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Hello darling listeners. It is summer, well officially not it seems weather wise, and you know what that means?! GAYNESS. Big gay vibes with our annual festivals Midsumma and Mardi Gras heating things up and stripping thing off. So, of course, we deep dive on some delicious shows from our family – The Gospel According to Jesus Queen of Heaven and the impenetrable Rorschach that is Tár. This is the double feature you have always wanted. We also talk our most loved and loathed coporate yassification, Sydney Festival and much more. Please tell your friends! No one listens to our show. Sending love.

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  • Produced and recorded by Carla Donnelly and Philip Thiel
  • Theme composition Mark Barrage
  • Sound editing by Shackwest
  • Cover image of Kristen Smyth as Jesus, Queen of Heaven by Daniel Rabin

Carla: Hello and welcome to Across the Aisle your somewhat erratically published cultural dispatch from the Kulin Nation. It is summer. Well, officially, not weather wise, it seems, though it is hot today, thank God. And you know what that means. Gayness, big gay vibes with our annual festivals, Midsumma and Mardi Gras, heating things up and stripping things off. However, this year there is a triple dose of gayness via Sydney World Pride, bringing in all the yassification you can get down your gullet. We might sidebar this to intermission Phil, but please ponder your favourite or most hated gay branding portmanteau of the season. And so guess we could talk on this for eons and what it means to be part of the alphabet these days. As I don’t know about you Phil my gracious co-host, but I never see myself represented in any of these events. But perhaps behind the sheen of social media and glistening boys in their harnesses. There is a place for us art. Art has the answers. The irony.

Philip: Oh the diversity.

Carla: Art has the answers, and perhaps many more questions. Hi Phil, how are you going?

Philip: Hi. Happy Gay Season Southern Hemisphere Edition.

Carla: Jingle Balls.

Carla: In this episode, we will be discussing Jo Clifford’s extraordinary play of Trans joy, the Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven and Todd Fields, meditation on patriarchal lateral violence in Tar. To prescriptive already? Sorry I’ve just spent the summer being told what I am and what I am not. Phil I am spicy it seems bringing the non-existent heat to this summer. How are you faring?

Philip: I am faring very well. Just back from Sydney where I go just before Mardi Gras because I’m a cultured queen.

Carla: Ha-ha.

Philip: It’s Sydney Festival of the Arts for me love. No I’m feeling good. 2023 has a nice energy to it. I feel that things are on the up side. Arts are getting some money, people are out and about. Good vibes only good vibes only.

Carla: That’s what we like. And I think you and I are on the same page of teetering on the edges enjoying what we can, which is, you know, like what we’re going to cover now. But then also being very gay and giving it a whole bunch of shit as well. So why don’t we move on to we are going to lightly ascend the steps to heaven. Phil Let’s talk about the Gospel According to Queen Jesus. Jesus, Queen of Heaven.

Philip: Well, indeed. But we need to get down the stairs at fortyfivedownstairs first.

Carla: Oh! Oh, my God. How? Yes. Metaphorical.

Philip: The symbolic paradoxes start there and continue as according to the blurb, we join Queen Jesus for a revolutionary queer ritual in which bread is shared, wine is drunk and familiar stories are reimagined by a transgender Jesus. This is the winner of the 2021 Green Room Award for Best Independent Theatre Production, premiered at Theatreworks and is written by Jo Clifford. Describes itself as a transcendent take on what it means to be human, imagining Christianity’s message of love extending to embrace all those traditionally excluded because of their sexuality or gender. So, my algorithm obviously exploded as soon as this Midsumma offering was made. Christianity, queerness, theatre, almost literally my top three. Uh, so this is.

Carla: Singing, music, choir.

