Lust and Revenge

(Paul Cox, Australia, 1996)


Lust and Revenge is a simple piece of work – not especially daring, but it works well within its limited terms. For a Paul Cox film, it's all right – and if that sounds like damning with faint praise, so be it.

With Cox, it's always an extremely instructive exercise to compare the plot synopsis that comes with the advertising flyer or press kit with the stuff that actually ends up on screen. I think he clearly lacks a certain facility with cinematic storytelling. He seems very uneasy and hesitant with the full blooded articulations of his given stories – the key turning points, exchanges, passionate acts – which seem not so much understated as fumbled.

And the inner psychology of his characters – even if it is meant to be shadowy, ambiguous, divided psychology, as in so much art cinema – often seems to make precious little sense in the way it plays out on screen. Even Lust and Revenge, which is one of his better and more successfully articulated films, goes a little weak and fumbly when it comes to the central psychological journey of Cecilia (Gosia Dobrowolska).

Lust and Revenge is a rather straightforward parody of the contemporary commercial art world – its pretensions, and especially its venal, commercial values.

Cox and his writer John Clarke soften the simplistic pro-art message with a light touch of erotic comedy, involving an aphrodisiac potion that gets all and sundry rutting like rabbits. Mixed in to this soufflé is a quite pleasing parody of New Age mystical fads and guru figures.

It's a more controlled film than we usually get from Cox: the images are clear, wide and fluid (perhaps because he had to keep the large interiors well-lit), and some of the laughs are quite well staged.

It is an enjoyable romp – but one that is ultimately so routinely cynical and lampooning across the board that it has a hard time convincing us of certain absolute moral values, and those life-affirming actions that take place in its final movement.

MORE Cox: Cactus, The Diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky, Human Touch, The Nun and the Bandit, Vincent, Innocence

© Adrian Martin May 1997

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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