Pigeons on Film


A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

Sweden 2015, Director Roy Andersson

The most inventive title at the recent Sydney Film Festival and the best film I saw there because I saw only one, this one, was, “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence”. While I regrettably missed 99.9% of the festival program this year, I made a point not to miss this and was rewarded with the most extraordinary, surprising, crazily inventive scene I’ve ever watched when Charles the XII and his war machine on horseback clatter into a post modern industrial Gothenburg cafe in search of a loo only to find it occupied. No small wonder it garnered a Golden Lion at the 2014 Venice Film Festival.

I came away with that scene and others burned into my memory like great masters that had at last found a worthy frame on the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace’s largest screen, treasured art deco confabulation on Sydney’s North Shore that it is, a setting Director, Roy Andersson couldn’t have chosen better for himself.

Seasoned film festival goers settling into seats on either side of us expressed chirpy curiosity and wonder at what to expect. I was quick to help them out: absurdity, quirkiness with a capital Q, insight into the human condition and every frame a piece of art. And Roy Andersson’s work is ART of the highest order. There isn’t a filmmaker alive who puts a candle to him for composition, originality, vaudevillian charm and apathetic characters, the latter in particular we summarily dismiss as products of bleak Swedish environs but that in truth are not so far from ourselves wherever we live in the world.

I was introduced to Roy Andersson’s special brand of near still life, one shot vignettes several years ago by a close friend who leant me her copy of “You, the Living”. I later bought my own. I relished every minute from the lonely female creature in the bar to her reincarnation as a newly wed bride sliding out of the station in her condo-bedroom-cum-carriage, while her rockstar groom serenades the crowd of cheering onlookers on the train platform with searing electric guitar. This scene was without rival till the Gothenburg cafe. That Andersson doesn’t adhere to the hero’s journey or a singular storyline is refreshing. His films occur in fractured bite sized pieces randomly cut together where some characters are returned to and others not but nearly all are inspired by a rich irony born of the pointlessness of existence.

On vignette storytelling Andersson notes: I work very much by intuition. I hope that what’s interesting for me is also interesting for others. So if I laugh at an idea, I hope also that they will laugh too. For me, fragments are more interesting: a collection of fragments, most of the time, is more fascinating than a linear narrative story. A linear story is a trap. You’re trapped in that construction. If you leave that ambition and think in fragments, it’s richer — it allows you to see all sides of existence. I want to tell stories about existence, and I think I make it more interesting with fragmentary storytelling.

And from my perspective he achieves exactly that.

Torrid Gets Festive

It’s winter here in Oz but despite the frosty mornings and frigid nights we’re feeling festive at Torrid with two of our short productions recently being selected to screen in film festivals in the USA this year.

First to screen was short documentary, “Ingrid’s Big Jump!” at the 12th Sprout Film Festival in New York in June. ‘Ingrid’ is a heart-felt story about a woman with Down Syndrome who had a dream to hang glide.

Now we’re looking forward to the screening of short film, “One in 5” at the Los Angeles Diversity Film Festival in August. ‘One in 5’ tells the story of several young people living with disability for whom a day really can make a world of difference.


We Live in the Torrid Zone

With Santa on his way and it being summer down under and fully sweaty it’s high time to discuss the torrid factor. NOT just because it’s SUCH a great word but because its meaning keeps EXPANDING and subtly CHANGING at a faster rate than most words more commonly used.

INT. OFFICE – DAY: (Phone ring SFX)

Sultry Voice: Hello,  Torrid Films.

Male Caller V/O: Horrid What?

Sultry Voice: Horrid Films. Yes horrid does rhyme with torrid. Clever you. But perhaps I said torrid and not horrid. (beat) No there’s nothing at all wrong with your hearing and everything right with the name choice. What does it mean? (beat) Oh please. Look it up.

But I’ve gone off track already. So back to it and to get the ball rolling on the torrid factor here’s a bit of basic geography. The world, I was told as a primary school student was made up of zones, five in fact including a couple of repeats due to North and South versions. The torrid zone being the lucky one in the middle. See diagram 1.

So simple. One world. Five zones.

Australia has its upper half baking in the torrid zone while its lower half gently steams in the temperate. But in case you’re still a bit woolly, here’s a more detailed map to help explain. Should be clear as a bell now.

Flat pack world in pretty colours

Leaving the deep pink of the ‘zone’ behind las illustrated above, let’s get down to the word which as I mentioned earlier is open to meaning gains at a serious clip. Moving from cautious observation in my tatty old Oxford reprint edition from 1958 where it encompasses just two expressions:

1. To’rrid, a. (of land etc.) parched by sun, very hot;

See proof below  c/- a recent repast at my local… and

Aussie Fare
Patriotic patty & salad

2.  zone, part of earth’s surface between tropics (already discussed),

Screen shot 2013-12-17 at 12.00.25 PM
The 1940 film of the same name.

it gains  an ‘exciting’ additional third meaning  by the time my 1995 edition Collins Compact Dictionary hits the shelves:

3. highly charged emotionally: a torrid affair  (… oooh! Seems like they were already onto that in 1940 when they made the film)

Screen shot 2013-12-17 at 12.01.54 PM
A torrid heroine.

