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PRAISE

SYNOPSIS:
Gordon (Peter Fenton) is a chain-smoking asthmatic with a lazy libido and a heart that’s been broken by ten years of unrequited love. Cynthia (Sacha Horler) has her own problems, including bad skin and a history with too many men to count. But she sees something in the kind-hearted Gordon and for an explosive moment of warmth, sex and madness, laughter, sex and terror, sex scrabble and sex, it seems they night even save each other. But old habits die hard.

"Just as Head On explores sexuality from an internal perspective, Praise is also an internal film that canvasses a similar theme. But there is absolutely nothing similar about the two films (although both are based on novels.) Head On is explosive and passionate; despite a brave approach from first time director John Curran and two strong, memorable performances, Praise is strangely unengaging – and lacking in pace. What Praise does well is create an atmosphere. This slice of life about relationships, sex, drugs and commitments, has an undertone of despair, as the two lead characters struggle to find themselves. The complexities of life are reflected in the diverse choice of music, which in itself is a statement. Sacha Horler is disarmingly vulnerable, in a complex role (a stand-out performance) where her initial aggression leads to despondency and vulnerability. Horler’s performance is brave, and is the outstanding factor of this confronting Australian film. Peter Fenton has an appealing brooding quality – he portrays the lost soul in Gordon only too well. Praise is a character driven drama, disturbing at times and peppered with crass language, nudity and mostly un-erotic sex scenes. My frustration with the film hinges on the fact that it doesn't go anywhere; the ending is a total non-event. Possibly appealing to a young audience who can relate to the lifestyle, Praise does successfully bring three new talents to our notice."
Louise Keller

"Working from a novel, where the reader provides much of the fill, Praise is almost claustrophobic in the isolation in which it presents the story and its characters. The outside world hardly intrudes. It hopes for post modernist praise with its exploration of a weird affair between two unfortunates, the film’s relevance is restricted to lost souls, I suspect. That leaves many of us out of contact, and not only on the basis of age. However, while I find the film’s ambiance singularly unappealing, I do recognise that it boasts two brilliant screen performances. Sacha Horler’s desperate and unappealing character (physically as well as temperamentally) is fully, openly and bravely realised; this is not acting, it is being. Fenton, too, gives Gordon dimension and substance, sometimes reminiscent of Peter Coyote’s complex, vulnerable early work. The frequent sex has little erotic or voyeuristic appeal – some scenes are positively un-sexy – but all are intentionally directed that way, and for good reason. The subtext seems to be the potent question: what do we see in each other as lovers, when we are not obviously lover material? Is physical proximity the bottom line, or glue? John Curran has the same edgy and robust filmmaking instinct as did the younger Gus van Sant. Still, I found some of the Spanish music (while enormously likeable) out of context and disorienting, coupled with radio excerpts that sound very 50s. The film doesn’t look or feel particularly 50s, making this aspect confusing. But marketed to the 18 – 24 age group, this technically and creatively fine arthouse film could find its audience."
Andrew L. Urban

"Praise is a brave film, on that most critics are bound to agree. Audacity can be a good thing in the right hands, but regrettably, under the direction of John Curran, Praise is problematic, an overly dark, relentless and dour film that seems a pointless exercise in excess. Structurally, Praise is inconsistent, a series of overdone, sexually graphic vignettes that fail to enhance either narrative or a detailed sense of character. But the film's major flaw is the casting of singer Peter Fenton as the complex, asthmatic, Gordon. Fenton has a brooding, but uncharismatic presence, whose underplaying of the character leads him to emerge as a wallowing, self-piteous character, consistently overshadowed by Cynthia, the sexually addictive aggressor, played with an audacious brilliance by Sacha Horler. Hers is a physically unattractive character, and Horler's raw, uncompromising work, is what gives the film its major strength. To be fair to the film, Praise is a brave and demanding work, but unlike the similarly tough Head On, lacks an actor with as much range and power to carry the film. It has compelling moments, but its dark humour is masked by an unconvincing central performance and Curran's at times, unsure direction."
Paul Fischer

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 3

Andrew L. Urban REPORTS on a love story between a guy with no sex drive and a girl who can't get enough… Praise be!

PRAISE (R)
(Australia)

CAST: Peter Fenton, Sacha Horler, Joel Edgerton, Yvette Duncan, Marta Dusseldorp

DIRECTOR: John Curran

PRODUCER: Martha Coleman

SCRIPT: Andrew McGahan (based on McGahan’s Vogel Award winning novel)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dion Beebe

EDITOR: Alexandre de Franceschi

MUSIC: Dirty Three

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Michael Philips

RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Globe

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: April 22, 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: December 6, 1999

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Siren

CD Soundtrack
PRAISE
Fesvial Records
Featuring new music from Dirty Three, Crow & Screaming Johnny Ellis
Available at all record outlets
RRP: $29.95







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