The Last Supper

(Stacy Title, USA, 1996)


I was once a member of an employment panel interviewing candidates for a community-based, video production project. One particular interviewee, a young man, impressed the panel with his obvious personal commitment to the issues of homelessness and women's rights. As the session wound to a close, this chap capped off his self-presentation by proudly declaring: "And you know what I would most like to achieve with this project? I'd like to make a video that would stop the Asian invasion of Australia once and for all!"

This frank fellow did not get the job. Remembering the incident, however, I am struck by its two, almost contradictory aspects: the man's ideological monstrousness suddenly and dramatically revealed; but also the insular smugness of myself and my colleagues, assuming that no one who did not share our politics would ever dare enter our professional space.

The low-budget, black comedy The Last Supper is about exactly this kind of social contradiction. It is, roughly, an American equivalent to the works of Australian playwright David Williamson: a slender chamber-piece attempting to dramatise a clash of ideas, positions and ethical conundrums.

Director Stacy Title and writer Dan Rosen pad out the material with a lumbering investigative subplot and artless gags, but the core premise is intriguing.

Five postgraduates gather, as they do every Sunday night, for fine food and sparkling intellectual conversation. Between them, they represent a veritable rainbow coalition of left-wing causes (feminism, environmentalism, and so on) and identities (Jewish, Afro-American, etc).

But, just when you suspect that this film is shaping up as a lame parody of fashionable leftism, something seemingly much worse is targeted: the various bigotries of the mad American right, as embodied in a grating, John Laws-type TV personality (Ron Perlman).

One dark Sunday night, this well-dressed bunch of liberals finds itself confronted with the loud views of a redneck truckie (Bill Paxton). The evening quickly gets out of hand, and the stranger ends up dead. Having buried this obnoxious guy in the backyard, our diners become born-again, political zealots. They decide to embark upon an elaborate campaign of righteous murder.

From that point on this slight, repetitive, clunky movie alternates between unveiling ever more horrifying right-wing representatives, and showing the increasing, cold-blooded barbarity of the meek eggheads. The Last Supper gains its only Williamsonian frisson from the constant switching of our sympathies: we cheer on the killers, but then find ourselves feeling sorry for the victims.

© Adrian Martin June 1996

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
home    reviews    essays    search