AFTER THE FOX
New Zealand born actress KERRY FOX is on a roll again after years of controversy and childbirth. TOM DAWSON catches up with her on the set of another new project.
The prolific Kerry Fox
SPOOF DOCUMENTARY A MIGHTY WIND (12A) 91 min on
Filmmaker. actOr and writer Christopher Guest returns With
and Cher. there's the Folksmen (Guest. Michael McKean and Harry Shearer) a bunch of anachronistic self righteous dime and shine double bass
The period drama Black and White dramatises the murder trial that sent shock waves around Australia in the late 19505. Max Stuart, a half- caste Aboriginal drifter, was accused of raping and killing a nine-year-old Caucasian girl in a remote community in South Australia. An open- and-shut-case you’d have thought, given that the jury consisted of 12 white men. But Stuart’s Adelaide legal aid lawyer David O’Sullivan argued that his illiterate client’s word-perfect confession had been the result of police torture. And so began a contest that would take in some seven appeal hearings, and representation to the Privy Council in London, before Stuart’s death sentence was eventually commuted.
New Zealand-born actress Kerry Fox, speaking from the set of a PD James adaptation The Murder Room, admits that she didn’t know of the Stuart case until she was sent the Black and White script by director Craig Lahiff. ‘The violence and the racism of the police was quite shocking - it was so horrifying it felt surreal’, she says. ‘What I liked was that the script doesn’t answer the question about whether Max was guilty or innocent. Until the point of the flashback from the perspective of the crown prosecutor played by Charles Dance, you believe he’s innocent. Then everything can be perceived in a different light.’
Cast in the role of Helen Devaney, O’Sullivan’s tenacious business partner, Fox deliberately
decided to steer away from seeking to replicate the real-life person. ‘Helen in reality was very different to the character I portrayed,’ she explains. ‘I didn't think she would work within the film as it was. The script is very dry because there’s a lot of jargon and legal issues. Once we were rehearsing I thought it would be best to bring a certain amount of energy and lightness to Helen. You have to see me change from disbelief to belief. What’s interesting is that Helen and O’Sullivan ended up with miserable lives. She couldn’t work in South Australia and she never had the career she should have had elsewhere.’ The acclaim that greeted Kerry Fox’s last screen role, her intrepid portrayal of a female lover in Patrice Chéreau’s controversial Intimacy, suggested that this Shallow Grave veteran might be making some sort of career breakthrough. Surely by succeeding in such a risky, demanding role and winning the Berlin Silver Bear award, she must be perceived even more favourably by potential collaborators? ‘I really don’t know how I’m perceived - I don’t have any objective view of me from outside’, she laughs. ‘I guess I’ve been busy with my two and half year-oId-kid. I’m doing this BBC thing for a few weeks and I’ll be doing a play touring Europe next year. I always say that if you win a prize, you never work again - that’s always been the case for me.’ I Black and White is on selected release from Fri 9 Jan.
Simple minded legal eagle yarn
his seventh directonal outing with what is basically a fairly underfed mockumentary. Guest is experienced enough to know to play to his strengths. and for a man who is better known as the dumb arsed guitar player Nigel Tufnel in Rob Reiner‘s This is Spinal Tap. that really isn't that difficult. As with his previous feature. Best In Show. Guest teams up With writer and actor Eugene Levy (American Pie). When folk group agent Irving Steinbloom dies. his son Jonathan (Bob Balaban) and the raggle taggle collection of bands his father looked after decide to hold a commemorative night for him at New York Town Hall. There's Mitch and Mickey (Levy and Catherine O'Hara). a dysfunctional folked out Sonny
26 THE LIST 8—22 Jan 2004
junkies and there is the Cloying Main Street Singers (John Michael Higgins. Jane Lynch and Parker Posey). a new age folk regiment who make the Osmonds look radical. When this lot run into each other after all these years there is. of course. chaos.
The only trouble is there is not enough chaos. One senses that Guest and Levy have a sneaking respect for these old troubadours and while the satire is clever (and occasionally hilarious) the film does lurch in tone throughout. That said. the period reconstruction and the big show tunes are spot on — they are deliciously droll and mannered. (Paul Dale)
I Selected release from Fri 76 Jan.
Soft shoe spoof
COURTROOM DRAMA BLACK AND WHITE (15) 99min 0.
The title signifies the racial diVide between white Australians and Aboriginals and the dangerous lack of flexibility in South Australia's judicial system. circa the late 1950s. Based on a landmark trial held in 195$). this courtroom drama reconstructs the case that irrevocably changed police procedure and judicial authority.
When Irish-Australian lawyer David O'Sullivan (Robert Carlyle) is appointed by the court to defend an Aboriginal named Max Stuart (DaVid Ngoombujarra). who has been arrested for and confessed to raping and murdering a nine-year~old white girl outside the desert town of Ceduna. the young legal eagle thinks it an open and shut case. But when O'Sullivan discovers the police beat a false confession out of Stuart. the case becomes a crusade for justice that takes the lawyer to the highest court on the land.
The dramatisation of this significant moment in Australian legal history benefits from strong casting: Carlyle playing the cocky O'Sullivan; Ngoombujarra the victimised Stuart; Charles Dance the eminent Crown Prosecutor Roderic Chamberlain; and Kerry Fox O'Sullivan's plucky legal partner Helen Devaney. Unfortunately. both the case and the cast are let down by Louis Nowra's clumsy script and Craig Lahiff's uninspired direction. From the flimsy characterisations to an awkward point of view switch (from O'Sullivan’s to Chamberlain's — a half- hearted attempt to present both sides of the story) to the unintentionally laughable introduction of young newspaper brat Rupert Murdoch .who tries Stuart by media in order to up the circulation of his Ade/aide News). Nowra's script stinks. Black and White is as simple—minded as the title suggests. Case closed. (Miles Fielder) I Selected release from Fri 9 Jan.