Don’t mention the war. The war, that is, between film reviewing duo David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz and their current employer SBS TV. Pomeranz was criticised for citing her disapproval of the current management of SBS as her reason for their defection to ABC TV and the pair have refused all interviews ever since.
It was a rotten shame, of course, since the announcement coincided with the release of the first ever Movie Show CD, a seven-disc compilation entitled You Must Remember This: 101 Movie Themes And Songs. The collection is manna from heaven for the nerdcore film buff, with theme music from 1933 to 2002, including instrumentals from The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938), Sunset Boulevard (1950), Psycho (1960), The Godfather (1972), Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) and quirky songs chosen to accompany films like Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Trainspotting (1996).
So it came to pass that David Stratton agreed to chat about the CDs, but would not answer questions about the move to the ABC. (There was an attempt, but we can’t talk about all the other stuff was the response.) Bizarrely chatting as if nothing had changed (nor will it, until the pair’s contract expires in June), Stratton shared his thoughts on films, movie music and sparring with Mags.
You feature on the CD in conversation with Margaret and on the cover. Were you involved in the selection of music?
To a degree we were. The music on the CD was selected because of the book, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die [published by ABC Books]. When we were involved in writing the introduction to it, the idea came about that it might be nice to have a spin-off with some of the music from some of the films featured in the book.
Are you a collector of film music?
Oh yes. There are certain film scores that I love very much.
What’s the first soundtrack you bought?
Phew! There would have been some musical films I guess when I was young. I guess probably if you want to go really far back, the first film soundtrack I ever got was from Pinocchio, followed quickly by Snow White -¦ Later on I got hooked on all of the big Hollywood musicals. So when I was a teenager I was buying the soundtracks from those, on 78s in those days, but later on came long-playing records.
It’s not the grooviest music to collect -“
Well possibly not! But I was quite happy [laughs] to listen to that sort of stuff. Later on I bought a lot of soundtrack albums, from things as different as Blow Up.
There is an argument that film music, like film editing, is successful if it remains unnoticed by the audience; that a memorable movie score is actually an ineffective one.
I think there’s a lot of truth in that. I think music can be used in different ways in films -¦ I think bad film music can really cripple a film sometimes, if it’s overused or if it’s badly used. But on the other hand really subtle music can enhance it. But then it’s hard to say -¦ Hitchcock didn’t himself like the music in Spellbound because it was more or less put into the film by the producer David O. Selznick. Hitchcock would have preferred to have less of it. So there we are -“ it just happens to be one of my favourite film themes.
How much of The Movie Show is rehearsed? Do you know how many stars Margaret will give a particular film before you start filming?
Only at the last minute -¦ It’s only on Wednesday morning when I get in to the SBS studios and we sit down and we have a run-through of the script that I find out what she thinks of the films for that week. Then of course the discussion or argument -¦ is quite unrehearsed.
Have you ever had any ripping arguments off-camera?
Oh occasionally. There are some films that we’ve disagreed passionately about and we get slightly testy with each other sometimes. I guess, yeah. I think Lars von Trier [Dogville, Dancer In The Dark] probably separates us a bit in that respect -¦ It’s all in the eye of the beholder of course. I think he’s a phoney, but there you are.
Have you ever had periods when you felt sick and tired of film?
No, I think only when I’m sitting halfway through something like Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen and I wish I was somewhere else. That’s when I feel, Why am I watching this when I could be watching for the 10th or 20th time Double Indemnity? -¦ We have to sit through an awful lot of rubbish and it does get a bit depressing at times. Because I’m personally very much into film history and the great films of the past (and even the not-so-great, but fascinating films of the past) and I teach this course in Film History at the University of Sydney in the Continuing Education Department, which is actually the most pleasurable thing I do. I would rather any day be watching some the 40s, 50s or 60s or 70s again than having to see things like Catch That Kid or Spy Kids 3-D or something like that.
You famously refused to review Romper Stomper on moral grounds. Have you felt as strongly about any other films since that time?
Not in moral terms. Probably the closest would be The Passion Of The Christ actually. I find that in some ways a rather immoral film and a dangerous film. I think it’s a film preaching a message of hate.
You don’t seem to have changed in appearance in the last 17 years. What’s your secret?
I dunno. I will probably collapse in a heap in six months. I have no idea. My hair went white in 1975 so I guess that means from that point of view -“ my hair hasn’t changed in nearly 30 years. And I guess the camera doesn’t get too close.
Info You Must Remember This: 101 Movie Themes And Songs is available on SBS Music and Decca Records at music stores everywhere. 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die is published by ABC Books. The Movie Show screens on SBS TV at 8pm every Wednesday night (with David and Margaret) until June.