The Cars That Ate Paris

Year: 1974
Production Co: Royce Smeal Film productions
Director: Peter Weir
Producer: Hal McElroy/Jim McElroy
Writer: Peter Weir
Cast: John Meillon, Max Gillies, Bruce Spence, Chris Haywood
This film epitomises the Australian New Wave like a handful of others do from the 60s and 70s, when Australian films were almost universally surreal, artistic, metaphorical, allegorical, and outright weird.

A young man and his brother crash their car entering the outback town of Paris. The brother is killed, and the man finds himself unable to leave after the townspeople bring means deceptive and nefarious to bear to keep him there. The fact that he's phobic about cars doesn't help either.

It's a strange town full of eccentricities, most of them personified by the cold, traditionalist mayor (Meillon). It also has a derelict youth problem, with a local gang that dress their cars up with outlandish designs, colours and additions and whom are apparently a bomb waiting to go off.

When the tinderbox does erupt with violence and destruction, it's the culmination of whatever Weir's trying to say about something. Maybe it's small town politics, maybe it's the rise of industrialisation.

If it's just about a young guy kept prisoner in a rural town while thugs trash the place, then I'm looking too deep and it's a surreal movie in search of a point. In fact, I had to read a description from the Internet to even realise the townspeople were causing car wrecks to sell the salvageable parts to keep the town alive.

Unfortunately as it's such a classic, one of those films that just makes you feel stupid. You'll want to like it a lot more than you actually will.

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