event / film / illustration / interview

Melbourne to Manhattan via Oslo in four minutes

Words by Tara Kenny

Oslo Davis, the man behind The Sunday Age’s iconic Overheard cartoons, knows Melbourne. His latest project, Melbhattan, is both a romantic and satirical ode to the city and its inhabitants in the form of a four-minute animation that pays tribute to Woody Allen’s 1979 film Manhattan. Chapter one…

What do you make of talk of Melbourne as a mini-Manhattan?
Maybe it comes from some deep complex that we have. We’re a city that’s not Sydney, so we’re always saying we’re the most liveable and the cultural capital? Perhaps it’s looking for things to make us feel proud. Maybe we consciously or unconsciously think of ourselves as New York just to make us feel a bit better? However, there are the cold Winters, hot Summers, an intensity of sky scrapers, alley ways, laneways and that inner city hipster feel.

How does the relative global geographical isolation of Melbourne impact upon and inform creative practice?
I think it is all sort of self generated that we are cultural leaders. From an outsider’s perspective nobody would say ‘Paris, London, New York … Melbourne!’ as much as we would love them to. Having said that, Melbourne does punch above its weight. People have begun projects in Melbourne that have made a splash internationally.

What are you trying to communicate with Melbhattan and how do you hope audiences will react?
It’s a very short, amateur attempt at animation. Professionals would have done a better job. At the end of the day I hope people think it’s a quirky take on our city and how we like to compare ourselves to Manhattan; a nice little homage to our city at the moment. It screened the other night as a test run and there were some people in the audience who put down their drinks and looked at it, then picked back their drinks and went back to their conversation when it was over. Even though I spent a year making something that goes for four minutes people will look at it then look away. I can’t expect any more than that. For me the music is the real star of Melbhattan and that is all because of Biddy Connor’s stellar composition and performance.

Finish this sentence. He adored Melbourne, to him it was a metaphor for…
A pair of Ray bans that you think look really good on you, but to everyone else, they actually don’t suit you? I’ve got Ray Bans, I think they look okay, but my wife thinks they don’t suit my head. I don’t care. We think Melbourne is fantastic, but perhaps from the outside…

If you were to write a one-day in Melbourne Lonely Planet guide for visitors to the city what would be on the itinerary?
I’m not very good at things like this. I guess I’d probably tell them to get out of the city and hit the beach.

Parting words?
I’m happy with how it turned out, but don’t get your hopes up – you’ll probably think it’s just okay.

Melbhattan will premiere at the Rooftop Cinema this Saturday and screen before every film shown at the cinema throughout December. It will be viewable at melbhattan.com from mid-December.

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