Oct. 30, 2001
By Erin Free
SYDNEY -- With a title like "He Died With a Felafel in His Hand," and Richard Lowenstein, director of 1986's offbeat "Dogs in Space," at the helm, could this film be headed anywhere else than directly for cult status?
After directing several award-winning videos for the rock band INXS, Lowenstein knows his way around wild subject matter. The film is based on John Birmingham's highly popular book about share-housing, based on his experiences of living in dozens of houses with dozens of people throughout Australia.
Driven by absurdist humor, random off-the-wall moments of originality and a generally anarchic tone, "He Died With a Felafel" mixes the heightened silliness of youth cinema with a more studied, film-literate approach.
It's the type of film that should click with festival audiences looking for a comedic shot in the arm among the usually more serious offerings. The fact that the film also drops references to all kinds of elements of popular culture, as well as several cinematic icons (such as Jean-Luc Godard and Hal Hartley), should make it a hit with serious film enthusiasts looking to spot the influences, too.
The oddball aesthetic, combined with its left-of-center cast, might deter mainstream audiences from embracing the Australian offering, but those who like their cinema on the edge should find a lot to enjoy here.
Danny, a fine study in comedic reserve by Noah Taylor ("Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," "Almost Famous"), is trapped in share-house hell. He moves from house to house, sharing space with people he hardly knows, watching his life slowly unravel.
It doesn't help that the same eccentrics keep following him from city to city: the boyishly sexy Sam (fresh-faced newcomer Emily Hamilton), French anarchist Anya (a very impressive Romane Bohringer) and drug-addled Flip (Brett Stewart).
But when he hits Sydney, and shares house with a bitter homosexual and a society bitch (Francis McMahon and Sophie Lee, respectively, are both sidesplittingly hilarious), Danny's rambling life finally catches up with him.
Lowenstein fills the screen with vivid imagery and even more vivid characters and manages to hold them back from overstepping the mark and falling headlong into complete absurdity. It's a risky ploy, but one that works. "He Died With a Felafel" walks on the right side of the fine line between being a charming mess and a total shambles.
--Erin Free/ The Hollywood Reporter - Review
March 4, 2003
By Matt Langdon
Film:He Died with a Falafel in His Hand is fairly good film that is based on a successful book and play of the same title. It is mainly about a down-and-out Australian writer named Danny (Noah Taylor) and the somewhat peculiar company he keeps. He lives a moderate existence with a rag tag group of friends and seems to be in that perpetual funk of getting nothing much done in his life.
The film is more or less incident driven as opposed to plot or character driven. Things happen, Danny reacts in a dead-pan kind of way and then moves on. In the first part, which takes place in Brisbane, a mystifying woman named Anya Romane Bohringer) shows up to rent the place it leads to the ultimate destruction of the house.
Then he moves to Melbourne and finds darkness and rain. Plus, he is dogged by a couple repo men who are after him for a huge credit card debt. Finally, he end in Sydney where life is clean but deceptively pleasant. It's here that he loses his good friend - a junkie who dies with a falafel in his hand. All along Danny seems to be looking for a good friend who he can share all of his ennui with and he finds that with one tried and true tomboyish woman friend named Sam (Emily Hamilton).
The film, directed by Richard Lowenstein, throws together a whole bunch of scenes some that stick (a back yard pagan ritual that is broken up by Neo-Nazis) and some that fall flat (the members of one house sing along together while watching TV).
While watching the film I was reminded of the films of Hal Hartley: Not only from a stylistic point-of-view - such as the framing of each scene - but also the wry line delivery by the actors. The hard edge humor of the film is akin to something like an Alex Cox film. The film also makes passing references to Godard, Brecht, Buster Keaton, Robert Bresson and a good number of literary figures. Suffice it to say that the film is not quite as good as the many references that it makes but it is worth a look.
Video:The film is presented in 1.78:1 with slight letterbox. The lighting of the film is a little over the top at times but the colors and the contrasts are all quite pronounced. The film has a dark glossy look and everything is in good focus due to the use of deep focus and depth staging.
Audio:The audio is in Dolby Digital 5.1 and shows off its very good soundtrack that features a wide variety from Nick Cove to Moby to Nina Rota. The film is dialogue driven and everything can be heard just fine. The only difficulty is understanding some of the Australian accents.
Extras:The film is accompanied by an audio commentary track by Richard Loweinstein and it is good if not a little unexciting. There is also a very funny short film titled Time Out directed by Robbie Chafitz about two 20 somethings playing kindergarten kids in a school yard. There is also a trailer for another film by the Filmmovement Distributor.
Overall:He Died with a Falafel in His Hand is released by Film Movement a fine new company founded by a group of film programmers who are attempting to give little seen non-distributed films a second life. Despite a great title, a fine soundtrack and great cinematography Falafel is a good dark comedy that falls short of greatness. It manages to tap into something we all encounter in our lives and for that it is worth a look.
--Matt Langdon/ DVD Talk - Review