Et tu, Nick? . . . "The Proposition"

In the Laemmle on Fairfax and Beverly in a brutal verbal fight with two Oscar heroes and one angry divorcee as a project of mine unravels the last 3% into zero, zilch, finito, when I see out of the corner of my eye an interesting movie poster. "The Proposition." To take a break from combat, I read the poster and see this is an Australian western, new literary territory, practically, notwithstanding Rabbit Fence, and I get all goosey over the idea of Danny Huston and John Hurt and Emily Watson in the same outback setting when I read

screenplay NICK CAVE

omigod, not this joker, also vomiting a screenplay? He was bad enough mooning around the set in Wings of Desire, and I've always regarded him as an absolute boring poseur. You want boffo attitude, give me Jo Jo Zep or Peter Garrett, not this silly Leonard Cohen crooner without a melody in his bones. I go back to my fight with the movie producers and we get kicked out of the lobby and I am furious and I go back up into the Hills resolving never to talk money with producers whenever movie posters are within sight, and this Nick Cave thing bothers me for four hours. The poster looked interesting. Is this movie going to be celebrated and win awards? Am I going to be made to feel ever more tiny and irrelevant than I already am? Is it a dog-eared mess from Nick Cave that will push me over some sort of creative edge into B-movie bliss?

I note with glee that the movie does less than $2-million and sinks out of sight. Ha ha Nick Cave.

Then I make the mistake of renting it last night. Huston and Hurt are brilliant, and Watson is Watson. Even Guy Pearce and Ray Winstone have their moviestar moments, and the bloody script is . . . almost . . . perfect. Hurt and Huston rant and i am not aware it is them ranting. Watson serves tea in the dust devils waiting for rape and murder and all of the Australian fixation of descent from murderers fills my head. The writing is . . . almost . . . superb. Spare when it needs to be, phat when it needs to be. Even when a few actors drop the ball, their lines are still sparkling. I cannot believe it.

Then on the special features there is Nick Cave in a sunset, droning on as only he can, admitting he had no idea how to write a screenplay, thinking it was just too BIG for him to do (as only a songwriter could think), and admitting his intimidation, until . . . he wrote scene one . . . and then scene two, and all of a sudden it was just bloody easy and it's one scene afer another and Nick Cave is too polite to snicker but you can tell it was easy as one two three. All the other Aussies claim the movie is aboout the great white-black unspoken conversation and of course it isn't at all about any of that, but just a western, typical crappy Clint Eastwood but with some shocking poetry and seven or eight or sixteen distinctly drawn characters. There is a line about misanthropes which comes out of nowhere and is almost brilliant, and I still can't believe it, the next day. The movie is brutally graphic, as in bad Hollywood, as befits a cinema which thinks its ancestors were murderers, when in reality 99% of Australians who can claim descent from the Transportation are related not to a killer but to somebody who stole a loaf of bread or some other such petty crime in 18th century England. So the poetry is there, that uncertain sense of self which makes movies like The Monkey Grip or The Year My Voice Broke or Lonely Hearts so compelling, and so adult.

Nick Cave writes a screenplay, and it is fantastic. Britney Spears will soon have a novel on the market. And I'm going to pitch a 'deal' at Art's Delicatessen next Tuesday, with nothing but a free lunch guaranteed. I'm not whining, though. Just remarking at the extremities of possibility stretching from this tiny moment in space to the boundaries of existence, from whence Nick Cave's scrrenplay improbably and probably inadvertently fell to Earth.