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The Cars That Ate Paris
The Cars That Ate Paris
Actors: Judy Morris, Ivar Kants, Terry Camilleri, John Meillon, Robert Coleby
Director: Peter Weir
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Comedy, Horror, Mystery & Suspense
PG     2003     2hr 43min

Lying in a gently rolling range of hills, the town of Paris has prospered from the hunting and destruction of cars: the road into Paris is a death trap. Into this trap drive George and Arthur Waldo. George is killed; Arthu...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Judy Morris, Ivar Kants, Terry Camilleri, John Meillon, Robert Coleby
Director: Peter Weir
Creators: David Sanderson, Peter Weir, Hal McElroy, Jim McElroy, Matt Carroll, Keith Gow, Piers Davies
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Comedy, Horror, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Comedy, Horror, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Home Vision Entertainment
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
DVD Release Date: 10/21/2003
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 2hr 43min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 8
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

"The Plumber" is brilliant, "Cars" less so
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 11/03/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Peter Weir! One of Australia's premier film directors, the man behind numerous classic films. He made the creepily obtuse "Picnic At Hanging Rock." He's also responsible for the depressing World War I flick "Gallipoli," the equally bleak "The Year of Living Dangerously," and the Robin Williams drama "Dead Poets Society." Weir worked with Harrison Ford on "Witness" and "The Mosquito Coast." He made the highly successful romantic comedy "Green Card" in 1990, the intriguing "Fearless" after that, and followed up with "The Truman Show" and "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World." Wow! That's a heckuva filmography! In other words, he helped Mel Gibson find greater exposure in America, assisted Harrison Ford's transition from "Star Wars" to more serious roles, and tried to break Jim Carrey out of his comedic rut. Not bad considering he largely succeeded in all of these endeavors. Mel Gibson is huge here, Harrison Ford makes big buck dramas every year or so, and Jim Carrey has successfully expanded his repertoire to include Oscar worthy films. It's hard to believe Weir's career started with movies like "The Cars That Ate Paris" and "The Plumber." What's that? You haven't heard of these two films? Well, here they are on DVD.

I'm not surprised in the least to learn that "The Cars That Ate Paris" never achieved much success. Why? Because the movie gives a new meaning to the term "odd". It's the story about an unemployed sad sack named Arthur Waldo (Terry Camilleri) and a pal who set off across the Australian countryside in search of work. Weirdness arrives shortly after a car accident right outside of the village of Paris injures Waldo and kills his pal. For some reason never adequately explained, the elders work hard to keep Arthur from leaving town. They also spend an enormous amount of time discussing plans to turn the village into a highly developed community that will draw in people and money. The other citizens of Paris, the kids, roar around town all day in souped up jalopies--some with spikes and other nasty accoutrements attached to the vehicles--terrorizing everyone. The kids knock down fences, drive through yards, and generally instill in the small town a palpable sense of dread. Adults fear the youths, but they also need them to make a bit of money on the side. The two generations work together for a common purpose, but it's a purpose that eventually leads to catastrophe.

"The Plumber" also assays a social conflict, but this time we're dealing with the subject of gender and class. Set largely in a claustrophobia inducing apartment high-rise, a couple living in one of the units experiences a most unusual encounter when a defective bathroom necessitates a call for a plumber. Specifically, Jill Cowper (Judy Morris) is the one who must deal with Max (Ivor Kants), a shaggy looking working class gent with the demeanor of a pub crawler. Jill, an educated anthropologist attempting to finish her thesis, at first tries to treat Max with kindness. She offers to provide food and drink for him, and lets him work with little supervision. Unfortunately, Max likes to chat up Jill and make tons of noise rather than do the job. Tension gradually builds up, especially when Jill's research scientist husband (Robert Coleby) doesn't believe his wife's nitpicking about the plumber's work. As for Max, he seems like he's dragging the job out just to get at Jill. It's hard not to think this considering the bathroom eventually looks like a hurricane hit it, with holes and pipes all over the place. What starts out as an innocuous film turns into something far more sinister. The conclusion is awesome.