Note the ’emotional’ nature of the affair. Nothing too salacious implied in that description but venture online and the affair has morphed from emotional to sexually charged according to the current US dictionary’s entry:

3. (Updated ) full of passion arising from sexual love: a torrid love affair  (… double oooh!)

Screen shot 2013-12-17 at 11.59.56 AM
Promises, promises.

Meanwhile the word has garnered yet another meaning:

4. full of difficulty or tribulation :  Wall Street is in for a torrid time in the next few weeks  (… Ouch! Has anyone told Michael?)

05_Flatbed_1 - SEPTEMBER
Wall Street – for the sharpest suits

And this time the Brits are in agreement with their own cut down version of meaning 4.

4a. British full of difficulty: he’d been given a pretty torrid time by the nation’s voters

And that’s putting it mildly

To make up for it they’ve gone one step further and added a separate interpretation – see the current Oxford Dictionary’s online entry:

4b. North American (especially in financial contexts) characterised by intense activity; hard to contain or stop: the world’s most torrid economies.

James Cagney in The Torrid Zone

OK STOP! I’ve run clean out of dictionary entries. That said you’d have to agree the word’s had a whirlwind journey since 1958 and who knows before that.

But aside from the small text the chameleon nature of the word continues as evidenced by its use in the US to sell plus size clothing for the fuller figure.


With so much activity in recent times  you’d think callers in general and call centre staff everywhere would have no trouble spelling it or understanding its meaning but no.

Blissfully ignorant call centre staff

Some things are slow to change and so it rolls on gathering meanings like moss. A word in high flux but one we are proud to claim.

Got a minute? Want to add a meaning? Just choose a context, start using it then step back and watch it take off like a grass fire in summer. Speaking of summer – time to go – lie on a banana lounge by a shimmering oasis. Have a torrid Christmas and a temperate New Year.

And a brief word about the new year, we’re looking forward to new opportunities, clients and collaborators who may grace our doors in 2014. We’re also excited about a few projects we’ve got in the development pipeline and pushing those along.

And lastly the Torrid Times Blog will be published more often than not and at regular intervals so stay tuned!

We Live in Torrid Times

The first blog celebrates the third incarnation of the Torrid Films website. So yes to your unasked question – the site is brand spanking and sun-shiny new. Now a fond farewell to the previous versions that featured Rory Baxter’s unique scrolling, strolling urban wall and Gavin Hodges’ gallery of great images and a fresh faced hello to Torrid’s first foray into the world of the wordpress template. The benefits are myriad in that the new site is fully editable and updatable – by me! The downside of that is that I never stop tweaking! And while I spent weeks sweating on content and crafting images to fit the frustratingly sized elements, some thankfully with the aid of graphics guru Gav, behind the scenes help was within reach… by skype from Berlin where web project manager, Ellen Kara resides. She soon got used to my, “Ellen I was editing in xxx page and I’ve stuffed it up. Can you please fix it?” To which the reply would come, albeit 8 sleep hours later, “It’s fixed! : )” 

The genial Ellen Kara

Liaison between Ellen’s far flung locale in Berlin and TF’s antipodean Torrid  Zone is evidence that the world is shrinking and face-to-face conversations across the gulf of time and oceans are made increasingly possible through the invention and progression of Skype. Question – if you meet someone on skype can you truly say you’ve met them? You haven’t shaken hands. You haven’t seen them with your own eyes. You’ve waved from 10,000 kms away through a pinhole sized camera. The Answer – yes. Move on – it’s the 21st century. Everything must change. Cue music. Nothing stays the same. We danced like it was New Year’s Eve…. The Herd, The King is Dead. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHbXfSJNhXE

Anyway back to the topic. Such a collaboration wasn’t technically possible for me seven years ago when the Torrid site was first launched. Back then comments å la ‘The Castle’ would have been forthcoming, “Tell her she’s dreamin’.” Why? Because attempts to communicate via Skype on my near aurally exempt and video challenged clapped out i-Mac produced a unique gallery of hideous unhappy snaps reminiscent of Ralph Steadman’s “Paranoid” polaroids when the streaming glitched mid-sentence or mid-expression, as it did often. GORGON YES! Gorgeous NOT!

A triptych of Ralph Steadman's "Paranoid" Polaroids

Happy days because now my computer is well equipped for sound and vision and skype is ever more video-fluid as each day passes. So now all that is whispered down the phone lines is, “Tell her she’s streamin’.” Plus a decent ADSL connection helps which btw isn’t as fast as elsewhere in the world as we’re repeatedly told here in Australia. I got Ellen to do a speed test on her connection in Berlin. Her 27 Mbps download wiped the floor with my miserable 14. My service provider sounded indignant when I challenged the status quo spluttering, 14 Mbps is very fast Ma’am. No it isn’t and don’t call me Ma’am! Bring on the NBN or whatever is going to constitute it when we finally do get it. 

But enough post web build tech backchat, the site is now up, Torrid Films is ready for business and besides filmmaking is far more interesting and rewarding than talking about, or struggling with, technology though it does come with a fair bit of that built in… 

The Torrid Times Blog will be published more often than not and at regular intervals so stay tuned!