February 2012

Encounters

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Fred Schepisi & Vladimir Putin

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

As Fred Schepisi was whisked along the Rublyovka highway, past luxury car showrooms and Gucci boutiques, he reflected on how much Moscow had changed in the 18 years since he’d last seen it. Back then, Mikhail Gorbachev occupied the Kremlin, the USSR was a superpower and, despite the promise of perestroika, drab lines of people still waited outside shops. On that occasion, he was there to direct the Cold War espionage drama The Russia House, the first major international production ever filmed in the Soviet Union.

Now here he was, jury chairman of the 2007 Moscow Film Festival, on his way to lunch with no less a personage than the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin.

The setting was Novo-Ogaryovo, Putin’s dacha – opulent digs set amid the woodlands west of the capital. Behind its 4-metre wall, Schepisi found himself in a forest of birches and pines, its carpet-like floor conjuring up an image “straight out of Chekhov”.

As a kid, Schepisi lived behind the family fruit and vegetable shop in Toorak, Melbourne, just across the road from a movie house. He left school early, escaped into advertising and dreamed of making films. In 1976 he wrote, produced and directed his first full-length feature, The Devil’s Playground.   

Waiting with the rest of the jury for the diminutive political dynamo to appear, Fred tried his best not to look tall. Putin entered at a brisk pace. “Violence achieves nothing,” declared the former KGB officer. “Culture is vital.”

Lunch was served and speeches made. Schepisi, introduced to the work of Sergei Eisenstein at 18, spoke of his thrill at having made a film in one of the crucibles of world cinema. Putin explained that he was headed for the US for a summit with George W Bush at Kennebunkport. Schepisi, who had just finished filming Empire Falls in Maine, said he could recommend a good restaurant in the area. This offer lost something in translation. Putin doubted he’d be at a loose end. When Schepisi commented on an exhibition of work by a Russian photographer, Putin thought he wanted a souvenir snap of their get-together.

Despite these stumbles, the man who turned Meryl Streep into Lindy Chamberlain found the scourge of the Chechens to be charming, articulate and well informed: “I felt like Chamberlain being schmoozed by Hitler at Munich.”

It was not a great year for Russian cinema. The festival prize went to Travelling with Pets. Vladimir Putin’s love of culture remains undiminished. Fred Schepisi has recently come to grips with Patrick White.

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Shane Maloney is a writer and the author of the award-winning Murray Whelan series of crime novels. His 'Encounters', illustrated by Chris Grosz, have been published in a collection, Australian Encounters.

Chris Grosz is a book illustrator, painter and political cartoonist. He has illustrated newspapers and magazines such as the Age, the Bulletin and Time.

February 2012

February 2012

From the front page

Trump disorder

Our foreign policy needs to catch up to these unstable times

Image of Angélique Kidjo

Angélique Kidjo reinvents Talking Heads’ ‘Remain in Light’

This remake of the 1980 classic insists on the connections between musical traditions

Image of Moreno Giovannoni’s ‘The Fireflies of Autumn’

‘The Fireflies of Autumn’: a bittersweet take on the Tuscan idyll

Moreno Giovannoni’s debut collection examines dislocation in a way rarely seen

Illustration

Crafting a ceramic habitat for a handfish

Hobart artist Jane Bamford is helping a critically endangered fish to spawn


In This Issue

Scott Morrison standing up for God's Country, May 2011. © AAP IMAGE / Alan Porritt

Scott Morrison: So Who the Bloody Hell Are You?

'Outland' by Kevin Carlin (director), ABC1, 6-part series, from 8 February

'Outland' by Kevin Carlin

The Greens party room, December 2011. © Australian Greens

The Australian Greens Party

Divided We Fall

'The Chemistry of Tears', By Peter Carey, Penguin, 288pp; $39.95

'The Chemistry of Tears' By Peter Carey


More in Encounters

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Rupert Murdoch & Kamahl

Mark Oliphant & J Robert Oppenheimer

John Monash & King George V

John Howard & Uri Geller


Read on

Image of Moreno Giovannoni’s ‘The Fireflies of Autumn’

‘The Fireflies of Autumn’: a bittersweet take on the Tuscan idyll

Moreno Giovannoni’s debut collection examines dislocation in a way rarely seen

Image of Pauline Hanson, Mark Latham and David Leyonhjelm

The Three Stooges

Hanson, Latham and Leyonhjelm are reminiscent of an irritating comedy act

Image from ‘Counterpart’

Duals duel in ‘Counterpart’

J.K. Simmons goes through the looking glass in this science-fiction espionage series

Image of senator David Leyonhjelm

David Leyonhjelm: libertarian, or just vicious?

The movement for freedom and equality has a dubious record on gender


×
×