Paul Cox’s film Human Touch is so full of pretension and self-importance, it fails to realise what most in the audience at my preview screening did… that it has barely anything to offer, and is undeniably boring.
It’s not often I want to go to sleep in the cinema, curled up with my head on Stuart’s shoulder, but I almost got there during Human Touch. Insufferably dull and vastly self-indulgent, this film spends so much time on ‘meaningful’ imagery, you could be forgiven for forgetting what it is about. That would be a blessing in disguise, however, as the plot centres on an appalling woman, played by Jacqueline McKenzie, with almost no redeeming features, who bears little if any resemblance to a real person. She is so introspective, and self-obsessed, it is impossible to relate to her, a problem I found with most of the characters in this film. Who are these people? Where do they live? I know no-one who is anything like them. And yet we’re supposed to accept this film, with its ridiculous protagonists, and absurd pretension, as being able to tell us something about our own sexuality?
After about 60 minutes I checked my watch, to find I still had forty minutes or so to go, and was dumbfounded! Hadn’t I been subjected to enough? It felt like hours had passed, and yet it had been only one of this dross. Suffering through the pain of watching the end, if only so I could write this review in an honest fashion, I was relieved to discuss it with several people later who all felt as I did. I was also heartened by others’ reactions at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival, reported here.
Whilst some of the art was interesting, and the wiremesh sculpture was appealing, overall this film is too heavily bogged down in conveying simile to reach anyone but the most ridiculous beret-wearing art school teacher. With little to recommend it, I find it hard to give it any stars at all, but Chris Haywood does a reasonable job, which lifts it above zero.
Avoid this film at all costs.
Review by Mark Lavercombe, 10th April 2005
Human Touch is a mess. The performances, editing and the whole pacing of the film is completely disjointed. There’s a smattering of barely realised ideas, characters that only exist in extremes, and some completely inappropriate arty moments. As Mark suggested, one of the only redeeming features of the film was the huge wire sculpture – now that was cool.
Paul Cox has been around for a long time, and certainly had his fair share of good films, but this latest one missed the mark completely. I’ve only seen several of his films – The Nun And The Bandit was okay, Innocence was great, and Lonely Hearts a beautifully endearing film. He’s had a mammoth output over the years – 28 films in 37 years, so it’s only fair that he make some mistakes every now and again.
It simply felt that Human Touch was rushed. Like Cox got his filmmaker buddies together and said ‘Here we go, another film! We’ll work out the complicated bits like story and character later on. Mush, mush!’ (Or something like that, possibly not involving huskies.) It’s as if he simply churns them out too quickly, taking very little care as to how any one film turns out, because, hey, he’ll be making another one next year anyway. Cox seemed to be constantly cutting corners in Human Touch, and at one stage I think he used an outtake in the actual film, which made no sense whatsoever, and detracted from the effectiveness of the scene.
It’s almost as if he was bored. For one particular scene, which was supposed to be an emotional peak, we had the sound of a whippersnipper drowning out the dialogue. This wasn’t clever or arty, it just detracted from the performances. But hell, why not? When you’ve made a gazillion films, maybe you’re sick of dialogue! Maybe you decide that whippersnippers are constantly underrepresented in the cinema. You’re sick of the negative connotations of the hand held grass cutter, so you think ‘let’s make a film that all the fledgling whippersnippers will look up to… let’s show them how they too will be able to assault rhizomic structures with pride when they grow up and leave the mower store!’
Seriously though, the sound in this film is terrible, the voices sometimes peaking and distorting, and other times barely audible. Cinematically, Human Touch is a pretty ugly film (excepting for the art installation sequences) and at times comparable with Plain Dirty (Briar Patch) in the sense that it looked like it was filmed in the eighties.
McKenzie and Blabey do their best, but their characters are so ill-defined that they jump from one extreme to the next, so much so that they’re almost different people from scene to scene.
Okay, so both Mark and I have been particularly harsh with Human Touch, but Cox has a history of well received movies, so I’m sure he can take whatever criticism he receives in his stride and soldier on. Hopefully this film won’t be remembered in the annals of Australian film history.
Review by Stuart Wilson, 1st January 1970Hoopla Factor: