Chapter 1: Melbhattan

Monday, 26 November 2012

Illustration by Oslo Davis, via Melbhattan

When I heard about the release of Melbhattan I thought perhaps Christmas had come early this year, 3 of my favourite things all wrapped up into one beautiful little animation - Melbourne, Woody Allen & of course illustrator extraordinaire, Olso Davis.

Illustrations by Oslo Davis 

Part homage, part pastiche, Oslo has taken the opening sequence of Woody Allen's much loved ode to Manhattan, and through his clever scouting and sketching of our intriguing city, has replaced Manhattan with Melbourne. While romantic black and white images of Melbourne immediately spring to mind, Oslo's original intent was to set sentimentality aside and instead "ridicule the sizable proportion of inner city Melburnians who think our city is a mini-Manhattan".

He explains, "the idea that Melbourne is an antipodean Manhattan is not a new one, but after my wife and I returned from a stint in Tokyo, Melbourne seemed more New Yorkery than ever. It was 2003 and the people here seemed pushier, richer and crankier. More ''whatyatalkingabout?!'' and less ''excuse me''. Everyone was banging on about how the cultural capital of Australia was also the most livable city in the world. The Brooklyn hipster movement was taking hold in Collingwood. People were only half joking when they called the areas north and south of Johnston Street NoJo and SoJo, and developers began building an ''Upper West Side'' on King Street and flogging ''New York-style studio apartments'' in Flinders Lane. Former Melbourne Writers Festival director Steve Grimwade, who made The New Yorker magazine a focus of this year's festival, said on that ''Melburnians have looked … to places they can aspire to be like and, in many ways, New York is [that] city … ''

Then why not "cast Melbourne as New York in the style of Woody's Manhattan, to both charm and roast without being mean" Oslo thought. However, as Oslo confesses, over time (and perhaps with a little resistance) what was intended to simply be "a good-natured ribbing" grew into a "nervy, twitchy animation" that shows he too, like the best of us, is "a little too romantic about Melbourne". But hey who can blame him, with a city like ours, it's hard not be.

Melbhattan premiers at Rooftop Cinema at sundown on Sunday, Dec 1 (romantic indeed). It will then screen before every Rooftop cinema film throughout December.


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