Presidents’ Weekend Marathon 4:Lantana

Here I am back from eleven hours of movie hopping. Yes, I’m mighty tired. I think for the rest of the marathon I may limit myself to two or three in the theatre and do the rest at home. At least then I can get some laundry done.

Upon leaving the theatre, I heard an older Italian couple behind me, the gentleman praising the movie but puzzled: “Lantana, lantana, I like the movie, but what does this mean?” I turned around and said: “Lantana was the bush.” This was all the explanation needed for a film that used themes like punctuation, repeating rhythmically yet with great subtlety, building a story that was at once cinematic and poetic. Lantana asks: “What would make a man cry like that?” and then answers in deep and unexpected ways.

I admit I’ve never been a fan of Anthony LaPaglia. He plays a lot of New York gangster types–a character I’m often bored with. I found myself delighted that an American should have to struggle with an Aussie accent, and tried to pick it apart. The joke was on me, as LaPaglia was born in Adelaide. The further joke: what an impressive performance. He plays Leon, a man who has gone numb and is flailing about for a modicum of inner reaction to anything. In the process he must solve a mystery, and answer questions of trust and loyalty.

Leon is part of an Altmanesque puzzle of faces–gorgeously-drawn characters who weave into each others’ lives at oblique angles. There are no bad performances in this film, and no missteps. While Ray Lawrence guided his actors magically, I have to lay most of the laurels at the feet of the writer, Andrew Bovell, who wrote the screenplay based on his stage production. Bovell also had a hand in the classic Strictly Ballroom, and the excellent Head On.

Lantana swept the AFIs with good reason. This was a great start to a long day.

Side note: saw a preview for Resident Evil. It looks awful, but I’ll go see it anyway because I have a soft spot for Milla Jovovich.

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