Biographies-Cast & Crew
|Year Of Production||1998|
|Running Time||90:30 (Case: 97)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||John Curran|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Andrew McGahan's 1992 semi-autobiographical novel won rave reviews worldwide. Here was literary grunge: for me, an accompaniment to albums by the likes of Crow, Sebadoh and PJ Harvey, Praise charts a year in the life of its protagonist, Gordon. Having quit uni after coming to Brisbane from his family's farm in the country, he works in the bottle shop attached to his local, but only enough to pay the rent on his dingy room in a boarding house filled with old men, and for his pouch of tobacco and half-case of beer. Disillusioned, disenchanted and disenfranchised, he lives from drink to drink, cigarette to cigarette, consciously contemplating his own decline with a bizarre fascination that's easy once you get the hang of it. That is, until he gets a phone call from Cynthia.
Cynthia, with a taste for the drink that outstrips even Gordon's, and a desire for sex that to him is frightening in its intensity, literally commands Gordon out of his stupor. Covered in eczema that bleeds almost incessantly, she hits Gordon with a force that his lethargy finds difficult to cope with, and when the L word starts being bandied about, things start to get interesting. Even more interesting is when the object of Gordon's lifelong infatuation, Rachel, turns up on the scene.
McGahan penned the screenplay himself (and won an AFI award for his troubles), and whilst keeping the real, (genital) warts and all tone of the novel, the movie becomes a little less about Gordon and a little more about "Gordon and Cynthia", but nonetheless retains the sense of likeable pathos and wry, angsty humour of the text. The movie drips with the banality of life, and while there is no major, defining out-of-the-ordinary moment for Gordon and Cynthia; their relationship slowly ignites and disintegrates, but where Praise is aimed is at the very nuts and bolts of their relationship: the mundane grind of the everyday on two people seemingly hell-bent on their own destruction.
By now, you may be wondering exactly what there is of value here, but I'll lay it out for you: Sacha Horler (Soft Fruit) as the sexually predatory Cynthia and debutante Peter Fenton (formerly of Crow) as the lethargic Gordon deliver stunning performances at opposite ends of the sexual spectrum, and they inject their roles with such realism and feeling that although it is difficult to sympathize with the characters, director John Curran (also his feature debut) ensures that we are always involved and caring about them. Brilliantly lit and photographed by Dion Beebe (Holy Smoke), we are given an at times uncomfortable and sometimes painful window into the lives of the two lead characters as their relationship runs its almost inevitable course.
Nominated for a total of 10 AFI awards, Praise really hit some sort of spot with me, and although virtually ignored by much of the movie-going public on its limited theatrical release, it is a document of a relationship worthy of recognition for its sadness, beauty and the wonderful skills and craft on show.
Generally, the transfer was quite sharp and detailed, with the clouds of cigarette smoke almost always present throughout the movie swirling beautifully, and every detail of Cynthia's various skin blemishes on display. There was absolutely no low-level noise to speak of and shadow detail in this darkly lit movie was superb: every detail intended by the makers could be seen, including some stylistically-induced grain in a couple of scenes.
The colours used throughout the movie were deliberately muted: pale oranges, yellows, browns and washed-out blues (the colours of a suburban Brisbane summer) were the order of the day, but occasionally, when the action moved outdoors, there were some beautifully vibrant greens of the flora and blues of the sky.
Aside from the occasional film artefact in the guise of a white speck (and a small scratch at 2:21), no other transfer defects were apparent, and this was very pleasing indeed, although the transfer wasn't really put to the test with much in the way of items usually causing film-to-video artefacts.
The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times, with the odd exception of a couple of lines delivered when the characters were in quite an emotional state. Audio sync was not an issue whatsoever.
The majority of the original score was provided by Dirty Three, a name familiar to fans of the Australian indie scene. Consisting of Warren Ellis' wailing violin, a guitar and drums, the main theme used is that from a track called I Remember A Time When You Once Used To Love Me; together with the rest of the soundtrack, it complements the onscreen action perfectly.
Being a Dolby Surround encoded mix, I didn't expect too much from the surrounds, but I did expect a little more than was given. Although they nicely complemented the score, and occasionally made me jump when a certain rear-to-front "whoosh" effect was used, I was hoping for a little more in the way of ambience, or at least a little more volume for those ambient sounds reproduced.
Although the subwoofer wasn't overly necessary in this dialogue-based production, it was occasionally called upon to support the lower end of the score as well as to provide the odd effect like when Gordon winds up his Kingswood.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
A welcome entrant into the Region 4 marketplace, Siren will get my hard-earned dollars if it continues to release quality titles like this one. Now if only they'd give us 5.1 and 16x9 enhancement...
|DVD||Toshiba 2109, using S-Video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.|
|Speakers||Front: Yamaha NS10M, Rear: Wharfedale Diamond 7.1, Center: Wharfedale Sapphire, Sub: Aaron 120W|