The Sandpiper and Desirable Clutter
TEXT: When I was twelve-to-fourteen my parents finally broke and bought a VCR and I discovered the joy of the suburban video store- I was voracious but careless - leaving fines -all over the eastern suburbs. I found The Sandpiper on one of these weekend jaunts and loved it so much I never returned it. But Elizabeth Taylor was not one of my early heroines. She seemed embarassing in the 80s, always confessing something on the cover of Women's Weekly. I thought she was blowsy and greedy. My first impressions of her in The Sandpiper were that her clothes were too tight, and she didn't open her mouth enough when she spoke. ln the film she plays Laura Reynolds, 'lady artist'. She lives with her son in a cliff-top 'shack' which is all wood and glass and stilts, and (like she) is dramatic and precarious, wild and lonely. Mother and son have a happy existence (hunting, painting, music, reading) until the authorities send the boy to a religious school run by Richard Burton. Laura and the Reverend fast-fall in love, but they cannot keep the real world out, and eventually he goes back to his wife - saintly Eva Marie Saint - with his collar all cooked and his tail between his legs. This film was my introduction to Thoreau and non-conformers and caftans and Nepenthe (Latin for 'not-sorrow). lt's boy-meets-girl-meets-travelogue, and its themes of escape, difference, freedom are my heart themes. The Sandpiper is very melodramatic, and I never quite understood what Laura saw in the Reverend, especially when she had coot beatniks to hang out with (Charles Bronson!) But the house, the house and everything in it! From the old porch piano, to the bleached stag homs and elaborate flower-and-feather displays, the controversial sculpture, blown glass baubles, copper pots in the kitchen, red silk, ripe fruit, Mexican blankets, and antique range. Each time I watch I covet and catalogue, and I love it. Looking at Laura's clutter is like watching that Eames film Powers Of Ten - it's the world in a grain of sand, it's all the tittle things that make up the big picture. I know the main story and now it's like I am seeking the sub-story: Laura's life as told through her objects. I watch with my finger on the pause-button, hoping with each viewing there will be something l've missed, another artifact to covet and in this manner I will fit the house of my dreamy dreams.