Thursday, October 18, 2007

Siam Sunset (1999, Australia)

If Alex van Warmerdam had been born in Australia instead of the Netherlands, he might make films like this. For all the similarly surreal ideas and the bleak events pictured in John Polson’s film, however, Siam Sunset never reaches the depressing depths of the average van Warmerdam film, if only because Polson’s movie not only has an ever so slight underlying strain of hope but also ends on a positive, happy note. But still, much like how tragedy follows the dress in van Warmerdam’s bizarre, depressing but (often) blackly funny film De Jurk (1996), John Polson’s black comedy tells the tale of a man who is seemingly a magnet for bad luck.
Linus Roache, the star of the scandalous but uninteresting (and already forgotten) movie Priest (1999) is Perry, an extremely happily married man who works in a chemical firm developing colours. One sunny day when he and his wife are washing the car and horsing around like teenagers, a refrigerator falls from the sky and lands on top of her. From that day on, he slowly develops the impression that he is a human black cat and that bad luck and disaster befalls everyone that crosses his path. Falling deeper and deeper into a depression, he becomes obsessed with creating the colour he calls “Siam Sunset”—which is that of his (dead) wife’s hair. Vacationed by his boss, he wins a bus trip through the Australian outback
while playing bingo. In Australia, his bus trip proves to be one from hell. Stuck on a bus full of Australian rednecks and white trash his bad luck seems to slowly infect the entire bus, but try as he might to leave the tour early some act of nature (or simple bad luck) always stops him. Along the way, Grace (Danielle Cormack) a vivacious and attractive woman on the run from her violent, drug dealing boyfriend Martin (Ian Bliss) comes aboard when her car breaks down. Equally pissed that she has left him and taken the drug money with her, Grace’s ex tracks her down and eventually ends up on the bus, too. The bus soon crashes somewhere deep in the outback and everyone gets stuck at a wreck of a roadside rest stop where the situation reaches its pinnacle before (almost) everyone lives happily ever after, even as the sky rains kitchen appliances.
Siam Sunset is a blackly humorous, surreal road movie which is both light and entertaining; for all its scurrile situations and events it never becomes overbearingly depressing or upsetting. Much like Strictly Ballroom (1992), the movie relies heavily on one dimensional caricature, especially when it comes to the other people on the bus—but the fact of the matter is, true white trash is a caricature of itself in real life as well. Siam Sunset is hardly a film one must see but it is definitely a strange, funny and enjoyable little movie that is in no way half as bad as most reviewers seem to find it.
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