I'm not going to talk much about "The Cars That Ate Paris." It's a strange movie that, while worth watching once, isn't a great movie. Even Weir admits the picture isn't his best effort. "The Plumber," on the other hand, is brilliant filmmaking. There are so many subtexts going on, and Weir holds his cards about what's really happening so close to his vest, that even subsequent viewings raise more questions than answers. What's the significance of Jill's thesis about aborigines in the context of her confrontations with Max? For that matter, who is Max? Is he really a plumber? Or is he a nutcase who likes posing as one in order to torment higher-class people? Why does Jill act the way she does? Is she a snob? Or is she acting out as a form of rebellion to garner attention from her busy husband? The conclusion works so well because, as Weir mentions in an interview included as an extra on the disc, the film makes the viewer root for either Max or Jill. Who you support speaks volumes about where you see yourself on the social ladder. Throw in on top of these thought provoking questions the claustrophobic atmosphere and wonderful performances from Morris and Kants, and I think you'll come to agree that "The Plumber" is well worth a watch.

Extras on the disc include trailers and the aforementioned interviews with Weir. These talks serve as a sort of mini-commentary for both films in which he discusses how he came to make the movies, financing, distribution, and public reaction. It's interesting to note that "The Plumber" ended up playing on Aussie television where it subsequently became a big hit. I don't doubt it. I still think about the movie from time to time, long after I watched it, and that speaks well for the quality of the picture. Of course, I also think about the abject weirdness of "The Cars That Ate Paris" on occasion, too. Let's just say that both films will pique any moviegoers' interest. I'll give the disc four stars, a safe middle ground between "Cars" and "The Plumber."
"We're just going to have to learn to get along together, ar
Found Highways | Las Vegas | 07/13/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Or maybe not.

I suspect that a lot of people will either like The Cars that Ate Paris or they will like The Plumber, but not both. I watched fifteen minutes of The Cars that Ate Paris (it reminded me of trailers for the BBC show called The League of Gentlemen, which I also haven't seen) before I skipped to The Plumber. This short Australian thriller is worth the rental.

Jill gets flustered when Max the plumber (at least he says he's the plumber) comes "to fix the pipes," after her husband Brian has left for his lectures and research at the university in Adelaide. But before knocking on Jill's door, in the elevator of the university housing building where she and Brian live, the plumber hesitates before selecting a floor. Did he pick their apartment at random?

"I've seen a lot of housewives go around the bend," Max warns Jill.

Jill is writing a thesis, listening to tapes of New Guinea aborigines she made on an anthropological field trip. In the bathroom Max bangs on pipes, smashes through walls, and plays music so loud Jill can't think.

Is he a rapist? Is he a thief? Is he insane? Or is Jill the one losing her grip?

"I had to be selfish," Jill's worthless husband Brian tells her, explaining why visiting scientists from the World Health Organization were more important to him than her phone calls when she felt threatened by Max. (They're interviewing Brian for a job he wants in Geneva.)

Brian's research into the brain-wasting disease kuru in a New Guinea tribe leads him to think that, even though the WHO party line holds that cannibalism no long exists (eating infected brains is the main method of transmitting kuru), the men of some tribes (in an attempt to counteract population control measures introduced by advanced countries) have started eating the testes of other men.

But instead of cannibalism "it's a virility rite," Brian says, calling attention to the virtue he lacks. He makes love to Jill once, to celebrate getting the job in Geneva. It's his work, not Jill, that excites him. Brian joins Jill in the shower, after the plumber has finally finished his work in their bathroom, in other words after the plumber has done his job.

Through the scientists (working for the aborigines' own good), we see the First World's condescension to native peoples, the main theme of Peter Weir's movie The Last Wave. Even though Jill's bathroom eventually explodes, it's not quite the apocalypse of The Last Wave.

