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SUNDAY

USA, 1997 (MIFF 1998, International Panorama)

Director: Jonathan Nossiter

Jonathan Nossiter's Sunday - part-psychological suspense, part-wry comedy - created a major stir when it scooped both the Grand Prize and Best Screenplay at last year's Sundance Film Festival. The story revolves around a homeless man, a beautiful woman, a case of mistaken identity and one steamy afternoon. Madeline is a struggling British actress in the midst of a bitter divorce. She spends her time bitterly contemplating her failures until she bumps into Oliver who she identifies as an acclaimed art-film director.

In reality Oliver's career and family are kaput and his life has spiralled into destitution and a succession of homeless shelters. After their passionate introduction, both parties work to maintain an illusion and Sunday chronicles one radiant day in the lives of two desperate people.

Director Nossiter - who cut his teeth as Adrian Lyne's assistant director on Fatal Attraction (1987) - has shaped a tale of illusive passion suffused with subtlety, emotion and profound sorrow. Bittersweet and not shy of sentiment, Sunday mines the intricate relationship between desire and identity, reality and invention.

Unaccustomed to friendly advances, particularly from a beautiful woman, the overweight and unkempt Oliver leaps at the prospect of reinventing himself, if only for the day. With an aching desperation, and only a tenuous grip on reality, the 'director' and his 'muse' submerge themselves in one another, savouring their brittle fantasy as if it is a life-support system, a glimmer of hope and perhaps redemption. Gritty and lyrical, Sunday is a profoundly humane account of the frailty of human spirits strangled by life's bitter ironies.

Jonathan Nossiter is fluent in five languages, having grown up in France, England, Italy, Greece and India. He studied painting at the Beaux Arts in Paris and the San Francisco Art Institute and first explored the director's role in theatre in the UK and US. Sunday is Nossiter's first feature after the documentary Radiant Alien (1992).

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