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1 item from 2004

Human Touch

14 September 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Screened at the Toronto International Film Festival

Twenty films into his career, Australian maverick Paul Cox continues to make quiet, poignant little films about art and the people who make art. Human Touch is no exception. It's a quaint and fine work designed for thinking and feeling adults. Just don't expect it to have much commercial life outside of film festivals.

The film stars Jacqueline Mckenzie as Anna, the lead voice in a local choir trying to raise money for the group's tour of China. When a wealthy older man (Chris Haywood) hands her his business card at a concert and says he really enjoyed her singing, the conductor urges Anna to make a pitch for sponsorship. He agrees to help. In return, the old man invites her to be a m for his still-life drawings. She reciprocates by agreeing, surprised even by her bold decision.

Gradually, the two develop an essentially platonic relationship, but their closeness ends up having negative effects on Anna's relationship with her longtime boyfriend David (Aaron Blabey). Her interest in sex wanes as her spiritual inner life is awakened at the philanthropist's lush Eden-esque estate. There, Anna encounters his eccentric New Agey wife, his sensile and dying mother, and a piano-playing butler.

Meanwhile, the sympathetic but frustrated artist boyfriend commiserates to a boarish buddy who suggests he get some release at a massage parlour. In addition, there's another older artist trying to mounts an ambitious environmental project huge in size and scope, trying to literally capture the universe in a maze of chicken wires and light.

This delicate feature is peppered with oddball characters all, one way or another, trying to find their spiritual way in the world of art and what it all means. But it's all very low-key and naturalistic. That's Cox's personality after all. The desires and attractions are not lasciviously displayed. There's nothing melodramatic or sensational in their emotions and behavior. Cox finely composes refined images and scenes, with a lush and soothing musical score, to render his humanistic belief that our need to connect in small ways is what makes sense in the big scheme. As a bonus, the artworks in the film are spectacular.

Eventually, after much miscommunication and hurtful revelation the couple re-connects when they are offered a retreat to the old man's countryside villa in France. Their relationship is still not perfect but that's the nature of human beings. If we can just accept our flaws and look beyond at the beauty, Cox seems to suggest, the world would be a better place. Considering how much he ranted on about the Bush administration in the post-screening Q&A, Human Touch is probably Cox's answer to current world issues.


Illumination Film Pty Ltd./Go Patterson Films Pty Ltd.


Writer/Director: Paul Cox

Producer: Mark Patterson

Director of photography: Ian Jones

Production designer: Asher Bilu

Music: Paul Grabowsky

Editor: Simon Whitington, Paul Cox

Sound: James Currie


Anna: Jacqueline McKenzie

David: Aaron Blabey

Edward: Chris Haywood

Desiree: Rebecca Frith

Mother: Julia Blake

Charles: Norman Kaye

Running time -- 102 minutes

No MPAA rating »

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