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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Queen of the Desert

The thing about cactus flowers is this - they are hard to find. You wouldn't think so, since the desert is a dun-colored palette, but as you pick your way over the rocks carefully, you find yourself looking up, quite unexpectedly, to find a bright fuschia bloom peeking out from behind a giant boulder. And it's the most delightful surprise.

Joshua Tree is a very special place. The vast blue dome of sky, the heat that rises up off the sandy desert floor and a silence so very still that you can literally hear the shushing of a hawk's wings overhead. How often do we get to be in such silence? We are surrounded by noise and stimulation so often that going to the desert and being in such spacious silence is almost other-worldly.

The desert in spring struck the Wave-inatrix as such a metaphor for life - if you spend your time hiking through the desert only looking for the cactus blooms, you can easily get lost because you weren't paying attention to other landmarks. The desert is a dangerous place. But if you only spend your time navigating the rocks, careful where to place your feet as you hike - you miss finding the cactus blossoms in all their secret, vivid glory.

If you live too far from the desert to enjoy a day trip, here are some of my favorite movies about or set in a desert (or desert-y outback) that are an absolute must:

Picnic at Hanging Rock
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
A Cry in the Dark

All of these movies are, coincidentally, Aussie films. I highly recommend them all, but particularly the haunting Picnic at Hanging Rock. Peter Weir is a true auteur, and the way he used camera angles and sound to create a sense of awe and dread in Picnic is nothing short of spectacular.

Picnic and Walkabout are both film school staples but remember, just because you may not have gone to film school doesn't mean you can't enjoy and appreciate these magnificent films in your own home. Yes, they are over 30 years old but believe me - they hold up.

So go on down to your local video store and load up on your Aussie and desert-themed movies, Wavers. I love having themed movie-marathons. These are all amazing films and when you've seen them all, your face will hurt from laughing so hard along with Priscilla and after A Cry in the Dark, you'll finally be able to say, with authority - the dingo got the baby.

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J.J. said...

And a perfect illustration of not paying attention of not paying attention to your surroundings can be seen in the Gus Van Sant film Gerry. It's not a film for everyone, but it certainly visually stunning.

Anonymous said...

Rabbit Proof Fence is another excellent film shot in the Aussie desert.

Anonymous said...

Guy Pierce in Priscilla.
And what about Terence Stamp's performance?
And yes, spot on for the metaphor. Sometimes it can be seriously hard enjoying the journey instead of total focus on the destination.
And the desert is a dangerous place.