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THE NUN AND THE BANDIT

Australia, 1992 (MIFF 1993)

Director: Paul Cox

Based on E. L. Grant Watson's 1930s novel, Paul Cox's latest film re-locates a number of his familiar themes to a starkly 'new' locale, the Australian bush. Set against the backdrop of a small Victorian town in what looks to be the 1940s or 50s, Cox's characteristically moody narrative focuses on Michael (Chris Haywood) and his brothers who are modern outlaws with little to do and lots of time to kill. Harbouring a long-term grudge toward his wealthy uncle George (Norman Kaye) and driven to desperation, Michael plots to kidnap his 14-year-old second cousin and hold her to ransom. Michael's extortion plan, however, is totally upturned when an unexpected captive accompanying the young girl turns out to be not only a woman but a nun, Sister Lucy (Gosia Dobrowolska). The ensuing drama gradually shifts gear from outback adventure into a thoughtful and remarkably tense conflict between the pure and the soiled, the spirit and the flesh. The tranquil Australian landscape soon overwhelms this man and this woman and they fall prey to the lure of the bush in a way not suggested in our cinema since that fatal day trip to Hanging Rock.

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