Feeling Sexy - rated - SIMMERING

...and Looking Good

Davida Allen's first film was about 10 years in development. It went through various incarnations, one of which might have had Rosanna Arquette in the central (autobiographical) role now played by Susie Porter, and Jack Nicholson playing the role of Davida's dealer, who does not appear in the completed version of the film. Thank heavens things turned out differently!

Given the film's chequered history, it is truly remarkable that Allen's film has such freshness and vitality. It is directed with assurance - the plot unfolds briskly and with no nonsense. It is essentially Australian - quintessentially Queensland even - verging on the quirky, but never wacky.

And it looks delicious. This is not surprising. Allen is one of Australia's leading contemporary artists, and she brings both her artist's eye and her palette to the picture. It's also funny. The opening scenes in the bathtub signal the tone and pace of the film. But though the film is about art, and the artists, it is not overly "arty". However, the film does not flow in the way we are used to seeing mainstream films flow. It is more like a series of vignettes which add up to a story. There are many fades or cuts to screens full of delicious colour. In a way, it reminded me of what Scorsese did with The Age of Innocence (1993), reviving all sorts of "old fashioned" techniques, like irises, and other tools of editing to emphasis the episodic nature of the tale.

The other unusual thing about this film is its length. At 50 minutes, it is short, but not a moment too long or too short. Showing considerable guts, Davida Allen has made a film which is one-third the length of many of the films being released at the same time (The Green Mile, Magnolia, The Insider etc).

Leading actor Susie Porter (who nearly stole Two Hands (Gregor Jordan, 1999) away from Heath Ledger and Bryan Brown - quite an achievement!) is just about perfect in her role as Allen (even though the resemblance is fairly remote). Tamblyn Lord does well in a role which is surprisingly marginal for a second lead. In fact all the roles other than porter's seem marginalised - they are purely "generic" - for example, 'the husband," "the kids," "the lover," "the man in overalls" etc. As might be expected from an idiosyncratic artist, ieveryone else exists only in rlation to the central role of the artist.

Allen says that as a neophyte director, she relied extensively on the skills of the film professionals with whom she worked. Like the actors, the technical professionals gave her exemplary support . Director of photography Garry Phillips ( a Queenslander), editor Heidi Kennessy (who has worked with Jane Campion and recently edited a doco about another Australian contemporary artist, Tracey Moffatt (Up in the Sky - Tracey Moffatt in New York)) and Production Designer/ Art Director Hillary M Austin all do sterling work. They help give the film its distinctive look. But in the end it is Davida Allen's film because it's her story and her vision. I may be wrong, but I'm not sure that she'll make another film. It may be that she had one shot in her locker, and this was it. Even so, it hit the mark.