Motorcycles on screen

 

In association with the Gallery’s major summer exhibition ‘The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire’, the Australian Cinémathèque at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) presents the free programMotorcycles on Screen’, which explores the rich history of the vehicle in cinema, from the silent era to today.

‘The Motorcycle’ exhibition was in Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) from 28 November 2020 until 26 April 2021.

Film: Easy Rider

Production still from Easy Rider 1969 / Director: Dennis Hopper / Image courtesy: Park Circus

Harley-Davidson Knucklehead Chopper c.1973 (engine: 1941)

The chopper is a type of customised motorcycle that emerged in California in the late 1950s. It is perhaps the most extreme of all custom motorcycle styles, often using radically modified steering angles and lengthened forks for a stretched-out appearance. They can be built from an original motorcycle which is modified (‘chopped’), or from scratch. These custom bikes had exuberant paintwork, indulgent chrome, wildly extended front forks and high, ‘ape-hanger’ handlebars, famously featured in Dennis Hopper’s 1969 film Easy Rider.

Harley-Davidson Knucklehead Chopper c.1973 (engine: 1941) / Private Collection / Photograph: Andrea Beavis

Motorcycles on Screen

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, filmmakers have been drawn to the uniquely cinematic appeal of the motorcycle. The breakneck speed, the unmistakable designs, the ravenously revving engines: motorcycles provide myriad aesthetic possibilities for the screen. Beyond the sound and fury of the bikes themselves, the exoticism of biker gangs and the utilitarian usefulness of motorcycles as common transport offer bases for tales of great danger alongside incisive portraits of life on the ground.

Blending the seminal Hollywood classics that helped define motorcycles in the popular Western imagination with lesser known but equally captivating entries in the film canon, ‘Motorcycles on Screen’ dives into portrayals of the early years of motorcycling, and examines what possibilities may lie ahead of us in the future. It looks at how motorcycles and motorcycle culture have been used in cinema to depict ideas of freedom, danger and fraternity around the world, and how the motorcycle has been used as a potent symbol in experimental filmmaking.

The Motorcycle Diaries 2004

Production still from The Motorcycle Diaries 2004 / Director: Walter Salles / Image courtesy: Madman Entertainment

While representations of motorcycles permeate almost every film genre, the power and relative unpredictability of early bikes meant their primary role was to facilitate stunts and comedy. Each of the big three screen clowns — Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd — took advantage of the machine’s potential for slapstick pratfalls with destructive chase sequences in films such as Mabel at the Wheel 1914 and Get Out and Get Under 1920. Its capacity for adventure steered some of the first travel films (such as A Motorcycle Trip among the Clouds 1926), in which intrepid explorers would traverse remote parts of the world, whose cinematic language continues to be felt in road movies like The Motorcycle Diaries 2004.

RELATED: Read about the bikes in ‘THE MOTORCYCLE’ exhibition

Roman Holiday 1953

Production still from Roman Holiday 1953 / Director: Wiliam Wyler / Image courtesy: Paramount Pictures Australia

The Wild One 1953

Production still from The Wild One 1953 / Director: László Benedek / Image courtesy: Park Circus

Despite some notable exceptions — the resplendent official vehicle of Groucho Marx’s Rufus T Firefly in Duck Soup 1933, for one — the sound era initially led to a quiet period for motorcycles on screen, as new technical limitations and audience tastes pivoted towards different kinds of drama. However, this would change in 1953 with two of the most indelible images in cinema history: Audrey Hepburn on a Vespa, joyously careening through the bustling streets in Roman Holiday; and Marlon Brando decked out in leather, the epitome of mid-century American cool, leaning back against his Triumph Thunderbird in The Wild One. These competing visions of freedom from the two burgeoning superstars would play a key role in defining the motorcycle as an instrument of rebellion in popular culture for decades to come.

That sense of rebellion would be potently harnessed in perhaps the most iconic screen portrait of motorcycle culture: Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider 1969. It is a film that understands and interlinks the thematic threads of freedom, danger and fraternity. Easy Rider acknowledges that these are not discrete ideas, but instead that they are often inescapably linked. As a story about outsiders on the open road, under threat and unable to assimilate into mainstream society, it also offers a counterculture parallel to the biker film genre.

Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss 1970

A black-and-white production still from Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss 1970 / Director: Yasuharu Hasebe / Image courtesy: Nikkatsu

The Loveless 1981

Production still from The Loveless 1981 / Director: Kathryn Bigelow, Monty Montgomery / Image courtesy: Atlantic

Rumble Fish 1983

Production still from Rumble Fish 1983 / Director: Francis Ford Coppola / Image courtesy: Park Circus

The rise of biker gangs in postwar America — driven in part by the yearning of returned servicemen, freshly trained in motorcycleriding, for camaraderie — provoked a surge of films showing (largely fictionalised) accounts of life and death within their cloistered worlds. This fascination would spread internationally with films such as the Japanese Stray Cat Rock series, which follows an all-female gang of bikers battling it out in Shinjuku, and the Australian cult classic, Stone 1974. Filmmakers were fascinated by biker gangs not only for the dramatic possibilities in fatal rivalries and criminal enterprises, but also because of the bonds shared between members of the groups. Films such as The Loveless 1981 and Rumble Fish 1983 explore these intimate ties and how personal and group identity can blur together within communities.

Akira 1988

Production still from Akira 1988 / Director: Katsuhiro Otomo / Image courtesy: Madman Films

Finke: There and Back 2018

Production still from Finke: There and Back 2018 / Director: Dylan River / Image courtesy: Garage Entertainment

The Wild Goose Lake 2019

Production still from The Wild Goose Lake 2019 / Director: Diao Yinan / Image courtesy: Umbrella Entertainment

Motorcycles on Screen’ also looks ahead for motorcycles, presenting speculative visions of the designs and roles of bikes in future societies. From the custom vehicles mounted in the Mad Max films to the light cycles of Tron 1982, through to the striking red bike Kaneda rides through Neo Tokyo in Akira 1988, the practicality and dynamism of motorcycles means they regularly play a central part in shaping filmmakers’ representations of futuristic worlds.

It is important to note, too, that the history of motorcycles in cinema is still being written: new entries to the canon continue to emerge in exciting and unexpected ways. Films such as Dylan River’s riveting documentary Finke: There and Back 2018, which surveys the famed dirt bike race in the Australian outback, and Diao Yinan’s Chinese crime saga The Wild Goose Lake 2019, showcase the ongoing breadth and richness of these machines on screen.

Rob Hughes is Assistant Curator, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA

Dip into our Cinema blogs / View the Cinémathèque’s ongoing program / Subscribe to QAGOMA YouTube to go behind-the-scenes

QAGOMA is the only Australian art gallery with purpose-built facilities dedicated to film and the moving image. The Australian Cinémathèque at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) provides an ongoing program of film and video that you’re unlikely to see elsewhere, offering a rich and diverse experience of the moving image, showcasing the work of influential filmmakers and international cinema, rare 35mm prints, recent restorations and silent films with live musical accompaniment on the Gallery’s Wurlitzer organ originally installed in Brisbane’s Regent Theatre in November 1929.

Featured image:  Production still from The Wild One1953 / Director: László Benedek

#MotorcycleGOMA #QAGOMA

5 films with a deadly surprise in the house

 

Do you feel safe at home contented isolating in your cocoon, or are you like so many, working remotely in what you mistakenly perceive is the comfort of your own home? Don’t take solace in either of these scenarios! Every mysterious creak or thud or distant shuffle could be something (or someone) hidden close by.

Here are five films I recommend to help keep your senses sharp and your mood pleasantly paranoid: from snakes in the walls (Venom 1981), landlords in the vents (Crawlspace 1986), monsters in the cellar (The House by the Cemetery 1981), hideouts in the bunker (Parasite 2019) and freaks in the castle dungeon (Castle Freak 1995) — these five films cover all of the common types of threats to watch out for in your abode.

Let us know your own favourite cinematic basement dwellers as we nervously await Friday the 13th.

RELATED: More 5 film suggestions to watch

Rob Hughes, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA

#1 Venom

Venom 1981 / Director: Piers Haggard

#2 The House by the Cemetery

The House by the Cemetery 1981 / Director: Lucio Fulci

#3 Crawlspace

Crawlspace 1986 / Director: David Schmoeller

#4 Castle Freak

Castle Freak 1995 / Director: Stuart Gordon

#5 Parasite

Parasite 2019 / Director: Bong Joon-ho

Dip into our Cinema blogs / View the Cinémathèque’s ongoing program

QAGOMA is the only Australian art gallery with purpose-built facilities dedicated to film and the moving image. The Australian Cinémathèque at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) provides an ongoing program of film and video that you’re unlikely to see elsewhere, offering a rich and diverse experience of the moving image, showcasing the work of influential filmmakers and international cinema, rare 35mm prints, recent restorations and silent films with live musical accompaniment on the Gallery’s Wurlitzer organ originally installed in Brisbane’s Regent Theatre in November 1929.

Featured image: Parasite 2019 / Director: Bong Joon-ho

#QAGOMA

Cult Superstars and Maverick Misfits: 5 Cinematic Sensations

 

Despite the many unexpected surprises that 2020 has thrown the world’s way, it has remained a fascinating and dynamic year for cinema. From emerging voices to new films from the old guard, there has been a bevy of exciting releases from all corners of the world.

