Pagosa Springs musician and teacher John Graves produced two wonderful children: his beautiful daughter Kerry, a professor at Sienna Heights University in Adrian, Michigan; and his son Kim, an airline pilot for American Airlines. But there is yet another beloved offspring that John produced — the award-winning Australian “New Wave” motion picture Picnic at Hanging Rock.
Pianist "Professor" John Graves playing at Nello's Bistro in 2012.
Celebrated director Peter Weir (Witness, Dead Poets Society, The Truman Show) has recently digitally remastered his critically acclaimed 1975 film into high-definition, and a new surround mix was created from the original 35 mm magnetic tracks.
As a gift from John Graves to the town of Pagosa, the new and improved Picnic will be presented at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts on Monday, November 3 at 7:00pm. There will be no admission charged (but there is a small fee if you wish to reserve a seat in advance.)
John will speak before and after the screening and will answer questions... and probably sign a few autographs...
The South Australian Film Corporation hired John Graves as their executive producer who played “middle man” between Peter Weir and the Film Commission. At the time, Weir was not on speaking terms with the Corporation — so John, as mediator, was instrumental in making the film a reality.
According to author Megan Abbott:
“Picnic is faithfully adapted from Joan Lindsay's 1967 novel of he same name, telling the story of a fateful St. Valentine's Day in Central Victoria in 1900. Four students from Appleyard College, Educational Establishment for Young Ladies – the ethereal Miranda, the beautiful Irma, whip-smart Marion, and pesky, whining Edith – depart from their classmates and teachers to penetrate more deeply the lush mysteries of Hanging Rock, a foreboding volcanic mass that, their headmistress, Mrs. Appleyard, warns them, is both a 'geological marvel and... extremely dangerous.'
"Only Edith returns, gripped in a fit of screaming hysteria and unable to recall what has transpired. In the confusion, Miss McCraw, the middle-aged math teacher, vanishes as well. Several days later, Irma is found alive but remembers nothing of her experience. Miranda, Marion, and Miss McCraw are never seen again, and a series of torments and major and minor tragedies await nearly all involved.”
The most controversial aspect of the film is the unresolved ending: we never learn the fate of the missing females. But this element, to me, is what makes the film both inexplicable and thought provoking, leaving the viewer to fantasize their own “erotically charged” ending using subliminal clues from the script. “If, for many of the girls, the rock seems to whisper tantalizingly of the secrets of sexuality, it is no less meaningful a symbol for the adult characters.”
Executive Producer John Graves and company gathered in the picturesque town of Adelaide — home of the fledgling South Australian Film Corporation — where they would be filming. There they scouted for the location of the girls school. What they found was a marvelous, stately old building suitable for the period piece that launched Peter Weir's brilliant career. Of course the last location, and most critical, was the mysterious rock itself.
Picnic at Hanging Rock has a beautiful look to it, almost dreamlike, and the cinematography is out of this world. John had met Gheorghe Zamfer, the famous Greek Pan Flute player, on a train in Europe and, thanks to John, his haunting strains comprise a great deal of the ethereal music in the sound track. The film transports one to another time, when inquisitive young women are coming of age in post Victorian Australia.
“What we see or what we seem are but a dream, a dream within a dream.”
It's hard to believe that it was a year ago that Phil Swearingen and I produced Sentimental Journey: A Tribute to John Graves at the Pagosa Center for the Arts! John Graves and Friends disbanded and John retired due to health problems mainly concerning his heart. It's sad for me to announce that John has been on hospice at home for the last several months and he is slowly fading, but most times, his mind is as sharp as a tack, and he still conjures up that witty humor. John has a hard time getting around these days, but still manages to play piano every Sunday at the Pagosah Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. From his chair at home, he enjoys his loving wife, their new puppy, jazz, a glass of wine, Lawrence Welk, the amazing mountain views from his windows, and the many doting visitors who drop by to cheer him up.
After fellowship today, Phil and I joined Ann and John for a pleasant Chinese lunch at Shanghai Restaurant. The conversation was light and whimsical. We were sort of a little family – with Phil and I as John's adopted sons – enjoying each others' company. One of those moments that I will cherish for the rest of my days.
I for one would not think of missing this screening of Picnic at Hanging Rock, next Monday at 7pm. According to PSAC's Laura Moore, seating is extremely limited; reservations can be purchased to guarantee a seat either online at www.pagosacenter.org or by calling 731-7469.
The Theater Center will provide its usual well-stocked bar. I'll see you there...