard the tragic news that Network Video at Paddington was closing due to dwindling business as a consequence of the rise of the download.  Another bricks and mortar video shop bites the dust, so soon after Blockbuster closed a bunch of its own stores including my beloved local New Farm store.

So en route to the Paddo to see the comedy, I stopped in one last time.

While I was never a member at this particular store (because I never lived close enough to be a member), going there was always the natural companion piece to going to the comedy club.  It felt like an old school video store.  It felt grounded and felt real.  The staff were the cool, young movie geeks you would expect to find working in a video store; you could imagine them bantering with Quentin Tarantino or Kevin Smith. 

Their range was outstanding.  They were the only store I knew of that stocked region 1 DVDs for titles that weren’t available anywhere else.  They were the only store I knew of that kept VHS copies of movies that were never re-released on DVD.  They were located nearby the comedy club, so they had a special section of stand up comedy DVDs.

The staff welcomed and chatted with everyone who came into the store as if you were one of them.  When I was in last night, the staff gleefully put on enjoyably stupid movies like The Ringer and Bio-Dome (“heads up, everyone:  I’m putting on Bio-Dome”), and those wandering around the store, scavenging the stock that sadly must go, giggled and mocked Knoxville, Shore and Baldwin as they played.

While there, I naturally bought some ex-rentals, mostly stand-up comedy DVDs.  I also bought an ex-rental BluRay of a movie called Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. 

The movie is infamous. 

Based on the Marquis de Sade’s notorious I-guess-you-could-call-it-a novel, it is an equally disturbing 1970’s Italian movie by Pasolini which contains horrific depictions of sexual fetishes that range from the skipping across crossing a line level of immorality to full sprint past the line into unspeakable torture.  Basically, it’s Patrick Bateman’s bedtime story.

I have never seen it.  There is a very good chance I’ll hate it. 

But here’s the thing.  Salo was banned in Australia for a long time.  It is an artistic work of fiction and is entirely simulated.  It was submitted, rejected, resubmitted, rejected, edited, resubmitted, briefly allowed, appealed against and rejected, and so for almost 40 years.

In 2010, it was passed by the Classification Board on one condition:  that it could only be available on DVD or BluRay with copious supplemental material i.e. bonus features which created context and provided avenue for discussion.   

It can’t be screened in a cinema, it can’t be aired on television, and it can’t be purchased and downloaded.

The physical DVD/BluRay format is the primary reason why this movie now exists.

It’s why I haven’t yet been sold on the idea of downloading movies when I can get a physical copy with all of these immersive extra features for the same price.  It’s something downloading can’t offer (yet, at least).

But I know that with the expanding volume of iTunes and Amazon, I am the minority, which is sad.

I have joined my fourth Blockbuster this week, one with a decent library for a Blockbuster, especially TV series.  It’s no Network Video at Paddington, but it’s what I can get and I’m happy to be a member.

The Paddington store always displayed its cool and humourous persona through its marquee on Given Terrace with an ever-changing rotation of quotes and pop culture references. 

The one before me when I approached this final time conjured, independent of pop culture knowledge, a beautifully poetic image, implying a soft and peaceful resolution like the final shot of Forrest Gump.

But to those who get the reference, it is bittersweet and heartbreakingly appropriate: a final quote from a beloved character in Joss Whedon’s Serenity who, in typical Whedon fashion, is suddenly, unexpectedly and brutally ended.


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