Philip: That’s true. Angelic Voices, another edition with the wonderful compositions of Rachel London, the writer Jo Clifford, the director, Kitan Petkovski. But most importantly, I think here the performer Kristin Smyth, who embodies Jesus themself. So what can I say about this? Maybe I’ll start with a little bit of context. We saw this on a Sunday, and that morning I had been at my church singing Arvo Part’s Beatitudes, among other things, at my beautifully affirming high church Anglican domain. And so when this play opens with a sermon and reference to the fact that we don’t really gather in churches anymore, it was in a way wonderful to hear, but also happily for me, no longer true. Um, further context. I met my first boyfriend at a queer spirituality conference in the year 2001. So, I’ve been in this discourse and enjoyed this sense of the possibility of the Christian message to be actually grounded in the love expressed by Jesus in the Gospels. All of that said, I do have to acknowledge as well that just this weekend, my beloved friends and family from the Lutheran Church in Australia, my sort of church of origin, are grieving because the church has decided again to refuse the ordination of women as pastors in the church. So a frank reminder that this kind of message from someone like Joe Clifford sadly remains radical.

Philip: And yet for me, the content of the play, the setting in this beautifully curated environment, the storytelling about us and we, the concept of the miracle of human birth being something that is of course experienced by the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus, but also every parent who gives birth to every child. This way of thinking about story and the power of this message is really native to me and quite ingrained now in my worldview. But it’s not only about me, and it was so wonderful to be at that place with my queer siblings at a theatrical context, Finally being able to hear these stories as what they really are stories of liberation, stories of equality and stories of love. And at the end of the play, when this was the final night’s performance, the performer and the playwright and everyone on stage was just in heartfelt tears. The audience was on its feet in all of its diversity. I was just thrilled about the existence of this text, and it was wonderful to witness what it meant for people like us to be given some attention, some spiritual attention, care, affirmation and religion. And I’m fascinated to hear Carla how you found it all.

Carla: Oh, well, you know, as you know, I didn’t grow up religious. I grew up actually with an incredibly hostile parent towards religion. So I kind of had to unlearn quite a bit in that space and just kind of give, you know, like it is global – religion is global. It is something that so many, it has you know, it has occurred at, you know, around the world without contact with other communities along with music and medicine and things like that. It has just co-occurred naturally. I just believe that it is naturally a part of our being and our spirit. But you know, it’s so hostile to women and queer people that I can’t help but feel like danger, danger, danger, you know? So I kind of express it like, you know, being political, like I’m very left wing and there isn’t really a political party that totally represents my views. And I but, you know, I would say that I’m part of the Greens and I would say that that’s the same for a lot of religious people, like the Catholic Church doesn’t represent who they are, but it is how they practice or that kind of stuff. So I’ve been able to kind of in a matrix way, compartmentalize all this stuff and understand that and deeply respect that it’s a part of people’s lives, but it’s just not really a part of mine.

Carla: And this is going to be a very funny I don’t mean this to be a glib tangent, but over the last couple of years at Christmas time, I’ve been watching lots of queer Christmas stories and, you know, like these are like the typical sort of Lifetime movie romance movies. And this year I watched like 12 of them. And by the end of it I was like, Wow, I think I like Christmas now. You know, like I’d spent my whole life I’d spent my whole life feeling alienated and separated by this sort of nuclear family version of Christmas that was like, Wow, the power of representation is so immense. And that’s how I felt watching this. Like it was. It was heavenly, it was divine, like the choir who were so incredible. I actually thought it was recorded and they were lip synching. They were just so in tune and in time and in perfect sync with each other and their voices just so unbelievably transcendent. So setting that scene like that and, you know, like, I’ve got hairs standing on my arms thinking about it, but really, like, what it came down to for me was the sermon from Jesus or Kristin Smyth.

