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McCREDIE, ELISE: Strange Fits of Passion

Strange Fits of Passion is an excruciating look at the experience of a girl just wanting to have her first sex, writer/director Elise McCredie tells ANDREW L. URBAN.

With its unpredictable ending and offbeat storyline, Strange Fits of Passion fits snugly into the non-genre of anti-romantic comedy. First time feature film writer/director Elise McCredie, not much older than the central character (known only as She), admits that she has drawn partly on her own life, but hastens to point out the details are different. "The elements of the emotions are similar..."

Strange Fits of Passion is a girl's rite of passage; a young Melbourne woman is scrambling through the bushes of sexual identity and her dreams of losing her virginity predominate. Counseled by her best (gay) friend, Jimmy, She tussles with every aspect of sex, from the notions of what is romance and love, to what is sex and with whom she should do it. But the film takes a dramatic turn away from the often comic journey of the girl to a profound exploration of the complexity of human relationships.

"the confusion around sex, love, sexuality, gender politics"

"I'd never seen a film exploring a young woman's sexuality," says McCredie, an actor, writer and director and graduate of Melbourne University and the Victorian College of the Arts. (She has received a Queens Trust Scholarship to study film directing at the New York Film Academy.) "I wanted to explore the confusion around sex, love, sexuality, gender politics - I wrote a film I wanted to see." For McCredie, the film came out of her desire to create "an interesting and intelligent female character who was neither super woman nor victim, a character that had complexity and defied categorisation."

The lead character has no name says McCredie, "to symbolise the lack of clear identity." All the same, Michela Noonan manages to convey a person behind the symbol, and with Mitchell Butel's effortless performance, the two central characters generate plenty of empathy. Butel says the film will appeal "to anyone who's ever had sex," and McCredie says the film is "an excrutiating look at the experience of a girl just wanting to have her first sex."

Producer Lucy Maclaren was invited onto the project by executive producer Tim White; by then the finance was largely in place, from the Film Finance Corporation, ABC Television, Arena (pay tv) and Film Victoria. The ABC invested cash as well as resources, and Beyond Films picked up the film on completion for international sales, just prior to the film's acceptance into the 1999 Critics Week program at Cannes. (Both Noonan and Butel were nominated for an AFI Award, and the script was nominated in both the AFI Awards and the AWGIES.

"performances are the key"

"I came into it with a strong sense that the performances are the key to it working," says Maclaren, and the cast spent three solid weeks in rehearsal. "I'd say it's a fairly wide arthouse picture, especially strong in the 18 to 35 range, but it's amazing how other age groups also connect with it."

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