The story of Ari (Alex Dimitriades), a young Greek man in Melbourne, in conflict with his background, his sexuality, unable to come to terms with his future, and unable to express the turmoil within his passionate heart, or his individual head. His only mode of self expression is in excess: excess in sex, in drugs, in anti-social and anti-authority behaviour, rejecting his parents but also rejecting his need of them. Just as he rejects the notion of getting a job. And he somehow has to survive himself.
"In spending 24 hours inside Ari's life, we are shown exactly how he feels and thinks; in one of the most sexually frank and explicit films of memory, Ana Kokkinos manages to do on screen what Loaded managed to do in print: take us inside. Inside Ari's head, inside his feelings. This is no mean feat, considering the thin lines that exist between exploitative sexual imagery and genuine exploration of the character. Dimitriades is spectacular, with all the furious energy and attitude of an early Marlon Brando, and the body of a model. Sultry, unpredictable, confused and proud, his Ari is only explicable by the final scene (which you'll have to see for yourself). Driving the drama are other fabulous performances, and wonderfully observed support characters, a strident, unselfconscious and natural design, marvellous music (enormously varied from Greek source music to original underscore) and a high octane-burning engine provided by Kokkinos' direction. Head On will redefine the way Australian films are perceived by the rest of the world. "
Andrew L. Urban
"Stylistically bold with a pulsating urgency, Head On is intense, passionate filmmaking at its most revealing. Ana Kokkinos' jolting insight into the emotional world of a young Greek man obsessed with his sexuality is extraordinary in many ways. Kokkinos is a forthright filmmaker, confident and insightful, working with a well structured script that holds back no punches. Internalised emotions are vividly portrayed in lucid, expressive images. Alex Dimitriades, Adonis-like in profile, give a tour de force performance. He captures the essence of confusion, despair, yearning, greed, hunger and gratification with ardour, depth and great charisma. The entire cast is strong, and the authenticity of the Greek cultural issues are portrayed with all the fine nuances of family relationships and their contentious issues. Sexually explicit, Head On is shocking, confronting and dazzling - here is a powerful, passionate Australian film with a sense of sensual urgency that is remarkable."
"It would be fair to say, that with first-time feature director Ana Kokkinos' audacious work, Australian cinema has come of age. This no-holds-barred exploration of an adolescent's quest for freedom within a perceived constricted culture, is truly astonishing at every turn. Based on the real-life exploits of gay novelist Christos Tsiolkas, and his lauded novel Loaded, Head On is a powerful, emotive, stunner of a film, a rollercoaster ride of a journey in the life of a young man who often uses his sexuality as a weapon against the hypocrisies of a conformist society. Yet despite its gay themes, the film has much to say about the need to stand up against what society demands of us. Director Kokkinos has a visually brazen style. While sharply focusing on Ari's 24-hour haze, she counterpoints those images with stock newsreel footage of postwar immigration, reminding us, and Ari, that while the world was simpler decades ago, it was also far less tolerant. Head On is a confronting study of tolerance, both ethnic and sexual, and deals with those issues with an uncanny truth. In the central role of the complex Ari, Alex Dimitriades is simply sensational, raw, magnetic and as truthful as his character; his is the most accomplished and hypnotic screen performance of the year. And as his close friend Johnny, who stands up against society's hypocrisies by donning a dress and flaunting cultural convention, Paul Capsis is also a major find. Stunningly shot by Jaems Grant, sharply edited by Jill Bilcock, and intelligently crafted by Kokkinos, Head On is an intense but rewarding experience, a film about identity and individuality unlike anything seen on screen in recent memory. It's a brave, frank, hypnotic film of consistent energy. And with Dimitriades, a star is born, or should that be RE-born. Head On is a must see slice of remarkable Australian cinema not to be missed."
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ANA KOKKONIS INTERVIEW
ALEX DIMITRIADES INTERVIEW
HEAD ON (R)
CAST: Alex Dimitriades, Paul Capsis, Julian Garner, Tony Nikolakopoulos, Elena Mandalis, Eugenia Fragos, Damien Fotiou, Andrea Mandalis, Maria Mercedes, Dora Kaskanis, Alex Papps, Vassili Zappa
PRODUCER: Jane Scott
DIRECTOR: Ana Kokkinos
SCRIPT: Ana Kokkinos, Andrew Bovell, Mira Robertson (adapted from the book, Loaded, by Christos Tsiolkas)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jaems Grant
EDITOR: Jill Bilcock
MUSIC: Ollie Olsen
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nikki Di Falco
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 13, 1998
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: August 10, 2005