Carla: And I was like, Wow, if this is what people get out of church, if this is like what cis, white, heterosexual people get out of church, then. Really understand now why they go, you know, and why it is such a community building thing for them. So but that creates a wound because I’m like, Oh, we have been so marginalized. We have had so much robbed from us. Like even this most desired and cherished function that we all have as human beings has been, you know, taken away from us. But I’ll just say one more thing before we sort of bring it back into discussion is Jesus says, “In the beginning, I never said anything about basically homosexuals or Trans people, but I did say beware of the self-righteous”, which I thought was made me like completely sit up, bolt upright. And then I began to think about, you know, Jesus’s birth and how, you know, it was divine and that there was no like, you know, presumably they did have sex as a couple, but that it was a divine birth. And I’m like, How fucking queer is that?

Carla: How, how like agender. Or like asexual or whatever. Is that.

Philip: Feminist? Yeah.

Carla: So it really blew my mind. Um, but yeah, keen to hear your reflections on that and what you think.

Philip: Oh yeah, 100% to all that I’m hearing from you. And what comes to mind for me is the idea that the church is essentially gaslighting its people and us who have tangential or different relationships to it. The stories themselves that are told in this play are the stories of the gospel, period. At the end, there doesn’t need to be some kind of revolutionary queering of the gospel. And that’s what I so love about Jo Clifford’s work here. What she has done is told the story of the Good Samaritan and essentially told it straight. I mean, the Samaritan figure is in this retelling a drunk queen in Saint Kilda stumbling home on her heels. But the Samaritan figure for the original storyteller, Jesus of the Gospels is an outsider. That’s the whole purpose of that story. Likewise, the story of the prodigal son from the gospel. Here, the son is Trans and the rejection and the restoration becomes a parable of gender identity finally being accepted by a loving parent. That’s what the story is. And the self-righteous Pharisees of the gospel are, of course, rejected by Jesus and his disciples. So that’s why I loved hearing these stories, because I know them. I actually hold them to be true at a profound level in relation to what humanity needs to hear about itself. But for somebody like this performer to simply shift the pronouns so they include everyone to actually think about what it means for us queer people to be part of humanity as a category and therefore to be loved and redeemed by this figure of Jesus is revolutionary and beautiful, and it was just so lovely to spend that time being held within that set of beautiful sounds and stories. So I’m not surprised at all that this play is moving people from so many backgrounds. I also love that I was doing some reading about it. There were earnest kind of fundamentalist protests at some of its early performances. It’s like, come inside people, you know, just sit down, allow beauty to affect you, be touched by the stories that you profess to be true.

Carla: And I don’t know about your church, Phil, but like, what I sort of intuit from this and from a lot of these movements that look to include, you know, women in senior roles and queer people and trans people is they do the same thing that these fundamentalists do, which is interpret the Bible and interpret these religious texts in the way that they want to interpret them. And so why is one way wrong or why is one way right? You know, they’re there for interpretation rather than, you know, this kind of very literal retelling. Yeah. So that was the thing that really stood out for me as well. And it was beautiful. Like these messages were just beautiful. Like it. Really, yeah, it really struck me. It was. And it was the only thing I went to for Midsumma. And it was just absolutely extraordinary.

Philip: Just speechless and nice to just. Yeah. Sit in a square, have Jesus come and have a chat with us, have the angelic choristers listening so attentively, almost as a model for how we might engage with the space. The level of safety and beauty was just so high. It was a gorgeous experience. Yeah.

Carla: And I think like as I was talking. Before. It really serves to highlight the negative space there, which is the vacuum of violence that comes from not having that, even just from not having that available to us as people. But then for them to also be on the attack and deny our existence or deny our spirituality, our spiritual beings, you know, and.

Philip: There’s such anger there that is so heartfelt and authentic. And yet the gentleness of this production, you know, like the performance by Jesus is fierce but joyful and settled and had a beautiful calmness that was actually so countercultural within this space of debate.

Carla: Right. Well, I just kind of got Jesus vibes because Jesus just sort of seemed like a right on dude, just walking around, telling the truth, getting people pointing out people’s hypocrisies, being really gentle, being an absolute queen, you know..

