Skip to main content

PARIS TROUT

USA, 1991 (MIFF 1992)

Director: Stephen Gyllenhaal

If Ann Turner's Celia gave the mistaken impression that it examined the effects of a 1957 rabbit plague on a suburban Melbourne family, you would be forgiven for assuming Paris Trout's opening sequence foretold the drama of a community at the mercy of a rabies epidemic. Not so. This languorously-shot pot­boiler is an evocative study in the small-town mores of America's deep south circa 1949. Journalist Pete Dexter's screenplay from his 1988 novel more than provides for a stunning feature debut from Emmy-nominated televi­sion director Stephen Gyllenhaal.

Paris Trout is both a tautly-woven chamber piece and an operatic tragedy. Dennis Hopper, displaying wonderful economy in a tight-lipped performance, is Trout, a landowner, storekeeper and money-lender to whom most in the complacent Georgian community are beholden.

Consumed by debilitating racism and big­otry, Trout enacts his own private law with shocking consequences, verbally and sexually abusing his repressed wife Hanna (Barbara Hershey) and taking violent criminal action when a young black man accuses him of defaulting on a car hire purchase deal.

With immaculate pacing and terrific per­formances, including Ed Harris as Hanna's lawyer-lover, Gyllenhaal refuses to shy away from the ugly face of Dexter's novel. Paris Trout confronts with the detailed exactness of Truman Capote or Harper Lee's grasp of bitter racial and class distinction. For Hopper's mea­sured performance alone — a loan-shark's descent into madness — Paris Trout is grimly fascinating, disturbing stuff.

• Anne Woodman

See also...

Exit 10

An adaptation of a Katherine Mansfield story about a successful young lawyer, his wife, and a jazz pianist, whose lives are changed after a dinner party, at which the true relationship between the ... More »

BLOOD IN THE FACE

In this shocking close-up of America's white-supremacist movement, the members of the American Nazi Party, the Klu Klux Klan, and the Aryan Nations are chillingly relaxed, even genial, as they speak ... More »

The Cleansing Machine

A rivetting and intimate docudrama about the casually intertwined lives of two women only just surviving on the frmge of society Director Pat Baum has a keen eye for simple yet dra­matic images ... More »

First Comes Love

Last year's Grand Prix winner Su Friedrich (Sink or Swim), returns with something of a departure from her usual style First Comes Love uses footage shot at weddings, married with a soundtrack of ... More »

Backyard Movie

With self-deprecating humour, Bruce Weber relives his youthful cravings, adolescent crush­es and overwhelming desire to look like Clint Eastwood. ... More »

In and Out of Time

This sensitive study of the filmmaker's grand­mother who has Alzheimers disease, explores the nature of time and memory. The tyranny of memory loss means that she, an accomplished portrait ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director