Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sweetie (1989)

Director: Jane Campion
Australia 1989
97 min
Starring: Karen Colston, Geneviève LemonTom Lycos and Michael Lake, among others.

Opening shots.

Once again, I have been happily surprised by a film I had neither heard of nor intended to see. Sweetie is Piano (1993) director Jane Campion's feature film debut, and a popular analyzing subject among feminist film scholars. It was filmed in New South Wales in Australia, and for some reason not a hit at the box office. But being a non-mainstream film that couldn't care less about classic narration, it might just be understandable.

The sign followed by gentle love making.

The film centers around a peculiar woman named Kay (Colston) and the more or less socially retarded people around her. In the beginning of the film an elder woman tells her fortune in tea leaves, telling her that an influential man with a question mark in his face will be the love of her life. Kay finds him at work, recently engaged to a female co-worker, and somehow manages to convince him to go with her instead. You know, the spirits and the flipping of coins tell them so. They make out in a garage and then stay together.

The man, Louis (Lycos in his only film role) and Kay move in together, but their relationship starts failing. He romantically plants a tree in their garden, "an anniversary tree", but Kay has nightmares about it. She rips it from the ground and stuffs it into a closet.

Co-workers showing their dislike, and the unexpected visit from a crazy sister.

Thus far, everything strange with this movie is highly comical in a dark way, but when Kay's mentally disturbed sister breaks into her house with a drugged producer (Lemon and Lake as Sweetie and Bob) the film starts to dig into a deeply dysfunctional family. What lies in their past is only hinted in subtle actions and reactions, and as we meet the sisters' parents there is no doubt that something is not right.

Still, the ruthless humor remains and is accompanied by stunning visuals. Artistic color schemes make some scenes look almost dream like, and the diagonal staging of people and objects function as a metaphor for a polished surface on rotten ground.

I loved Sweetie (the film, that is - I wanted to kick the character in the face). There's a nice Criterion Collection edition to buy. Only $32. Humph.

Daddy visits, Sweetie falls deeper into insanity and Kay seems uncomfortable.

Attempt to serious talk about Sweetie in a restaurant,
and said person becoming aggressive.

Diagonals in the staging.

Arranged blocking, tense dialog and smooth color schemes -
this film remind me of Roy Andersson.

Broken horsies!

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