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EIGHT BALL

Australia, 1992 (MIFF 1992)

Director: Ray Argall

Ray Argall's debut feature Return Home (1990 MFF) touched a nerve with its insightful depiction of working class survivors in an ail-too-believable contemporary Australia. Argall's new Film takes those ideas even further, throwing together two men from very different directions who share more of a com­mon history than they might realize.

They meet while working on the construc­tion site of a ludicrous tourist attraction — a giant Murray Cod — on the banks of the Mur­ray near Swan Hill. Motivated by the opportu­nity to champion an endangered species, Charlie has thrown himself into the design of the giant fish, not the fust in a line of big ani­mals he has had a hand in' Russell, meanwhile, is just out of jail and struggling to re-establish his relationship with Douggie, his eight-year-old son whom he hardly knows.

Only an Australian buddy movie could feature two men who barely talk to each other, but one of Eight Ball's many pleasures is its steadfast avoidance of the expected. Continual­ly understated and refreshingly unsentimental, Argall and co-writer Harry Kirchner pursue a low-key naturalism, reminiscent of Eric Rohmer. This is best captured in the astound­ing performance of newcomer Paul Stevn (as Russell), whose weary eyes immediately sug­gest a life of wrong choices and bad timing.

The friendship between the two men is only fleeting, but in the process they have seen things in each other that illustrate where they should be headed, individually.

- Tait Brady


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