Five of my personal favourites are the stunning new restoration of Soviet war classic Come and See 1985; the singular, staccato vision of Camilo Restrepo’s Los Conductos 2020; the joyously bizarre (or perhaps bizarrely joyous) Red Post on Escher Street 2020 from Japanese cult superstar Sion Sono; the engrossing and illuminating portrait of the artist-filmmaker Schlingensief – A Voice That Shook the Silence 2020; and The Woman Who Ran 2020, the latest entrancing mellow drama from Hong Sang-soo.

Robert Hughes, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA

RELATED: 5 film suggestions to watch

1. Come and See

Come and See 1985 / Director: Elem Klimov

2. Los Conductos

Los Conductos 2020 / Director: Camilo Restrepo

3. Red Post on Escher Street

Production still from Red Post on Escher Street 2020 / Director: Sion Sono / Image courtesy: AMG Entertainment

4. Schlingensief – A Voice That Shook the Silence

Production still from Schlingensief – A Voice That Shook the Silence 2020 / Director: Bettina Böhler / Image courtesy: Filmgalerie 451

5. The Woman Who Ran

The Woman Who Ran 2020 / Director: Hong Sang-soo

Watch and Read about BIFF 2019 / More on BIFF 2020 / View the Cinémathèque’s ongoing program / Subscribe to QAGOMA YouTube to go behind-the-scenes

QAGOMA is the only Australian art gallery with purpose-built facilities dedicated to film and the moving image. The Australian Cinémathèque at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) provides an ongoing program of film and video art that you’re unlikely to see elsewhere, offering a rich and diverse experience of the moving image, showcasing the work of influential filmmakers and international cinema, rare 35mm prints, recent restorations and silent films with live musical accompaniment on the Gallery’s Wurlitzer organ originally installed in Brisbane’s Regent Theatre in November 1929.

Featured image: Production still from Sweet River 2020 / Director: Justin McMillan/ Image courtesy: Film Ink Presents

#QAGOMA

5 films featuring art galleries and museums

 

If its been a while since you’ve experienced the joy of spending a day inside a beautiful art gallery or museum, here are five films to get you excited about your next visit.

Perhaps you are looking forward to a leisurely guided tour (Russian Ark 2002) or maybe you just want to take it all in as quickly as you can (Bande à part/Band of outsiders 1964)? You might be hoping to find a new obsession (Vertigo 1958) or stumble upon a beguiling mystery (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage 1970). No matter your plan, it is time to put on your best mechanical trousers (The Wrong Trousers 1993) and get ready to visit the Queensland Art Gallery and gallery of Modern Art.

Robert Hughes, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA

RELATED: More 5 film suggestions to watch

Vertigo

Filmed in Gallery 6, at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Vertigo (1958) / Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Bande à part

Filmed in the Louvre Museum

Bande à part (1964) / Director: Jean-Luc Godard

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) / Director: Dario Argento

The Wrong Trousers

The Wrong Trousers (1993) / Director: Nick Park

Russian Ark

Filmed in the Winter Palace of the Hermitage Museum

Russian Ark (2002) / Director: Alexander Sokurov

Dip into our Cinema blogs / View the ongoing Australian Cinémathèque program

QAGOMA’s Australian Cinémathèque presents curated programs, genre showcases and director retrospectives covering the world of film from crowd-pleasing fan favourites and cult classics to hard-to-find international cinema, rare 35mm prints and silent films with live musical accompaniment on the Gallery’s Wurlitzer organ originally installed in Brisbane’s Regent Theatre in November 1929.

Feature image: Vertigo (1958) / Director: Alfred Hitchcock

#QAGOMA

5 films that spy on the neighbours… curious?

 

It’s easy to get bored when you’re stuck inside day after day. Have you considered getting invested in someone else’s life instead?  Like, *really* invested?

Here are five films that explore the highs and lows of spying on your neighbours (Rear Window 1954) and its more lurid quasi-remake (Body Double 1984) or frankly anyone else you can find (The Conversation 1974, Red Road 2006), along with one film that lets you know how it feels to have a watchful eye turned back on you (Hidden 2005).

Do you have any favourite films featuring a twitching curtain or the odd binocular or zoom lens?