Philip: Bare footed queen in a dress.

Carla: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, just. Thank you so much for taking. I mean, we’ve been doing a lot of we’ve had a lot of religious content lately, which has been amazing. So thank you for taking me.

Philip: I’m into it.

Carla: I think it’s time to go up the stairs.

Philip: Haaaaahhh intermission.

Carla: Okay. Hey, Phil. Hey. Hey. Why don’t you tell me about your annual? Well. The thing I want to know the most first. Is I know you went to that sound installation hotel room for Sydney festival?

Philip: Oh, my God.

Carla: Tell me everything. Tell me what it’s called.

Philip: Yes. The Lucid, A Dream Portal to Awakening was an eight hour long sound work by Kelsey Lu from the USA. Okay. Performed in a hotel owned by a kind of club of traveling salespeople that is shaped like a mushroom in the centre of Sydney.

Carla: Oh yeah. It’s one of those brutalist old brutalist buildings. And so Sydney.

Philip: Festival had taken it over partly for this piece where you go into a little bedroom that looks like you’re in a caravan park somewhere, but there are strange fluoro lights and flashings and a giant three dimensional speaker with fur all over it. And that’s the environment in which you spend the night waking up occasionally to the sound of deep throbbing drums and spacey sound effects. I did feel refreshed by the experience.

Carla: Did you have crazy dreams?

Philip: I dreamt a little bit about Princess Diana. Okay. And that’s all. So it wasn’t so much a dreaming experience for me, but more. Yes, festivals, doing things that are unrepeatable, strange, and good for telling stories about Sydney Festival for me retains quite a bit of that energy for all of its staid snobbiness and sort of Avant garde classical music preference, which I’m also deeply into. I always come back feeling full of questions, full of aliveness. So yeah, recommend a solo holiday as well. Like just leave the need for a post-show debrief behind, leave it for the podcast, just travel by yourself and then talk to somebody on mic a month later.

Carla: Yeah, I yeah, that’s solo. Traveling is such a good recommend but like solo festival going? I don’t know?

Philip: I’m so I’m so into my personally curated trip but pivot I saw BWYaas.

Carla: Oh my God. For those who are not in Australia or in the queer-a-verse during Mardi Gras particularly, I mean everyone’s aware of pink washing around pride, whether it’s in June or Mardi Gras or whatever here, but it’s kind of gone to the Nth Degree up in Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, which is kind of like, you know, the gay mecca of Australia where all the shops rebrand with rainbow signs and fake fur and, and spangles and stuff. So that’s b, b.

Carla: B wine and spirits is b b b no, B.

Philip: Of A’s. Just a lot of yaasification.

Carla: Literally my I think like I hate it all, like deeply detest it but I loved the GAYTM. Did you see this? The ANZ that the ANZ and they like fully retrofitted all the outside of this ATM. That was funny.

Philip: Am I allowed to say that? I just love all of these. Like imagine being a homophobe and just wanting cash.

Carla: Like, yeah, but why would you be getting cash out on Oxford Street if you’re a homophobe?

Philip: Well, but then what? If you want booze really badly and you have to walk along a literal rainbow coloured catwalk inside the BWYass in order to get it.

Carla: And then there’s GLAMBRERO for the for the burritos place. But one that they would have to go to is GLAMPOL, which is ampol petrol stations.

Philip: You can’t even destroy the planet without it being homosexual ized.

Carla: Well, I say pumping gas is pretty gay and hopefully that’s what they think.

Philip: Now I say it. I mean, the only reason I love it all is because I know that there are people hating it really hard and really earnestly. I also like the residual uncoolness of gay culture. Like coolness has always been really straight to me. Those two categories of like bully and cool person have always been the same. So I just love any flamboyant, absurdist, dumb, draggy humour. For that reason, you asked me to think of my favourite and least favourite in addition to BWYAS, I actually think Golden Gaytime is the original gay troll, you know? Sure. Because yeah, whether or not it’s unicorn flavoured, which it now does have just by existing and being in every freezer in every regional town of every milk bar in Australia, it doesn’t need a rainbow edition. And that’s, that’s actually gay coolness right there. I’ve come full circle.

