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July 12, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

Kate Holden – Desert Island Flicks


Published July 2011 in Beat magazine

Kate Holden - Desert Island Flicks

Talking to best-selling Melbourne writer Kate Holden turns out to be a twofold treat. Her style of conversation darts between a running commentary on the inner workings of her mind, and eminently quotable one-liners that you’re not likely to hear anywhere else. Case in point, the analogy she uses to describe writing a regular fortnightly column in The Age weekend supplement: “I live in this kind of fortnightly state of terror, where I have to write it and then I finish, and then I feel just amazing and then I realise I have to do it again! It’s a bit like heroin addiction, actually.”

Author of best-selling memoirs In My Skin and The Romantic: Italian Nights and Days, the first work details her substance abuse and day-to-day life as a prostitute in Melbourne, and the second her time in Rome and Naples discovering love, romance and loss. As the Australian Centre for the Moving Image’s (ACMI) special guest for the July ‘Desert Island Flicks’ session, Holden will spend an evening discussing the five films she’d take with her to a desert island, with selected clips shown from each film.

“It’s doubly embarrassing doing this ‘Desert-Island Flicks’, because I really hardly ever go to the cinema anymore! I’m just so busy, I’d love to go.” She has set plans to see Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, but being happy to stay home means she tends to reserve the cinema for special occasions. “I’m a huge fan of Terence Malick…[but] I watch stuff at home because I’m just such a nana. I’m yet to get to the sorry stage where you watch movies during the afternoon,” she laughs.

Holden’s memoirs are well-known for their openness and honesty, so it seems logical that the central tenet of her work has influenced her choices for her top five ‘desert-island’ films. “I’m interested in how people are resilient when they’re under pressure, or how they reconcile themselves to themselves. Even The Romantic was about having one idea of who I should be and then finding I’m not that person. So I guess I’m always attracted to art which talks about the quiet moments; what someone does when they’re alone, what someone does when they’ve had a setback. I really find that’s such a goldmine, as a writer, for material, and also for trying to make something that is emotionally truthful and speaks to people.”

It doesn’t appear that selecting her five top films was an easy process, particularly given her empathy for artists in general. “The world is full of screenwriters who’ve written these beautiful scripts, but until someone makes it into a film and until someone goes and sees it, it’s just words on a page…If I go see a film or if I read someone else’s book…I’m so aware of the effort that’s gone into it, the craft and thoughtfulness.”

While Holden is the first to admit she’s no great cinephile, her movie-going experience is unusually focussed. “I love films; I really prefer seeing [them] on my own…When a film ends and it’s been really powerful, I just hate coming out and having to discuss it straight away. I don’t cry in the cinema and I’m not one of those people that flinches every time a gun goes off [in a movie]. I’m very tough, and I always make myself watch everything, I never close my eyes and miss something.”

Whatever Holden’s top five film choices, it’s likely they’ll say as much about the person who chose them as they do about the art of the film itself. But that is, of course, the entire point to ‘Desert-Island Flicks’. “The films that I chose, especially the ones that were in my shortlist, they were all films which really make me feel something.” Holden says. “Some of them are also films that I love because they’re so beautiful to look at. I’m a sucker for gorgeous cinematography…but I guess my interest is a lot in the director or the writers, or the attitude to human frailty. That never ceases to move me.”

Kate Holden’s ‘Desert Island Flicks’ presentation will be on 21 July at Federation Square. For more details, see the ACMI website.

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