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The wealthy Edward (Haywood) sparks to Anna (Mckenzie), the lead voice in a choir that's raising money for an upcoming trip to China. He donates money to her choir, and she agrees to sit for him for a series of still-life drawings. As Anna is drawn more into Edward's life, their relationship -- quite platonic -- nevertheless causes problems at home for Anna, who lives with David (Blabey), a frustrated artist. Written by
I feel the title 'Human Touch' itself is misleading. Upon hearing its title and reading its synopsis, I was misled into thinking that the film would be a simple story about how touch is important in our lives. But how far it is from the truth. If the title was not meant to be intentionally misleading, I thought it would be far more apt to name it 'The Human Touch' because it is really more about humanity than anything else. But then again, if director Paul Cox really named it that way, not many people would even bother to see it in the first place. I would, for one, dismiss it as yet another existentialist arty-farty piece of crap that nobody can understand.
Human Touch is of course existentialist art-house fare, but it is also something else altogether. Because it doesn't purport to know anything about the mystery that is ourselves, nor does it have any theory of the reason of our existence. It too, like us, is seeking in understanding further just exactly what makes us tick, and how we can simply be, after we inherited millions of years of culture. And this shared culture, is so vast and inexplicable, that we simply call it 'humanity'. But what is 'humanity'? And does anyone even understand any cornerstone of it? In this way, the film's provocative nature reaches into many beings of humanity. From the arts, history and religion, to our bodies, morals and emotions like affection and lust, it never ceases to probe and question just what drives us to do things a certain way that other creatures would not do. And how our surroundings and our history binds us together and affect us collectively and yet, splintering us in many different directions and personalities.
But the film never engages into verbose intellectualizing a la many French New Wave directors who just get lost in a world of their own by talking and talking about theories and never managing to shut up. This film has a heavy anchor by the very real people in the film and their relationships, such that every decision they make and every emotion they feel, doesn't help us any better in understanding their, say, 'character design', but only manages to open up more vistas of the mystery that is us.
This is wholly because the film doesn't seem to be theoretical. In fact, it is far from theoretical, its people often seemingly idiosyncratic and unfathomable but always very plausible. It explores all these questions not by theorizing like most art house directors do, but rather by allowing us to experience. Not unlike Tarkovsky, whose great work similarly explores humanity by framing mankind's actions against our surroundings and nature, the scenes in this movie are not linked by logical linearity or emotion, but rather through ambient noise. From the ancient stalactite caves that echo with baby cries and church bells to the great emotions within people ringing with rapturous choral voices, this film puts us through experiences that connects us--rather than alienate us--and makes us part of a far greater whole - mankind.
For what my young eyes and ears can see and hear is little, and bound by my limited sensory capabilities; what sadness or happiness I feel is bound by my shallow experiences in life; what ideas and concrete thoughts I can construe is bound by my fundamental education and understanding of the world. But what connects us all, and can only be reached through intuition, is the spark that the creator puts in all of us, that separates us from the other creatures and the inanimate - the human soul. And this movie touches so unflinchingly on this shared human nerve, that all that I am made of is not as important as what I am part of. Where I share the same blood as generations of creatures who have come into consciousness of themselves and the womb surrounding them.
It is what I enjoy finding in cinema, that if any one moment can touch on this what I perceive as the human soul, then that is worth sitting through piles of crap for. For the human soul--the truth, as what more philosophical people would call it--is worth every inch of living for. And this movie uncannily hones in to this same nerve that we all share and quiver for, and holds on to it unflinchingly. True, it may not have been genuinely successful in every inch of its celluloid film. And I would be hard-pressed to say it is good for its individual technical parts. But what little the film understands about its subject matter, it knows this: that most reasoning and emotion cannot bring anyone as close to the human soul as raw intuition. And the intuitive power it brings to screen by merely seeking the human soul, and by large, finding it, is all that matters and all that makes it a truly truly great film.
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