The Cars That Ate Paris

The Cars That Ate Paris

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

It's curious how many of the great directors started out in horror. Perhaps it's because the medium works well with low budgets, but perhaps there's also something about horror that appeals to the visionary imagination. Whatever the case, The Cars That Ate Paris is no ordinary horror film. Already here there are traces of the mythic glamour underlying Picnic At Hanging Rock, and of the furious energy to be found in Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World.

With echoes of Nabokov and Ballard, this is the story of an ordinary man drawn into a world where nothing is as it seems, and where the logical rules he has followed all his life can only lead him down the wrong road. His entry point is a violent one; driving along a quiet highway somewhere in New South Wales, he is caught in a brutal car crash that takes the life of his brother.

Copy picture

Dazed, rootless, and with no idea what to do next, he finds work in the hospital where he is treated and gradually gets assimilated into the community of small town Paris. All in all, he receives a warm welcome, quickly coming to feel that he belongs there, yet he can't shift the feeling that something is amiss. Why is he being asked to attend so many car crash victims?

Starting out creepy and soon moving on to full-on violence, The Cars That Ate Paris shifts gears with ease. Its petrol-soaked atmosphere is perfectly out of place in the serene landscape of Australia's First State, which only results in a more powerful impact. Effortlessly employing surrealist and fantasy tropes in a story that is, ultimately, never very far from the possible, Weir steers us on a dizzying journey through autophilia, survivalist politics, and the darker side of human nature. Above all, the town's very special cars will stick in your memory. Modified into something ferociously unnatural and yet curiously animal, they are at once works of art and deadly killing machines.

Though its budgetary limits show in places and Weir was still not fully confident of his voice, The Cars That Ate Paris is a remarkable work, and there really has been nothing else like it, before or since.

Reviewed on: 10 Mar 2009
Share this with others on...
The Cars That Ate Paris packshot
Trouble brews for a stranger in a town where car crashes seem to be a little too frequent.
Amazon link

Director: Peter Weir

Writer: Peter Weir, Keith Gow, Piers Davies, Peter Weir

Starring: John Meillon, Terry Camilleri, Kevin Miles, Rick Scully, Max Gillies, Danny Adcock, Bruce Spence, Kevin Golsby, Chris Haywood, Peter Armstrong

Year: 1974

Runtime: 91 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Australia

Festivals:

Australia 2009

Search database:


If you like this, try:

Mad Max