(Evan Clarry, Australia, 2002)


Within its first few minutes, the low-budget film Blurred starts giving out mixed messages. A spirited opening shows us a Japanese journalist fleeing from a nearby exploding car as he reports on the exotic Australian phenomenon of "schoolies week". A flashback then shows us the end of the school year, with eager teens tearing away.

But suddenly the action slows down for a supposedly reflective moment. A bare-chested hunk decides to sit in an empty classroom. He studies, not once but twice, a profound Shakespearean proverb written on the blackboard about growing up and knowing oneself. It is a self-conscious, overly preachy scene.

Blurred alternates between various characters on their way to the Gold Coast. There is much energy flowing between the cast members (including Matthew Newton, Jessica Gower, Petra Yared and Craig Horner) and a large spray of issues raised: class divisions, mateship, alienation, gender differences, responsibility. At the nadir of the multi-plot structure we meet a possible serial killer known as the Pigman, an uneasy attempt at black comedy seen elsewhere in the American Joy Ride (2001).

This is a paradoxical film. Although there is much motion in buses, trains, cars and on foot, the story too rarely moves forward. The project betrays its theatrical origins in its tendency to keep returning to static, extremely talky situations between characters. There are some good lines and eager performers, but the acting too often devolves into cartoonish twitches and yelps, while the relentless use of close-ups is punishing.

Fledgling feature director Evan Clarry and his associates have a stab at giving the film a style in the digital, post-production phase. Frenetic, psychedelic montage scenes split up the screen or give us an approximation of a cosmic drug hallucination, while an endless stream of songs provides a driving rhythm. On this level, however, the film is a dog's dinner compared to Garage Days (2002) which, despite its narrative flaws, has a much more integrated sense of visual and sound design.

Much of Blurred has the air of a discussion piece designed for school kids, a mode familiar in Australian cinema from such middling movies as Blackrock (1997). Plot lines pose lifestyle questions, like "would you remain faithful to your girl/boyfriend during a week of partying?"

Although the film's publicity campaign promises the spectacle of lawless, unbridled teen thrills, the proceedings are highly moral. Characters talk about condoms rather than actually having sex. And, although there is some drinking and drug use, no one really gets hurt. The film is geared, somewhat unctuously, towards positive messages of teen empowerment and self-respect.

© Adrian Martin October 2002

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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