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Australia 1997
Directed by
Bill Bennett
96 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Kiss Or Kill

Kiss Or Kill is, by Australian standards, an unusual film. The title sounds like classic noir but as it is in fact extracted from a Dylan Thomas poem so we're actually talking art house, Bennett doing Godard doing Hollywood (think Pierrot Le Fou meets Badlands with a twist of Pulp Fiction). That this double derivation took out the top AFI Awards for Best Film and Best Director (beating the more interesting Doing Time For Patsy Cline, which also starred Matt Day and which also had a strong, but more playful, association with Americana), is perhaps an indication of the cultural cringe in Australian film.

Day and Frances O'Connor (who had appeared together in Love And Other Catastrophes) are a couple of damaged young people heading from Adelaide to Perth on the run from the law and a paedophilic footballer (Barry Langrishe). Bennett mixes his appropriation of what is a very distinctively American genre film with some quirky Australiana, like the Max Cullen character, Stan, and a couple of incompetent cops (Chris Hayward and Andrew S. Gilbert, who picked up an AFI for Best Supporting Actor) not to mention O'Connor's strident working class accent, let alone a black tracker who can read tyre treads.

These aspects only serve to underline the pastiche quality of the film (unlike, say, Mad Max which achieved its own integrity). Bennett experiments with the formal side of things, making particularly effective use of narrative disruption with the petrol-attack sequence and arguably over-extensive use of jump-cutting (clearly not taking much to please, the film also won an AFI for editing) but he also fails to inject any suspense or arouse much interest in an over-familiar model.




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