Carla: I love that, because even when you were a kid, like when you would have a golden gaytime or like when everyone’s like “What’s your favourite?” And they’re like, “Oh, it’s a gay time”. Everyone be like hee hee hee. Or like a big over exaggerated, like, wink, you know? Exactly.

Philip: Exactly. Um, have you seen anything recently that you want to drop in?

Carla: Uh, no. I just had a relaxing summer by the beach. I had four weeks off. Um. No, just. I’ve been sort of watching a lot of the Oscars movies. Um, obviously we’re going to talk about Tar now. I did the Banshees of Inisherin, which I did not like. Um, did you see it?

Philip: No, but I don’t plan to.

Carla: Uh, I’d be curious to hear what you think. Okay. I just thought it was. I don’t know, like, I thought it was very nihilistic. Which I think is the point, but. I’m just like why? I’m not into nihilistic movies. I’m like, it’s all fucked enough as it is.

Philip: Like, it seems deeply hetero.

Carla: Yeah, it is deeply hetero and that was like my tweet review. Was like, this is such a great premise for a film, which is, um, you know, everyone’s had a good friendship that’s ghosted them or a lot of people or someone who’s just like dropped off and really disconnected and you don’t know why. It’s like a mortal wound that we’ve all had to deal with, you know? And I think that’s such a great premise for a film. But it just went so violent and yucky. And I think, like the moral of the story is supposed. To be like, you know that we’re all sort of full of rage or unrealized potential or boredom or something. And I’m like, this is just I think this is just a dude thing because the one woman character in the movie left immediately. She just, like, she just, like, fucked off and went to the mainland. And was like, Yes, this is exactly what you do, you know?

Philip: Cherchez la femme.

Carla: Yeah. So just not really. Just keeping it quiet, but am starting to book shows now. Um, moving forward. I’ve got Mona Foma coming up, which I’m excited about at the end of Feb. So yeah. Uh,

Philip: On that note,

Carla: It’s time to go into the movies.

Carla: All right the droll snippet on IMDB describes Tar as “set in the international world of Western classical music. The film centres on Lydia Tar, widely considered one of the greatest living composer conductors and the very first female director of a major German orchestra”. Of course, this is true, boiled down to its merest facts, but it’s also missing a crucial one. It feels absurd that the description doesn’t mention anything to do with MeToo or scandal. Is the film itself covering its own behind? This kind of strange duck and weave? Is really representative of Tar itself, one that is open to interpretation, but also, I believe, an incredibly dry and insightful explainer on stolen power versus true power and how taste and skill, though seemingly God given, only has so much currency. So a brief overview of the film. Obviously there’s going to be spoilers.

Carla: We meet Tar. Well, actually, no, we understand what territory we’re in straight away with the beginning of the film as an overture with Lydia Tars field recordings from I can’t remember, it’s Peru or somewhere in South America of the native people of that country. And so this is how the movie begins with a long, I don’t know, three minute overture, black screen credits bleeding into it’s going to be a, you know, a New Yorker talk with Tar about her life achievements. So, we already know Phil, we are not in Kansas anymore in terms of filmmaking. Then we meet Lydia Tar, who is an EGOT. She is a U-haul lesbian. She is the father of Petra, her child, and obviously Cate Blanchett. Incredibly. Um, what’s the word? Accomplished woman. And then it all sort of starts to unravel. But what this to me is like the most clear-eyed explainer of power I think I’ve ever seen.

