Running out of ground
Achieving as stark a contrast in populousness as he could find, Ross immediately follows up his Australian footage with a visit to densley populated Guangzhou (Canton) harbor.
While Colin Ross’ route went from Australia and New Zealand to Papua New Guinea and on to China and India, Achtung Australien! Achtung Asien! (1930) reshapes that sequence for the sake of argument: after leaving Australia, the editing reverses that order. This enables the film to draw a trajectory of escalating contrasts between densely and sparsely populated areas. First from the relatively quite city life in Australia to the Australian bush. From there the film jumps directly to the bustle in Canton and Hong Kong and the stark contrasts between rich and poor in Madurai, in India, then on to ‘harmonic’ tribal life in Papua New Guinea. The film journey finds its climax in the lonely white spaces of the Southern Alps of New Zealand. (See Lisa Ross, camera operator)
The jump from Australia to Canton, much remarked upon in the film’s reviews, has a startling rhetorical effect. In the boat settlements, Ross seems to argue, people have literally no firm ground under their feet anymore, which fits well with the geopolitical obsession for Boden (soil). Despite the focus on the spectacle of squalor, this sequence collects some of the most lively, varied observations Ross has committed to film.
Colin Ross. Ost-Asien Reise – Hong Kong, Canton [archive title]
Excerpt from: Colin Ross. Achtung Australien! Achtung Asien! Das Doppelgesicht des Ostens. Germany: Ufa/Ullstein; 1930.
35mm | b&w | silent | 237m | 16 fps | 13’
Master: 0003-02-0301_ChinaReiseHongKong_ProRes-422HQ_24fps_MOS.mov; 0:00:57,15-0:02:43,24
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30