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Australia 2001
Directed by
Clara Law
119 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Goddess of 1967

The goddess of this film's title is the classic Citroën DS (homophonically the same as the French word for goddess), the centrepiece of a story about a young blind girl (Rose Byrne) and a Japanese boy (Rikiya Kurokawa) in search of self in the dead heart of Australia.

The film's breathtaking photography is like an up-market designer magazine come to life and if anyone uses the terms postmodern these days to connote a cross-cultural, trans-temporal, stylistically eclectic approach to subject matter then they would find use for it here. Tokyo, the Australian Outback, Wagner, rock n',roll, guns, satellite phones and computer graphics - it's got the lot. Wim Wenders would give his entire wardrobe of leather jackets and his BMW to come close to be able to making a film as hip as this and Atom Egoyan would undoubtedly double the ante. You get the territory it's in I take it - self-consciously arty, driven more by its ideas than its story and that will mean for some, purgatorially laboured.

The leads are the most painful duo I've seen since Wenders' The Million Dollar Hotel, although mercifully not quite as bad. Rose Byrne, (who, remarkably won a Best Actress Award at Venice for her role), photogenic though she is, if she owned an icecream parlour would only stock two flavours and single cones. As for her snaggled-toothed Tokyo boyfriend, well he's good for some laughs but there's little opportunity for him to be anything more than a compliant companion. Could anyone make the stilted dialogue come alive? I doubt it. It probably would have been better as subtitles, particularly as it would have spared us Byrne's squeaky Strine.

Perhaps this is a film women will relate to better than men, steeped as it is in issues of memory, sex, and self-healing. On the one hand the film comes across as kind of personal exorcism, but Law also has a fascination with the mythos of White Australia, its characteristic alienation and the metaphorical implications of the physical landscape that serves as a backdrop to it. The overseas market will probably find this a fascinating extension to filmic representations of our crudities and psychic dysfunctionality.but in this respect it hardly stands up to classics like Walkabout and Wake in Fright.

In fine then, The Goddess of 1967 is a superbly designed film with marvellous imagery that dramatically doesn't develop any steam.




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