Carla: Tar whose real name is Linda comes from a very poor background, it seems. And so she’s a self-made woman and she has obviously very, uh, cunningly used the semiotics of wealth to elevate herself up the ladder to where she is now, become, um, you know, an EGOT and greatest living conductor. But I’ve got a few questions for you, Phil. I mean, obviously the film is stunning. It is dripping in wealth. The cinematography is like cashmere. Like I felt like if you touch the screen, it would feel like mist or soft, soft, buttery cashmere. I feel like it is set out like an opera. And then also, I don’t really know what this has to say. Like my romantic self believes that Tar is only in love with music and she just did everything in order, all of those things, in order to attain her stature and maintain her stature so that she could be the musician and be close to the music and perform the music that she’s always wanted to do in her heart. And part of that, all of that comes with the reproduction of power semiotics, which is like, you know, the bullied becomes the bully. She has, you know, sexual affairs with her students. Um, she has a wife that she constantly mistreats and cheats on. And do, do, do, do do. But I think she’s done it for the music. That’s my romantic heart. She’s not just a sociopath. Over to you, Phil, what do you think? Where do you want to begin?

Philip: Well, the problem in classical music is if you want to do it for the music, you need 120 other people to follow your baton at exactly the moment you melodramatically drop it down to the floor. And so for me, in addition to everything you’ve said, this is a real description of how narrow professional life can be for artists, especially within classical music, where everything is institutionalized, the education of classical musicians, the auditioning for orchestras, all of which are fantastically satirized in this film and I mean just as a piece of trivia these musicians in the orchestra really are a major symphony orchestra, like they’re playing live and they’re sounding good, and it just really gives a fascinating, lurid view of behind the scenes of a major European orchestra. But that’s why I absolutely understand what you mean about this woman’s desire to make beautiful sound, almost necessarily being enmeshed with a kind of psychopathy.

Carla: That’s right.

Philip: She slams the door shut behind her, denying sort of other women from being brought into the same category as herself. And as you say, the film is so interested in power and how it plays out. The cliché that power corrupts is here really slowly studied the figure of the maestro as a kind of authoritative figure is the core of the problem here. It is a patriarchal kind of position from which to be dominating and continues really in the classical world to this day, to be like a stupidly male dominated profession and revered in a way that’s so problematic. There are many conductors around the world who do turn out to be horrible, corrupt, abusive, self-regarding narcissists. And it’s wonderful to have someone like Blanchett embody all of those things so fiercely and so fully. Viewing this film for me was a pleasure, but also really tense. It’s a thriller, I think in addition to the way in which you were reading the film.

Carla: But do you think she does it for the love of the music, or is she just power mad?

Philip: Well, she certainly loves power by this stage in her career, as seen by her lecturing of a little child who’s been bullying her kid. Like she breaks into a primary school to, you know, squat down and eyeball a little, quote unquote, bully. And the way she manages that situation is just to have the easy free kick, you know, to be stronger than somebody who’s six years old. I mean, slow clap. Cate?

Carla: Well, that’s exactly right. And there are so many things there, like her relationship with Petra, though not one of a parent necessarily, because she’s not incredibly she’s not warm or anything like that. But it is collegiate. It’s she’s the only person in Tar’s life that has no power over her, but she weirdly sees her as an equal. And so that sort of gets me into the mind frame of like, who Tar really thinks, feels on the inside is that she is just a tiny, a tiny boat at sea in the big bad sea, and that she is just holding on for dear life. And I think that’s really illustrative in the beginning where The New Yorker talk and it’s a script that the moderator is saying about all of her life achievements and she’s like practically hyperventilating because it’s so tense for her to listen to these things. But she feels like an imposter. She sees herself as an imposter because she knows how carefully she has curated this image in order and everything that she suppresses about herself on a daily basis in order to climb and maintain.

Philip: Which is why her role as conductor and composer, I think is important in relation to this idea of her loving music. She is not only in front of orchestras, she’s also alone at the piano trying to figure things out.

Carla: That’s right, yeah.

