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Black comedy about a blind man, Martin, who takes photographs as "proof" that the world really is as others describe it to him. The film explores his antagonistic relationships with Celia, who cleans and cooks for him and habitually rearranges the furniture in the house, and with Andy, a mate he thinks he can trust. Written by
If you're blind people can fool you. They can lie to you. And if you're a photographer and you are blind, who will believe you? You need proof, and this is what Martin (Hugo Weaving) seeks. He is a man who projects onto others the lovelessness of his own soul. He believed as a child that his mother died to get away from the shame of having a son who was blind. Even as an adult he believed she lied to him. He goes to the mortuary and is led to her grave where he reads the head stone with his fingers. He asks the mortician if a coffin is sometimes buried empty. The mortician asks why anyone would do that. Martin suggests a prank. The mortician replies, "Seems like a pretty expensive prank." Martin spends his whole life obsessively seeking proof because he can trust no one. Until he meets Andy.
He trusts Andy.
It hardly need be said that Andy, played with boyish charm and just the right amount of discovery by Russell Crowe, will both disappoint Martin and teach him a lesson. Martin certainly needs some kind of lesson. He exploits his housekeeper Celia's obsessive love for him, tormenting her by keeping her on, while denying her love as he inflicts little humiliations. For her part Celia, played with a penetrating and desperate sexuality by Geneviève Picot, mothers him and seeks to dominate. She wants to keep Martin dependant on her in the hope that someday he will seek her love. She controls his life, teaching the dog to prefer her and to come to her when signaled. In her frustration she plays little tricks on Martin, such as putting objects in his path so he will run into them. When Andy threatens to become important to Martin, predictably she seduces him. Thus we have our triangle. Andy also serves as an objectifying device to underscore the obsessions of Martin and Celia.
Jocelyn Moorhouse wrote and directed this original little masterpiece of dark humor from down under. She carefully worked out the character-driven story so that humor and tragedy are in balance and we experience the revelations from the perspective of all three characters. Nothing is fake or hackneyed and no one point of view is preferred. She has the gift of seeing more than one side of the human condition, and it is this gift that makes her scenes so effective. Note that the drive-in theater scene depends on our knowing what Martin is doing and why, while seeing his actions from the point of view of the bikers. He faces the bikers from the driver's seat in the next car and holds up a packet of prophylactics. The biker guy looks over and thinks that he is being taunted by a "fag."
I have seen Moorhouse's How to Make an American Quilt (1995), which also explored the underlying psychological motives of human beings, but this is a better film. It will be interesting to see what she does next.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
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