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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Animated menus

He Died With a Felafel in his Hand

Roadshow Entertainment/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 103 mins . MA15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

If you have never experienced the abject horror of being a co-inhabitant of a share household then you may as well stop reading now. That’s right – this film will make no sense whatsoever to you, and reading on may have a permanently adverse affect on your mind.

What, you’re still here? Well, don’t try to claim that you weren’t forewarned...

Now, those of us who have done their time in hell (hell! – oops, sorry, just had a Flash in the Pan Hey St Peter, erm, flashback just there – it must have been all that drug smoke – passively inhaled, naturally), any of the tales told in John Birmingham’s 1994 book that shares this film’s name will most likely not cause any great amount of shock or alarm. After all, we’ve been there, done that and could have written another chapter or ten for it, right?

While this film is extremely loosely based on more the vibe of the book than the stories within as such, the essentials remain. Tales of fish fingers, meat pies, guitars, remote control obsession, bongs, milk crates, pagan rituals, Vegemite on toast, nazis, house meetings, Nick Cave, unending wanky discussion and all manner of freaks ranging from those into chaos, neatness or fitness should all be familiar to most. I daresay cane toad golf is a uniquely Queensland experience, so that one may come as an intriguing surprise. Strangely though there was nobody here that marked a waterline on their milk carton every time they consumed some, and went strangely psychotic if said line and contents differed by even a millilitre come the next time they approached said carton. Hmm, perhaps that experience was, unfortunately, unique to me...

So, why all this blather then? Well, there isn’t really much of a plot to describe within He Died With A Felafel in His Hand, as it is more a stream of generally loosely interwoven vignettes giving a general overview of many of the pitfalls of sharing houses or flats with people you don’t know – much like the book. The core character is Danny (Noah Taylor) - yet another writer with terminal writer’s block - starting off in his 47th share digs in Queensland. We follow him and a selection of mates who seem to be able to track him down with considerable ease (Sam the studious Pom, Anya the freaky European ice queen, Flip the junkie – you get the idea) through to number 48 (Melbourne – so naturally it rains all the time, have to live up to the stereotypes, don’t we? Still, at least there’s no sign of any trams...) and ending up at number 49 in Sydney (hey, no gratuitous Harbour Bridge shots either – impressive!)

"Your mother seems very nice – you really should speak to her a bit more often."

Anyway, if you simply MUST have some semblance of a “plot” description so as you can sleep soundly tonight, then howsabout this? After a procession of tea-sipping, gangster-like landlords, crooked cops, debt collectors and most every other stress financial or otherwise that can be imagined, and through residences in three different states, Danny finally reaches meltdown point – that moment in time when you suddenly realise how completely and utterly f***ed your life really is and something within gives the ‘wave the white flag’ signal. And THEN he discovers his junkie mate stiff as aboard in front of the telly, holding you guessed it... still, he was found soundtracked by The Stranglers’ ode to smack, Golden Brown, which at least has a certain cosmic aptness.

What seems to be rather appropriately loose direction from Richard Lowenstein (now where’s that Dogs in Space DVD then?) works extremely well. There are no Oscar winning performances here, but all that appear in the film enter into the spirit of the thing most admirably and successfully. After all, unless you’re extremely unlucky share house life is hardly akin to Shakespeare – although come to think of it he was into tragedies, wasn’t he?

  Video
Contract

Hmm... 1.78:1 anamorphic vision – this is a good thing, however why do so many people have their noses cut off through the film? Could this be telling us the film may have originally been made rather wider and is presented here in the completely wrong ratio? Surely that wouldn’t be done, now would it?

That conundrum aside, the vision gives incredibly good colour, detail and blackness/whiteness ratio (ok, shadow detail/contrast – whatever – just trying to be a tad more interesting), with little in the way of flecks or aliasing or, indeed, any other visual nasties encountered along the way. Being a single layer disc, there’s no dodgy layer change to break-up proceedings mid-film.

  Audio
Contract

Useless for your average share place with nought but a ghetto blaster for musical output, but fine for those of us who have grown up and moved on, is a rather fun Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. While there isn’t a lot in the way of opportunity for surround usage, one session with this disc and you’ll be scared that you will have to scrape squished cane toads from all around your walls as they seemingly fly all over the place. The subwoofwoof adds oomph to some of the music, and also rather curiously goes off badoomfing away merrily of its own accord for a couple of minutes starting at around the 67 minute mark of the film, seemingly unrelated to anything going on onscreen – most odd. There are some nice stereo effects to behold, and synching is fine.

There’s nothing in the way of traditional score, however a selection of songs fills in the gaps where a John Williams wannabe would be sticking string sweeps and blaring horns. Much local talent is called upon, from the likes of Spiderbait and the sadly defunct Paradise Motel (including their lovely cover of The Cars’ Drive), and a simply brilliant doofed-up remix of Do Re Mi’s Man Overboard from Wicked Beat Sound System. Overseas artists such as the omnipresent nowadays Moby, U2 spin-off The Passengers and even the Mamas and the Papas also appear – as does Nick Cave – but really that was a given, wasn’t it?

  Extras
Contract

It’s a Village Roadshow disc, so there’s going to be heaps of extras, right? BZZT! Wrong, wrong, wrong. Their impeccable record of late is blotted substantially with this release, carrying but a mere theatrical trailer (2:06 in length, 1.85:1, Dolby Digital Stereo sound and cut-off sides) and, umm, does the raindroppy (heehee, must have been made in Melbourne!) Dolby Digital trailer count? No, I didn’t think so...

  Overall  
Contract

Anybody that’s a stickler for structure in their narratives, or indeed narratives in their narratives, should probably look elsewhere for their next slice of little shiny disc entertainment. However anybody who has actually survived to tell their own tales of share house “life”, appreciates a healthy slab of uniquely Australian laconic wit in their flicks, or simply REALLY despises cane toads should find much more than a plate of baked beans or bowl of two minute noodles to get their teeth into here – just remember, much like the average share pantry, the extras cupboard is essentially bare...


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      And I quote...
    "Anybody who has actually survived to tell their own tales of share house “life”, appreciates a healthy slab of uniquely Australian laconic wit in their flicks, or simply REALLY despises cane toads should find much more than a plate of baked beans or bowl of two minute noodles to get their teeth into here..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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