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MISTER BISCUIT

Australia, 1999 (MIFF 1999, Australian Showcase)

Director: Brian McKenzie

Brian McKenzie has fashioned a deeply personal docu­mentary about Noel Mason, a Melbourne man trying to earn a meagre living as a children's entertainer. Noel is clown/magician 'Mister Biscuit', a character who brings a combination of sleight of hand, slapstick and gags to pre­schoolers but struggles to keep financially above water. When he is duped by a small-time conman into joining a bogus entertainer's agency, Mason finds himself embroiled in a scam which leaves him near broke. What follows is a tale part private-eye story, part tragedy.

'Once you see this show you will be eggstatic with eggcitement and that's no yolk!" reads Noel's flyer. The word play is particularly ironic and given the trouble that Noel has with reading and writing. He is dyslexic and prickly on the topic. Noel was set on a disheartening course of failure where the management of things in the grown-up world never seemed to go well. He lives humbly in a share house with three other men he rarely communicates with.

With children Noel has a special rapport if only he could marshal his abilities into a viable business. Noel works out of suitcases and travels to kid's parties and shopping centres in a disintegrating aqua Ford Escort. Once in front of his youthful audience, Noel is trans­formed into a vaudevillian clown adept at manipulating the moods of a crowd with disarming playfulness, passion and poignancy. Above all Noel demonstrates a care and sensitivity to children and their feelings that belies an oth­erwise dithering and inarticulate demeanour. A film of immense pathos, and a rare intimacy with its subject.

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