They say the cactus plant thrives on neglect
Peter Shelley | Sydney, New South Wales Australia | 09/10/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Dutch/Australian director Paul Cox' film is so reverential to the blind that it mutes the intended romance. Filmed in the lush bushland of remote Victoria, Isabelle Huppert plays a Frenchwoman on holiday who may lose her sight after a car accident. The titular plant is represented by Robert Menzies, a blind man who lives in the small community, growing prize cacti which reach to staggeringly Freudian heights. Cox succeeds in highlighting the beauty of the land, where birds sing like bells, laugh and make noises like whiplash, adding music by Giovanni Pergolese on the soundtrack, with angelic sounding vocalists, and his signature super 8 stock for memory. The screenplay written by Cox, Bob Ellis and Norman Kaye, gives Huppert the dilemma of either having an operation to remove one eye to save the other, or leave the worse affected eye and lose all sight. However she procrastinates in spite of the eye specialist's warnings that she needs to make a decision quickly, to such a point that after watching her applying her makeup multiple times, we laugh when she ask Menzies if he thinks she is "a shallow person". In spite of Menzies cliched claim that blindness is a gift, the narrative clearly makes the stronger case for sight, particularly since Menzies himself is presented as such a prickly tortured creature ie cactus. Cox makes the aged locals amusingly eccentric, with their cactus clubs and sitting around the piano parties, and shows Huppert as an alien when she walks in a busy Melbourne street. In spite of the context, Cox doesn't release Huppert the way other directors have, since she only really makes an impression when she speaks in French to her husband who flies over to visit, and with the enigmatic to-camera looks she gives."