TV Cream

Films: M is for...


In a predictably blokeish Australian cinematic milieu, female directors did gain a foothold. Gillian Armstrong, propelled Judy Davis and Sam Neill to world stardom with pleasant if slightly static feminist period drama My Brilliant Career (1979), while Jane Campion put the fun into dysfunctional with weirdo sister curio Sweetie (1989), and moved on to Oscar-trousering melodrama The Piano (1993). Perhaps more interesting is unsung heroine Nadia Tass, director of this excellent caper comedy. An exercise in doing ‘quirky’ without becoming a pain in the arse, Malcolm takes a plot that could easily nosedive into sentiment – reclusive, borderline-autistic bloke with a talent for making gadgets falls in with a lowlife crim and his girlfriend, and helps them with a robbery – but treats it in exactly the right head-on manner, like an Australian Ealing comedy, for want of a better comparison. The dialogue is brazen, the gags sound, and the gadgets, from Malcolm’s personal tram to the split-in-two getaway car to the robot ashtrays, are great. The only thing that dates it is the Penguin Cafe Orchestra soundtrack, which was really lovely once, before it appeared on every mobile phone advert ever.

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