Tuesday, October 04, 2005


On Friday night I discovered an intriguing new dimension within JC's unparalleled ability to dig up awful films. Usually, JC goes into Blockbuster and looks for films that he thinks might be "interesting"... inevitably procuring films that are just "bad". And not good bad, like 'Blood Orgy of the She-Devils', but bad bad; boring, lifeless, unwatchable dreck without that spark of kitschy genius that has kept 'Teenagers From Outer Space' or 'The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms' from completely vanishing off the cultural radar.

However, it appears that when JC goes into Blockbuster looking for films that he thinks might be "bad", as he did on Friday night, he actually turns up films that are sort of interesting. One of these was 'The Rage in Placid Lake', an Australian coming-of-age comedy-drama so low-key that it was a little like looking out your front window and watching the neighbours having a discussion in the street.

But it was very enjoyable. Basically the story concerned Placid Lake, the only child of earth-nurturing peaceniks, who goes through his entire school life as a precocious oddball, but decides after a near-fatal encounter with the school bullies to try being normal for a change... although his version of normal is complicated by the surreal yet deadpan weirdness of the world around him. Despite the off-kilter atmosphere of this world, it was so discreetly played that even when the characters were shouting at each other they didn't appear to be raising their voices.

I think it was the power of the actors that made it work. Ben Lee wasn't over-impressive, but all his character had to do was alternate between looking smug and looking confused, so it all worked out fine. Rose Byrne played his best friend, a neurotic nerd so bursting with repressed sexiness that she managed to make tweed skirts and shapeless dresses totally hot. Miranda Richardson, Garry McDonald and Christopher Stollery played older authority figures whose abilities to deal with responsibility were as thin and fragile as elderly porcelain. Working as a group, they made it all hang together very nicely.

But it's worth noting that JC's powers did not abandon him completely. The other film he got was 1978's 'Capricorn 1'. I watched the first 25 minutes of nihilistic attitudes, the oppressive conspiracies of The Man, flabby middle-aged officials in tight polyester suits, and men who were supposed to be astronauts wearing shaggy unkempt haircuts (except for OJ Simpson, who wore a modest afro). But once Elliot Gould was introduced as a crusading investigative reporter, I just couldn't take any more and had to switch it off. Nothing quite says 'The 70s' like the idea that all politicians are unambiguously evil, but investigative reporters are above reproach.

Actually, nothing quite says 'The 70s' like Elliot Gould. Put the two together and it's a wonder that mirror balls and macrame plant hangers didn't start spontaneously sprouting from the ceiling.


Blogger Eric B. said...

Oddly enough, Capricorn 1 is one of those films I can't help but remember fondly. I almost don't want to rent it again because I'm afraid it will be exposed as "what-was-I-thinking" style dreck.

I'm glad Gould has settled into a lifestyle of brief-but-somehow-important appearences in big productions. I can only aspire to something similar.

11:03 PM  

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