Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Price of Milk

2001, New Zealand, directed by Harry Sinclair

Harry Sinclair's second feature feels rather like a loosely connected set of sketches, so it wasn't a great surprise to discover that he started out as part of a musical/comedy duo (the other half being Don McGlashan) with TV and film experience (one of their short film collaborations, in which they play all of the roles, is available online).

As with almost all films with sketch origins - explicit or not - some segments work better than others: there's a running joke about New Zealand's hair-raising rural roads, and even more alarming driving styles, that's especially funny if you've ever had to deal with some of the corners in question, whereas the segments featuring a mystical Maori woman seem to rehash some standard stereotypes about the country's first residents (I may be missing something; Sinclair's father was one of New Zealand's most noted historians of an earlier generation, so perhaps his sense of these things is more acute than mine).

Visually, there are several clever, low-budget effects - a house that appears to be moving and levitating is especially amusing - and a number of striking shots, especially as Miranda Otto runs across North Island farm country trailing a red sari; Sinclair has a real sense of the uniqueness of New Zealand's landscape, and succeeds in capturing something of the isolation so elemental in Vincent Ward's early films, particularly Vigil.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States