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When you know some of the people behind the making of Siam Sunset, you will
know what to expect from this film.
It is co-written by Andrew Knight who is the creator of some of the most successful comedy on Australian TV in recent times including Fast Forward / Full Frontal and SeaChange. There's Al Clarke, who produces Siam, who was also the producer of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert as well as Nineteen Eighty-Four (now there's an odd paring). Most tellingly though is that it is directed by John Polson - the man behind Tropfest - the fun and popular short film festival in Sydney.
Looking at those names should tell you that they will make a fun film with comedy slightly on the dark shade, some unglamorous characters who are realistic in some respects yet totally absurd in others, plus . . . er, a big bus in the middle of Australia's outback.
And that is what you get with Siam Sunset.
Perry (Linus Roache) an English industrial chemist for a paint company (he makes colours) has his life going just the way he wants it with his wife and work. This is turned completely upside down (or should I say crushed) after a freak accident and begins to feel that he is a curse for everything and everybody around him. From being happy and content, he is now a wreck. He wins a trip to Australia and uses that as a kick start to regaining some of that inner peace that he so dramatically lost. This is expressed in his search for a colour that he calls siam sunset.
He joins up with a bus tour in Adelaide and soon wishes he hadn't. Well, at least until he meets up with Grace (Danielle Cormack) who is on the run from her drug dealer boyfriend. Grace helps Perry to find his siam sunset. The help partly involves some very dangerous sex (it involves a bed on the verge of collapse, a ceiling fan that is set to fall onto the bed, some dangerously protruding steel coat hooks, dodgy electrics and a taipan snake sleeping underneath the bed just for good measure - the sex scene had to be coordinated by the stunt people).
John Polson is unashamedly a populist as demonstrated in Tropfest and in the fact that this film won the audience award at Cannes. So with Siam he gives us an amusing and entertaining 90 minutes, but it is by no means going to strike up post-film conversations on it's stunning originality or whether it's OK to have an open marriage.
This is Polson's feature directorial debut and he has relished the use of the wide screen format. He captures plenty of beauty of the Australian landscape.
Roache is suitably fish-out-of-water without slipping into English stereotypes. Cormack (who was in Topless Women Talk About Their Lives) as Grace is an enticing addition to the film and the rest of the cast are great fun to see.
Siam includes all of the ingredients of recent successful Australian films - that's a good and bad thing at the same time, but if you enjoyed movies like Priscilla, Muriel's Wedding and Two Hands then you should enjoy this film - just don't expect it to change your life.
Maybe if you are uptight and too serious you will not like this black
comedy, but the four of us loved it! "We" were from 23 yrs to 53 yrs,
including Japanese, New Zealand, and American nationalities. I often steer
clear of black humour because it can be too weird and cruel, but the Aussies
did their normal brilliant work on this film and I do recommend
There are so many small and big things in this movie that are hugely LAUGH-OUT-LOUD, that we thoroughly enjoyed it.
So, grab a drink, put up your feet, forget about being being conventional, expect the unusual... and prepare for a FUN time (with some serious messages under all of it as well!).
The latest Australian film Siam Sunset is a mixed bag, a blend of styles and
ideas, often attractive and entertaining but as a whole pretty sloppy. But
there's enough there to ensure a pretty rosy sunset.
An English paint technologist (that's new!), miserable after the on screen, bizarre, death of his wife (remember this is a comedy) wins a bus tour from Adelaide to Darwin. The other tourists are ugly Aussies.
Once the quirky Australian flavour is established, most effectively by Roy Billing as Bill Leach the tour bus operator from hell, predictably, the tour becomes a comic nightmare, and a rather formulaic one in spite of some surprising plot details.
The English fish out of water in our bush theme has become something of a tradition in recent Australian films. Oscar And Lucinda, Welcome To Woop Woop, Sirens and even Priscilla Queen Of The Desert where the proper, effete and English Terrence Stamp drag queen tries to make sense of outback customs spring to mind.
Getting back to nature, or at least nearly perishing in the Australian desert seems to be considered to be a sure way to personal growth according to this genre. And not just for foreigners.