Rob Hughes, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA

RELATED: More 5 film suggestions to watch

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Rear Window

Rear Window (1954) / Director: Alfred Hitchcock

The Conversation

The Conversation (1974) / Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Body Double

Body Double (1984) / Director: Brian De Palma

Hidden/Caché

Hidden/Caché (2005) / Director: Michael Haneke

Red Road

Red Road (2006) / Director: Andrea Arnold

Explore #homewithQAGOMA / Hear artists tell their stories / Read about your Collection / Subscribe to YouTube to go behind-the-scenes / Know Brisbane through its Collection

QAGOMA is the only Australian art gallery with purpose-built facilities dedicated to film and the moving image. The Australian Cinémathèque at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) provides an ongoing program of film and video that you’re unlikely to see elsewhere, offering a rich and diverse experience of the moving image, showcasing the work of influential filmmakers and international cinema, rare 35mm prints, recent restorations and silent films with live musical accompaniment on the Gallery’s Wurlitzer organ originally installed in Brisbane’s Regent Theatre in November 1929.

Feature image: Rear Window (1954) / Director: Alfred Hitchcock

#RearWindows #TheConversation #BodyDouble #HiddenCache #Red Road #homewithQAGOMA #QAGOMA

Cinema: Two minutes to nuclear destruction

 

We’re closer to nuclear destruction than ever. ‘Two Minutes to Midnight: Nuclear Cinema’ is a free cinema program that brings together a collection of nuclear-themed films to explore how filmmakers have responded to one of the greatest scientific and moral quandaries of the last century.

The program offers a collection of films that act as timely and timeless reminders of the enormous power that comes from humanity’s harnessing of nuclear energy. It opens Friday 2 March 2018 with a double feature of Barefoot Gen 1983 (6.00pm) and Shin Godzilla 2016 (7.45pm), then at 2.00pm on Saturday join author and academic Mick Broderick for an illustrated talk on the history and development of nuclear cinema followed with a screening of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb 1964 (3.30pm). The film program closes on Sunday 18 March with When the Wind Blows 1986 and The Land of Hope 2012. Visit ‘Two Minutes to Midnight: Nuclear Cinema’ for all screenings.

Interesting facts: Dr Strangelove

Production still from Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb 1964 / Director: Stanley Kubrick / Image courtesy: Park Circus

Barefoot Gen

Production still from Barefoot Gen 1983 / Director: Mori Masaki / Image courtesy: Madhouse

Shin Godzilla

Production still from Shin Godzilla 2016 / Directors: Hideaki Anno, Shinji Higuchi / Image courtesy: Madman Entertainment

Nuclear Cinema

Shortly after the unprecedented atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the Second World War, filmmakers began to play out nuclear scenarios in their works – crafting tales of survival in destroyed worlds and using the new Atomic Age to inform the language of science fiction. In America, the heightening of the Cold War gave rise to a greater number of paranoid thrillers that played out scenarios of deadly human error, cover-ups, and bumbling bureaucracy. Grim depictions of ‘what if’ scenarios emerged with increasing verisimilitude, acting as defiant rebukes to warmongering states and complicit publics by showcasing the destructive capabilities of nuclear weaponry.

The end of the Cold War appeared to lend some reprieve to such concerns, with a sharp drop off in major nuclear themed films in the 1990s, however the continuing build-up of global stockpiles, along with a slowly growing list of nuclear armed states and major catastrophes such as the 2011 Fukushima disaster, have brought the issue back to the fore.

And now, as of February 2018, the symbolic Doomsday Clock which represents the end of human civilisation has been returned to two minutes to midnight – the closest it has been to midnight since 1953. When the clock was created in 1947, it was set seven minutes to midnight.

Read more on the website: Doomsday Clock 2018: World ‘closer to self-destruction than ever’

The films in this program encompasses multiple genres and styles – from heart-wrenching anime (Barefoot Gen 1983), to uncompromising portraits of desolated cities (Threads  1984), to the strange and libidinous sci-fi of Ralph Bakshi (Wizards 1977). Both The Atomic Café 1982 and The Bomb 2016 utilise only pre-existing footage – newsreels, propaganda shorts, test footage, instructional videos – to offer incisive commentary through their mesmerising collage forms.

More locally, the Australian film Ground Zero 1987 dives into the long-hidden history of the British nuclear testing that took place in South Australia’s Maralinga, while the location shooting of On the Beach 1959 offers a glimpse of Melbourne in the late 1950s.

Several of these films will be screening from stunning new digital restorations, including Hiroshima Mon Amour 1959, Dr. Strangelove 1964, and Threads 1984. There will also be rare 35mm screenings of a number of other key titles, including imported prints of Akira Kurosawa’s I Live in Fear 1955, the classic Soviet dystopia Letters from a Dead Man 1986, and Shohei Imamura’s sobering Black Rain 1989.

talk: We’ll Meet Again – Dr. Strangelove and the Nuclear Film Genre

Production still from Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb 1964 / Director: Stanley Kubrick / Image courtesy: Park Circus

Robert Hughes is Curatorial Assistant, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA
Feature image detail: Production still from Shin Godzilla 2016