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LOVE AND DEATH ON LONG ISLAND

SYNOPSIS:
Middle aged widower and reclusive English writer Giles De’Ath (John Hurt) is allowing the 20th century to pass him by, until a small mistake lands him in a cinema watching College Hotpants II, in which a young actor, Ronnie Bostock (Jason Priestley) catches his eye – and heart. The moment triggers an obsession for the young American star, which he fuels furtively by collecting memorabilia and magazine clippings on Bonstock. Eventually, De’Ath even makes the trip to Bostock’s Long Island home in the hope of catching a glimpse….he manages more than that, by engineering a meeting with Bostock’s live in girlfriend, Audrey (Fiona Loewi), who takes the eccentric Englishman home. Bostock is at first flattered by the man’s attention and enthusiasm, and astounded by the offer of a possible European career. But not as astounded as De’Ath himself, perhaps…

"It’s easy to be glib and suggest that Kwietniowski’s debut feature is a poor man’s Death in Venice set on Long Island. This is, however, both unlikely (since it’s an adaptation of a novel) and inaccurate. There are similar themes, sure, in the older man’s infatuation with a young man. But that would cover a lot of other films, too. Anyway, the point is, this film is unique. It offers us a lively humour constantly bubbling beneath the surface, even as the pathos of De’Ath’s obsession begins to bite. John Hurt deserves enormous credit for taking this film beyond the boundaries of the ordinary with a tantalising portrait of Giles De’Ath (and wearing that name with ease), at once provocative, intriguing, mysterious and vaguely disreputable. He redeems himself, though, with his clear insight into his own, surprising behaviour, so that – while not entirely loveable – at least we vaguely understand him. The well judged performance matches the well judged direction and makes this a magnificent film, full of resonances and nuances, recommended for discerning movie lovers."
Andrew L. Urban

"The spirit of Thomas Mann's Death in Venice is transplanted to the suburbia of Long Island in this marvellous first feature from Richard Kwietniowski. At once a compelling study of obsession and a perceptive look at popular culture in the late '90's; this film is a rare treat indeed. It credits the audience with intelligence and never descends into hyperbole. The brilliantly structured script is filled with subtlety, droll humour and sly observations. Quite apart from these qualities, Love and Death on Long Island features one of John Hurt's greatest performances ever. As the aging recluse (he's described at one point as "erstwhile fogey") Hurt displays a depth of character and subtlety of performance to rival Dirk Bogarde's Aschenbach in Visconti's 1971 version of Death in Venice. His stunning portrayal brings a finely textured humanity to De'Ath; and his handling of the character's obsession evokes both empathy and pity. Jason Priestley also deserves considerable kudos for bravely taking on a role so close to his own persona. Also look out for Fiona Loewi who does a fine job as Audrey, and Maury Chaykin who has a significant cameo. Kwietniowski never compromises his vision for cheap shots or obvious laughs, giving the film a credibility which transcends its undoubtedly limited budget. This is a "small" film in the best tradition of British cinema. But it cleverly marries that tradition with its incisive take on American culture and its influence on Europe. Love and Death on Long Island is an eloquent character study, an acute social commentary - and a film not to be missed."
David Edwards

"There's no doubt that what this gem of a film proves, is that John Hurt is a great actor, and here, he saviours the role of the anti-technology writer, chewing it up in the most deliciously captivating performance of the year. It's Hurt's film, and anyone who comes close to him is likely to be swallowed up by the performance, which happens all too often in this deft satire by director Richard Kwietniowski. Very funny and deeply human, Love and Death on Long Island is a fish-out-of-water story, told with intelligence and grace. It could easily have fallen into stereotype, but it avoids the kinds of cliches often enmeshed in this kind of film. Hurt is wonderful, while Priestley is less successful, struggling with the less defined character and in many ways, parodying his own TV image. But that aside, Love and Death on Long Island is many things wrapped into one: a social commentary (it tackles the thorny issue of film as pure art versus film as mindless entertainment), a buddy picture/love story (Ronnie and Giles have one of the most interesting relationships found anywhere on a movie screen these days), and that "fish out of water" tale (Victorian relic Giles forced into the modern world). Yet, despite the many laughs Love and Death offers, it never takes cheap shots. It has a vibrant, beating heart - and that makes the comedy all the more worthwhile. It's a genuine delight - an intelligent entertainment."
Paul Fischer

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

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Andrew L. Urban's interview with
JOHN HURT

TRAILER

LOVE AND DEATH ON LONG ISLAND (M) 15+
(Britain/Canada)

CAST: John Hurt, Jason Priestley, Fiona Loewi, Sheila Hancock, Maury Chaykin

DIRECTOR: Richard Kwietniowski

PRODUCER:Steve Clark-Hall

SCRIPT: Richard Kwietniowski

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Oliver Curtis

EDITOR: Susan Shipton

MUSIC: The Insects, Richard Grassby-Lewis

PRODUCTION DESIGN: David McHenry

RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Niche Pictures

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: (Syd, Melb Brisb): April 1, 1999; (ACT, Adel, Per): June 3, 1999

AWARDS: Best First Feature, 1998, New York Film Critics Circle

FESTIVALS: Cannes, New York, Toronto

VIDEO RELEASE: October 11, 1999

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Siren







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