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Reckoning

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HE DIED WITH A FELAFEL IN HIS HAND

SYNOPSIS:
Would-be writer Danny (Noah Taylor) is a twenty-something neurotic obsessive, living in his 47th shared house. From Brisbane to Melbourne and Sydney we meet his flatmates, tomboy Sam (Emily Hamilton), the mysterious Anya (Romane Bohringer), neurotic Nina (Sophie Lee), Flip (Brett Stewart) and latent homosexual Dirk (Francis McMahon). Pursued by detectives, life is forever complicated, especially concerning the seemingly irresolvable love triangle that evolves.

Life, death and everything in between – namely sharing a house – are the topics canvassed in He Died With a Felafel in his Hand, Richard Lowenstein's quirky, droll glimpse of the shared house experience. There's nothing tentative about either the characters or Lowenstein's approach and style; it's an entertaining and humorous look at the social environment and its impact on the individual. Lowenstein's script acutely captures the angst, the disparity, the conflict and the heart of the characters, each of which is beautifully drawn. The musical references are diverse and interesting, while the eclectic international cast oozes with colour and unpredictability. The central character Danny (Noah Taylor extracts every last drop of indecision and agony) is a wannabe writer who is trying to find himself creatively and personally. Neither his beloved Underwood typewriter nor the secret that is supposed to makes girls-go-gaga seem to have resulted in instant success; the reality of his life is bumbling though the highs and lows with a bizarre group of oddbods that meander in, out and around the action. Key characters like Anya (Romane Bohringer, memorable) effectively display her want to inject chaos far and wide; she seems totally at home presiding over sacrificial rituals. Flip (Brett Stewart, terrific) overdoses with non-legal indulgences and tans his gaunt complexion by 'moonbaking'. I especially enjoyed Emily Hamilton, who plays Sam – perhaps the most 'normal' of all the characters. She bounces from redhead, brunette and blonde in the different cultures of Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney with enthusiasm tinged with vulnerability. Sophie Lee ('I'm a bit of a babe, aren't I?') is entertaining as neurotic, self-obsessed, colour-coordinated Nina, and there are many moments that are painfully real, yet so funny to observe. Like the book, He Died With A Felafel In His Hand is the kind of film that is very likely to develop a cult following. The crazy, uncoordinated chaos makes compulsive viewing and the film is as compelling as it's fabulously image-descriptive title.
Louise Keller

Powered by energy, HDWAFIHH is like a felafel filled with a combination of flavours and tastes that blend together to create something new from elements that aren’t. Pop cannibalism on screen, you might say, without a derivative result. This is Lowenstein’s major achievement, as is his work with the cast. It results in sustained tension and sustainable comedy. Activated within the setting of a young man in search of an ideal house to share, the film’s amusement value is high, despite a slightly strained structure, around the middle. But nothing can detract from Noah Taylor’s outstanding performance as Danny the misfit whose pov gives us entry into this haphazard world. You could say that the role of Danny was tailor made for him. . . .his timing and screen presence were worth the wait. (Lowenstein had to delay shooting for six months while Taylor worked on Almost Famous.) He balances the needs of the comedic pain with the exigencies of dramatic truth very well. Entertaining and observant, HDWAFIHH is a really successful adaptation, making the material work on screen, unlocked from the written word.
Andrew L. Urban

Translating John Birmingham's episodic novel to the big screen was always going to be a tall order. The sheer number of characters and the fractured nature of the story mitigated against traditional film narrative. Richard Lowenstein's solution is to pull a few key elements from the book and to introduce a central character who doesn't appear in it. The result for fans of the book (and yes, I'm one) is likely to be one of bewilderment. Still, as film in its own right, Felafel has some fine moments. Many of these come courtesy of Noah Taylor as Danny. His blend of arty-farty writer and dork is spot-on, making him a truly memorable character. The film manages to pick the eyes out of the novel, presenting a number of hilarious scenes featuring outlandish flatmates, as Danny navigates his way through the maze of share-house living. Sophie Lee features in one of the funniest of these moments. As the self-absorbed Nina, she created some very bad flashbacks of share-house living for me. The main trouble with Felafel though is a ponderous script that makes us sift through a lot of chaff before getting to the grain in the story. The result is a rather disjointed film that drags rather than skips. When it hits its straps, Felafel shows flashes of brilliance. For many, those moments will be worth the admission price alone. But with the source material the filmmakers had to draw from, it's difficult to count this as anything but a miscue - an occasionally interesting one, but a miscue nonetheless.
David Edwards



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

Read Andrew L. Urban's interviews with
NOAH TAYLOR and
RICHARD LOWENSTEIN

SOUNDTRACK REVIEW

TRAILER

HE DIED WITH A FELAFEL IN HIS HAND (MA)
(AUS)

CAST: Noah Taylor, Emily Hamilton, Romane Bohringer, Sophie Lee, Alex Menglet, Brett Stewart, Francis McMahon

PRODUCERS: Richard Lowenstein, Andrew McPhail, Domenico Procacci

DIRECTOR: Richard Lowenstein

SCRIPT: Richard Lowenstein

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrew de Groot

EDITOR: Richard Lowenstein

MUSIC: Ben Osmo

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Iain Aitken

RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 30, 2001







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