Philip: You know, to craft the right sequence of notes, to have an impact or to find the key to some new direction in composition and her sort of enjoyment of that or her embodiment of that is really all that happens. And earlier I described the classical music world as narrow. I think what I meant was that this character’s experience is narrowed to just her professional life, to just this pursuit of music, which is for her also a pursuit of power because the two go hand in hand for her. There’s all these distortions in her thinking about what it means to make art and this desperation and this neurotic set of behaviours for her. It’s just inextricably blended into a kind of terrible life. I don’t think she’s actually really loving anything or anyone other than her kid anymore.

Carla: I don’t even think she loves the child. I think there’s that one moment where they’re finally getting it with the Mahler’s Fifth that you see this kind of ecstasy on her face. And I’m like, she’s a drug addict. This is her drug. You know, like, these are the these are the moments that she’s living for. And I think you’re right. I think she’s tormented. And that’s where it’s demonstrated by like her running and the screaming in the forest and, you know, the metronome in the study. We don’t know if these things are real. We get the feeling that they’re actually hallucinations or spectres that are you know, starting to haunt her. And then they’ve got the very real situation of the elderly woman next door who’s slowly dying, which mirrors her relevance, slowly being suffocated away. And that’s very real. But she completely denies it.

Philip: Well, as she has completely denied the suicide of her former protégé who’s beginning to encroach on her professionally. Yes. You know, this revenge from beyond the grave, using digital tools via emails and using sort of live social media. She doesn’t give a promotion to her assistant. And so her assistant then joins in on finally getting the maestro. And that sort of counter revenge, I guess, is kind of exciting to watch. There’s a great piece by Zadie Smith about this film where she really reads it as intergenerational warfare, like Gen X values, finding their limit at last and a great victory, but a dark victory for millennials and Gen Z. So I thought that was an acute reading of what’s going on in the film here. But the idea of Blanchett embodying all of Jencks’s complexity is perfect in itself. Like who better? You know.

Carla: That’s amazing. And that was going to be the next sort of point, big, meaty point that I wanted to move on because it really it unlocked something for me that I’ve not really been able to fully understand at this point. And that is like, why are right wing people, powerful people, like so obsessed with the binary, so obsessed with the world, not changing that, you know, something that meant one thing one day now doesn’t mean this one thing. And it really showed me that, you know, that’s what happens with her in that whole scene at what’s the school? Juilliard. You know, she’s gone. She’s over because she has not evolved. And it’s like these people in power, the right wing people, unless they have true power, which is old money, this is their total fear that they’re going to become irrelevant because the semiotics of power that they have learned and not maintained slowly fade away. And that’s why they’re so virulent and violent on holding on to them. So, you know, she it’s so interesting. She wears a breast binder. She wears men’s clothes. She calls herself the child’s father. She’s really modelled herself in this patriarchal way. But I’m like, is she even a lesbian? Did she just marry Sharon because she was the first chair of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra?

Carla: So it’s like. It’s this real smoke and mirrors kind of thing. And they’re all fakes, all of them. It’s just they’re all regurgitating garbage and they don’t have any kind of substance. And this movie proved that to me.

Philip: Wonderful. And if I could just take the last sentence. You said there as like a potential satirical description of Western classical music and its performance today. I reckon that could actually really hold. Like it is absurd to be endlessly performing the same works at ever more perfect standards over and over again with state funding. You know, there’s something absolutely ripe for satire in this specific world of regurgitated classical music. So I kind of love this film as a multiple satire, you know, something that has its claws in all sorts of elevated institutional and individual performances, including that of Cate Blanchett’s face itself. You know, I found this so meta in relation to her and what she stands for and represents now as this excellent actor. Like I really want her to win the Oscar just because that would make the whole thing go even further in terms of its own endless hall of mirrors, self-regarding excellence.