The Plumber is more about class differences within white Australian culture, but like the best American film noir of the forties, it doesn't lecture (even if characters like Brian do).

To write these reviews, the only notes I usually make are bits of dialogue. Out of seven statements I wrote down for The Plumber, only one is a quote from Jill. We see most of the story from her point of view but she's hardly allowed to speak.

The Plumber is better than a lot of slick American "domestic thrillers" of the eighties, where a woman is threatened by a neighbor or a cop or an old boyfriend. What makes The Plumber so good is that by the end of the movie, after Jill has done what she has to do to protect herself, you're not sure who the villain is any more.
"A good bracing failure" & The Plumber
tendays komyathy | U.S.A. & elsewhere traveling | 10/11/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)

"Let's address "The Plumber," a made for Australian TV, 77 minute 'short,' that is included on this DVD, first: Knock Knock. The woman of the house answers the door. I've got to check the pipes. I'm the plumber, the semi-burly long-perm-like-hair man announces, entering. The next 76 minutes play out largely within the confines of this one-bedroom university flat. The woman's husband is mostly home only in the evenings, when he tries to assure his wife that she's taking the plumber's oddities too seriously. The plumber, it seems, has pegged the woman as an elitist intellectual snob, the sort of person who looks down on working class types such as himself. So, he decides to play with her head some as he drags out the job for days on end, all the while trying to unnerve the object of his distaste. Peter Weir's camera herein places us---the viewer---right in the middle of this sort of play. We feel the fright of the woman who begins to fear for her safety; as she reaches out to her husband and Meg, a neighbor. They both, alas, find the plumber almost amusing and stand aside, so to speak, so that we cease to be mere observers, taking on the wife's point of view. Henceforth we begin to wonder how best to get rid of this scary individual. And the film ends when the woman comes up with a solution (which it would be best I didn't dilvulge, of course). It's a finely acted melodramatic mind game and it is worth seeing if you're a particular fan of this director. I wouldn't reccomend purchasing this DVD however, because the main feature leaves much to be desired herein. In an interview which is included on this DVD, Peter Weir refers to 'The Cars that Ate Paris' as "a good bracing failure." He was speaking commercially, but also in the sense that "it is good for you to fail" at one's first film. That's the only way one learns, in other words. If you're a student of this (justifiably) esteemed director then I can see renting this film, say, but most everyone else will not enjoy this film. Frankly, nothing about it is even enjoyable. The film opens with 2 obtrusive commercial product placements as a car winds along roads toward Paris, a small nothing town in Australia. The first twelve mintes of the film we could actually do without, until the town's mayor welcomes and offers his condolences to arthur, who has just survived a car crash in which his brother george was killed. Later on when someone asks the mayor what they plan on doing with arthur, the mayor replies, "We're keeping him." Nobody, you see is allowed to leave this town; this town which deliberately engineers accidents so as to rob passersby of their belongings. The victims who happen to survive are lobotomized usually. Arthur is an exception to provide a point of view, a window on this world. Through him we walk around this one street town as he encounters various characters: the town's doctor/medical Mengele; the mayor's hapless wife; young toughs in long coats, in a western-inspired showdown of sorts, etc. In the end, these toughs---in their ragtag, menacing cars---take revenge on the town, as if all the cars that were intentionally sabotaged had come "back to life." Some of these cars are without doors and/or are painted with fangs and such. One of these cars is a VW beatle bug with dozens of metallic spikes protruding from it. The point of this film is what you choose to read into it, for it has no point; only some vague hostility to adult mentalities. To be honest, I only sat through it because I've seen almost everything Mr. Weir has made, and was curious to see what this was about. To say the least, I was disappointed. (Do have a look at Mr. Weir's accomplished work, however: Picnic at Hanging Rock/Gallipoli/The Year of Living Dangerously/Dead Poets Society/Witness/Master & Commander.) Cheers!"