Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Cars That Ate Paris [1974]

Weir’s first feature length film – done on a shoe-string budget and essentially given a tight timetable to finish this film. It’s often criticized for being too quirky to be horror – for Western audiences I can agree – but if you expand your mind and think outside the box of what horror is – it’s a surrealistic nightmare.

Weir – though on such a small budget uses all he can to build up his directing skill – he builds up the atmosphere of this town to perfection. Uses odd interesting camera angles to help create the feeling that this town isn’t like other towns – and that it’s so far removed from “the real” world that their everyday is of course nothing like our everyday.

The rest is an excerpt from a review I wrote back in August 2008:

This movie deals with a small town in Australia named Paris that has an odd way of sustaining its economy. Since it’s so far out in the country with under-developed roads and infrastructure – they “purposely” cause the cars that pass through to crash – “because city folk have a hard time with those old dirt roads” – then they loot the wrecks for valuables. Any survivors are either lobotomized or in some cases (such as children) adopted as part of the town. One day they cause two brothers to crash – killing one of them – and the other Arthur is left petrified of driving and is adopted into the town as the mayor’s new “son” (even though he must be in his 30’s).

The town is split into essentially 2 factions – the elders who run the show – and the youth who spend their time drag racing around the town causing problems. I love this dichotomy especially when it comes to one of the themes – old vs. new. The old timers are obviously in the wrong – but in their minds they are right. And they raised their kids doing the wrong/right things – and the kids as they grow up they rebel and take it to the next level of wrong/right. Which of course in the minds of the elders is viewed as wrong – though it’s essentially the same thing that the elders do.

Then you have Arthur who’s caught in the middle – played by Terry Camilleri who pulls off in a subtle mousy performance – he’s the perspective that we all share as the viewer. At first we aren’t 100% sure of what’s going on – and as it develops we start getting the hang of it – and then are further repulsed by the town’s behavior.

The budget of this film must have been tiny – but they make the most of it. Using and destroying plenty of junker cars and building and destroying pretty much an entire town. The acting - which is a bit hammy – is pulled off well by essentially a bunch of amateurs. The one thing this film does have heaps of is – talent behind the camera – Weir really displays some great directing chops and does a fantastic job of creating a feel of isolation and even claustrophobia which help further define Arthur’s state of mind.

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