On this particular bus to hell, an Australian Vietnamese, an atrocious singer songwriter, a masculine female army reservist, an overbearing tour bus operator, assorted be holidayed subrubanites and an urban lass on the run, face comic, sometimes ghastly dusty terror and learn from the experience.
But for the most part the bit players aren't afforded enough interest by first time feature director John Polsen. They're just character bit players in a film full of bit playing plot elements.
Danielle Cormack (the pregnant lead in Topless Women Talk About Their Lives) plays Grace, the female foil for our pommie paint specialist Perry played by Linus Roache (Priest). She's stolen a lot of money from her crooked doctor boyfriend Martin (Ian Bliss) and to escape joins the bus tour.
She has the look of jail about her from the start, a hardness that is believable and more remarkable given her very different role and demeanor in Topless. Grace and Perry are effective even if they have to make do with some terrible scenes, especially one where they decide to throw paint against a wall.
Some of the set ups just don't work, some are very effective. The elimination of the head villain is memorable but his character is for the most part far too obvious.
Siam Sunset begins with an atrocious factory scene, a poorly imagined car washing (would you believe) sequence and then a strange death. But I can't stand car washing or room painting scenes featuring Paltrow young love!
Hopes of another Sweetie or Love Serenade, Death In Brunswick or at least Welcome To Woop Woop sprang to mind; macabre Australian black comedies, but Siam Sunset only gave hints.
John Polsen (the gay boy in The Sum Of Us) just flirted with that and with about six other genres and left us with a film that was much less than the sum of its parts.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I enjoyed this movie. It isn't a classic, but its quirky black comedy should ensure a big following (how many films are about people killed by a fridge falling from the sky?!). As an Englishman living in Australia, I suppose it appealed, as that is the core of the film, and English chemical engineer winning a trip to Australia. The film shows great contrast between the two countries and duly ridicules both. Maybe you have to have been to Australia to appreciate the caricatures of the characters on Bill's bus trip, I'm not sure, but they're done superbly - but maybe act as a bit of a distraction in some ways. There's some excellent black humour, and the lead character's search for the perfect shade of paint is a harmless but involving aspect. I'm not sure the message director John Polson was trying to portray, but that didn't matter to me. If you know Australia and Australians, pay a visit to this film - you'll love it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Anyone who has seen John Polson acting - in Blood Oath,
Idiot Box or Raw Nerve, to name a few - knows that he's
every bit the equal of his more famous aussie acting pal
Russell Crowe. This, Polson's first film, betrays some of
the weaknesses of the first-timer but wins out thanks to a
fast-moving plot, great scenery and good central
performances from Linus Roache and Danielle
Roache plays Perry, a floppy-haired industrial chemist who
designs paint colours. Still mourning the loss of his wife
who was killed by a falling refrigerator a year earlier (a
darkly surreal scene somewhat out of step with the rest of
the film), industrial chemist Perry inadvertently wins a bus
tour to outback Australia. Seeking to recover from his loss
and discover an elusive colour he can imagine but not
create - the Siam Sunset of the title - Perry takes off for Oz.
There he encounters a variety of characters, among them
the bewitching Grace, who is fleeing her psychotic Doctor
As a series of bizarre accidents occur around him, Perry
realises that the malignant force which led to the death of
his wife is still pursuing him. In the dazzling wasteland of
central Australia he has to come to terms with his grief and
fight to establish a new life (or something like that).
As stated, Siam Sunset suffers from some typical
first-timer faults: the plotting is uneven, there's some
bizarre non-sequiturs and not all of the jokes hit the spot.
The energy of the film, however, wins you over. Cleverly
written by Max Dann and Andrew Knight, the plot hurtles
along the highway, stopping only for character development
or greasy breakfasts cooked by Roy Billing's over sensitive
bus company operator.
Cinematographer Brian Breheny - who proved his skill at
capturing outback Australia when he shot Priscilla Queen
of the Desert - does a great job of bringing the film's dark
humour to life. There are some darkly beautiful images in
this film, such as when the busload of adventurers
discover a hanged man circled by a swarm of butterflies, or
when Perry, lookin gloomily out the back window of the bus,
sees a massive storm in the distance, pursuing him like
the manifestation of his ill-fate. The supporting cast -
particularly Deidre Rubinstein and Terry Kenwrick as a
suburban couple whose marriage is on the skids - are
Overall this is a great first effort and anyone who gives it a
hard time should try looking at the first films of some 'great'
directors and see how they compare. This is heaps better
than many of those. So see it, and stop wingeing!
