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He Died With A Felafel In His Hand
cast: Noah Taylor, Emily Hamilton, Romane Bohringer, Sophie Lee, and Brett Stewart

director: Richard Lowenstein

103 minutes (MA 15+) 2000
widescreen ratio 16:9
Roadshow DVD Region 4 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
Danny (Noah Taylor) is on his forty-seventh shared house, this one in Brisbane, and things aren't getting better. He shares with a gun freak (Alex Menglet) who likes to play golf with cane toads as balls, a druggie (Brett Stewart) who tops up his pale complexion by 'moontanning'. Only English girl Sam (Emily Hamilton), Danny's platonic best friend, seems to have her head screwed on. Then Anya (Romane Bohringer) comes along: a vegetarian, lesbian Goddess-worshipper, she throws an already dysfunctional household into chaos. Danny moves on to Melbourne, then to Sydney, but finds that his former flatmates think nothing of following him...
   Based on a book by John Birmingham, He Died With A Felafel In His Hand is a stylish, and often wildly funny black comedy. Given director Lowenstein's obvious assurance behind the camera, it's astonishing that this is only his fourth feature, after the drama-doc Strikebound (1984) and the wild, Altmanesque punk movie Dogs In Space (1986). I haven't seen 1992's I Say A Little Prayer, which was unreleased in the UK. He's spent a lot of the rest of the time making promo videos for such as U2 and INXS. The film does have some dull spots, and it's arguable that it hits its peak 45 minutes in, but it's at best hilarious and sometimes poignant. Hamilton and especially Bohringer give shadings to characters that could easily have become caricatures, and Sophie Lee is very funny as the neurotic queen bee of the Sydney household. Noah Taylor underplays to such an extent that you wonder if he's acting at all, but you can sense the frustration building inside Danny - when he finally blows, it's all the more effective for it.
   This isn't a film for the easily offended, but anyone else should track it down. Roadshow's DVD is anamorphically enhanced, with an imaginatively used Dolby digital 5.1 soundtrack. The only extra is a trailer.