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The Old Man Who Read Love Stories (2001)

  Directed by: Rolf de Heer
Written by: Rolf de Heer, Luis Sepúlveda, Duncan Thompson
Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Timothy Spall, Hugo Weaving
Links: The Old Man Who Read Love Stories on the IMDb, Buy the Book
Genre: Drama
Awards: AFI Awards: Best Film 2004 (nominee)

This movie gets: 6.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

"Paul kissed her ardently... ardently..." - a review by pearly

Rolf de Heer is quite an accomplished Australian (yes, I'm calling him Australian even though he was born in the Netherlands) director. From his memorable early effort Bad Boy Bubby (1993) through to more recent movies like the acclaimed The Tracker (2002), his work is quite varied, though I often don't think of him as being a particularly varied director. The aforementioned Bubby, and his most recent film Alexandra's Project (2003) are in the forefront of my mind when I think of de Heer: confronting stuff that's a bit out there.

The Old Man Who Read Love Stories falls distinctly into the other category - it would be more at home sharing a cuppa with The Tracker than going down to the little fish'n'chip shop with Bad Boy Bubby. It is, like The Tracker, more of a regional tale of folklore than it is a tale of shock value.

The strange thing about The Old Man Who Read Love Stories is that it was made earlier than both The Tracker and Alexandra's Project (okay, I promise I'll stop mentioning de Heer's other films as of now), but it is only now enjoying a cinema release in Australia, and I've read that the situation is similar in other parts of the world. I'm not sure of the reasoning behind this: perhaps they just wanted to wait until The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) was out so that they could fully cash in on Hugo Weaving's popularity.

The Old Man Who Read Love Stories is quite an interesting piece. I scored myself some free preview tickets, so I went along to see it, but from since seeing the preview, the only things that would have interested me about it would have been the involvement of de Heer and Weaving. The story itself appears relatively unappealing on the face of it. It's about an ... old man who ... reads love stories. Seriously though, the old man is Antonio, a man who, in years gone by, spent some time living with natives in French Guinea. Having now come back to live in a small community with other Caucasian people, Antonio decides to improve his reading, and the only available material are the romance novels that a young woman he comes to know owns. And then, his past comes to revisit him when a female jaguar whose children have been slaughtered begins taunting the community, and Antonio must go back out into the wilderness to confront the jaguar.

There are some wonderful performances in this film. Weaving is superb as the dentist who routinely visits the town and others along the river, and who befriends Antonio. He is the perfect wiseguy to Timothy Spall's amazingly doofy mayor - the butt of every joke who cannot manage to do a thing right. These two are, however, dwarfed by Richard Dreyfuss, who plays Antonio. Despite Dreyfuss' long career, I have surprisingly seen at most two or three of his films, but based upon this performance, he's one that I should check out more often.

I loved the scenes where Anotino read the love stories; poring over each word in detail to determine firstly what the word was, and secondly how it fit into the sentence. This, to me, was the most enjoyable part of the movie - it made me smile. The jaguar and the related metaphors that went along with that storyline were secondary to this part of the film, as well as the stupid comedy surrounding the dentist and mayor characters. But that's okay, I'm allowed to be shallow sometimes.

pearly gives this movie 6 out of 10.
Review created on Tue 16 Mar 2004

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