Now, would someone please get Roache a haircut.
It's been over a decade since I first caught this film and I've got to say that in spite of playing with stereotypes, it still has a rare quality; something quintessentially Australian entirely devoid of our renowned cringe factor. Linus Roache, Danielle Cormack and Ian Bliss bring each of their characters to life with great craft and humour. Two Hands is the Sydney experience, Animal Kingdom is the Melbourne experience but Siam Sunset is the completely Oz experience. John Polson and the writers Max Dann and Andrew Knight did a wonderful job in highlighting many of our quirks and mores (for better or for worse) in a thoughtful and funny as hell way as we follow Perry (Roache) - the hapless disaster magnet from England through the shockingly funny death of his wife, his suburban London life crippled by the memories, and on to the tourist trip from hell as he sets off from Adelaide into the red heart of Australia. Grace (Cormack) and Martin (Bliss) are two of the most original cinema characters I've seen in years. In fact, these two characters remind me of many people I've known over the years, so in spite of comments of this movie playing to populism or stereotypes, I can't help but watch it and see the opposite. Alan Borough shines as Stuart - the Stratocaster-mangling singer songwriter and Bill Leach (Roy Billing) who still sticks in my mind not so much as the bus driver from hell, but rather as a ubiquitous bureaucrat of the worst order. Overall a surrealist but highly accurate and well observed ninety minute odyssey that will keep you laughing years after you've experienced it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Yesterday, in a Haymarket cinema in London, I watched "Siam Sunset", an australian movie starring Danielle Cormack (Ephiny in Xena) and Linus Roache. It's about this English guy (Linus Roache) who loses his beloved wife in a very stupid way (a refrigerator fell off a cargo plane and landed on top of her). From that moment, very weird things (mostly dangerous accidents) start to happen around him. He works creating color squemes for a paint company, but he suffers an acute depression following his wife's death and is given a long holiday to work through his pain. His personal quest for a very particular color, "Siam sunset", sets him off to a cheap tour of Australia with a bunch of wacky holidaymakers, from Adelaide to nowhere (they never get to Darwin, as planned), while he rediscovers love with a runaway australian girl, Grace, whose not very nice ex-boyfriend wants to find her at all costs (to inflict, we fear, as much pain as possible). You can see it coming: Grace and the Englishman fall in love, of course, and decide to live together happily ever after, and the Englishman finally find his Siam Sunset color. It's, after all, a small romantic comedy and shouldn't you have harboured bigger expectations, you'll like this movie. I did, it put a smile on my face.
This movie had me laughing from start to finish. I saw it at the Ft. Lauderdale Film Festival, and I can't believe it wasn't their closing night feature. It was far more enjoyable than the other films I saw there. Great comedic performances and a very funny script make this a film not to be missed.
I really enjoyed this movie, as did the two others who attended with me. The humour is quirky and often unexpected. The message of the movie is, in my view, make the best of what life throws at you -- and for the main character, life throws quite a bit!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A wonderful, black farce. The idea of an industrial chemist whose wife is killed by a refigerator accidentally dropped from an air cargo liner, learning to laugh about it under a starlight Australian outback sky with a woman on the run from a psycho is...well...perfect. If you don't like the opening premise -- his loving marriage is terminated by a dropped fridge from the sky -- you're not going to like this. But if you can stay with it, you'll find a perfectly constructed, slaptstick noir with wonderful views and extremely concise, clever dialogue. The bonus is a number of wacky twists and turns, including a very poisonous serpent and a sagging electric ceiling fan. And the very last picture is a beautiful technical tour de force which you'll love. Linus Roache underplays nicely, and the female lead is as sexily Australian as we always dreamed of. The seemingly cliched B-parts actually come to life. This is 'The Castle' with a star cast and a few extra million for effects. You miss it and you're a drongo.
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