Art Deco Detective

(Philippe Mora, USA, 1994)

  Philippe Mora, late ’80s

This – Australian expatriate Philippe Mora’s first film since the bizarre UFO drama Communion (1989) – is a true video oddity.

Mora, who in the early ’70s wrote jazzy articles in Cinema Papers magazine about B movies, Pop Art and comic strips, has always displayed a pronounced fondness for trashy mass culture. Here, he gives full vent to this taste.

It looks like a very cheap movie, with long sections shot on video and a ramshackle cast indulging in the kind of deliberately bad acting made famous in Paul Morrissey‘s movies.

Mora patches together a film noir parody with John Dennis Johnston as a gumshoe named Art Deco (yikes); a political satire overflowing with oafish American and Russian spies; and an erotic thriller centred on mad Stephen McHattie raging about like Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet (1986).

Mora strains to be up-to-date with quips about the geo-political New World Order and Naked Gun-style pastiches of what the hero knowingly calls “clichés of film grammar”.

But, as evidenced by endless gags about the Cold War and Lyndon B. Johnson (with whom one of the characters converses in a quite surreal mockumentary flashback), the film’s mind-set is firmly installed in the ’60s.

One should not be too surprised, then, to find numerous echoes of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, James Bond and Modesty Blaise, Barry Humphries and Jean-Luc Godard resounding like a mantra through this queer little film.

MORE Mora: Death of a Soldier

© Adrian Martin January 1995

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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