Carla: Well, and that was such a that was such a repeated motif in the construction of the film as well, was mirrors. It was shot in reflection. She just only existed in mirrors. It’s absolutely extraordinary, this film. I’ve watched it twice now and I want to go back for more. Is there much significance to Mahler’s Fifth? Because I don’t understand any of that.

Philip: I think Mahler absolutely, especially after Leonard Bernstein championed Mahler so much in the 20th century and the age the golden age of recording in the mid-century. The film shows the conductor to be a real protégé of that figure and an inheritor of that tradition. So, yeah, Mahler is a figure in that moment of classical music that she has inherited. It’s become traditional, it’s become conservative when actually it was extremely Avant garde. Developing in new directions. When Mahler first composed the piece, the fifth is just one of Mahler’s symphonies. I mean, all of them have a gigantic scale. Many of them have singers in addition to instrumentalists like they’re known to be huge, impossibly overblown, out of control kind of pieces. So it’s a good match for this character study that she wants to bring all of that off with precision and refinement. It’s almost the impossible mission for her.

Carla: All right. I have so much more to say about this, but. I think we’ll just.

Philip: We’ll talk off mic.

Carla: I will say one more thing. Oh, no. I’ll put it in coming soon. So let’s go to Coming Soon right now.

Philip: Cool.

Carla: Okay. It’s not really a coming soon, but it is a recommendation if you are on Twitter. Some genius has created the account @LydiaTarReal and she is tweeting and she is tweeting as Lydia Tar as a part of like the zeitgeist. And it is the fucking funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time. So check it out. What’s coming soon for you, Phil?

Philip: Oh, I don’t know. Um, I’m an MTC subscriber.

Carla: Oh, my God.

Philip: Wow. Just. Just. Just to confirm.

Carla: Speaking of climbing the ladder.

Carla: Yes. Speaking of middle age and, you know, feeling excellent. So, look, I don’t actually need to plan anything anymore. You know, I just put my ten dates into my diary, and off I go. So are you.

Carla: Going to see prima facie, then? Is that one is that one of yours?

Philip: Yeah. Yes. Coming up next. So what do you know about that?

Philip: Uh, actually, that I want to see it. It’s coming to Geelong after the Melbourne run, but it’s completely sold out here, so I’m weighing up whether I come into the city for a Saturday matinee or whether I try to get a door seat at Geelong. But I’m pretty much I think I’m gonna have to come to Melbourne. So what I know about it is, is that, um, Jodie Comer was in it in London in the West End and it was very highly regarded. I don’t know, it sounds interesting, like I’m not really interested ultimately about how the system fails. Women like I understand that completely. But I think in terms of like new Australian work and work by women, it’s something that I can get behind and want to want to understand the conversation.

Philip: And what’s coming soon in Gtown.

Carla: Oh, um, okay. So we’ve got The Director at Platform Arts, so you and I are going to go check that out. It’s going to be part of our episode next month by the amazing company Aphids. It’s a show from 2019. I never saw it. It’s going to Mona Foma and it’s coming here. So it’s about death and being a funeral director. It looks it looks interesting.

Philip: Excellent Vline time.

Carla: Yeah, can’t wait. We can go out for dinner. Dinner and a show.

Philip: Beautiful.

Carla: All right.

Philip: I think that is that.

Carla: What an amazing discussion for this month Phil.

Philip: Loved it.

Carla: All right. That is that. For our summer episode for 2023. Thank you for listening. If you would like to get in touch, our handles for Twitter and Instagram are @acrossaisle and our email address is You can also check out our website where we have extended show notes and transcripts for you to consume whenever you feel like it.

Carla: Across the Aisle is recorded in Naarm and Geelong on the stolen lands of the Bunurong Bunurong Wurundjeri Woiwurrung and Wadawurrung peoples of the Kulin nation. Sovereignty has never been ceded. We pay our respects to their elders and are so grateful for their custodianship of the land, waterways and skies we enjoy every day. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land. And thank you Phil, my intrepid art Guide. Until next time.

Philip: Bye.