Directed By: Richard Lowenstein
Starring: Noah Taylor, Emily Hamilton, Romane Bohringer
Tag line: "Some people will do anything to get out of paying the rent"
Trivia: This film is based on a novel by Australian author John Birmingham, first published in 1994
Some of you may already be familiar with an organization called Film Movement (located online at http://www.filmmovement.com ), but for those of you who aren’t, Film Movement is, among other things, a DVD-of-the-month club that offers subscribers a chance to own independent movies from all over the world, films that might have otherwise never seen. I was fortunate enough to get in on the ground floor of this amazing service when it launched in 2003, and the movies released during the company’s first year are among the best they’ve put out. I’ve already covered a few of them (Ali Zaoua: Prince of the Streets, Inch’Allah Dimanche, and OT: Our Town), but before this challenge is over, I intend to re-watch every one of the 12 pictures that made up Film Movement’s debut year. He Died with a Felafel in his Hand, a 2001 Australian import, was the second movie the company ever released, and as dark comedies go, it’s a damn good one!
Danny (Noah Taylor), an aspiring writer, has lived in 49 shared-accommodation houses, each with its own set of bizarre roommates. He Died with a Felafel in his Hand covers the time he spent in three different dwellings. The first, a one-story building located in Brisbane, was also home to Sam (Emily Hamilton), a pretty English girl; Flip (Brett Stewart), Danny’s good friend and a drug addict; Anya (Romane Bohringer), a vegetarian who adheres to ancient Celtic traditions; and Satomi (Sanyuri Tanoue), a girl from Japan who speaks very little English. When the house is torn apart by skinheads, Danny packs up and moves to a place in Melbourne, where he listens to the constant ramblings of his socialist housemate, Iain (Ian Hughes). Before long, both Flip and Taylor (Alex Menglet), who were with Danny in Brisbane, also move in, as does Sam, whose failed romance with Anya has driven her to the brink of suicide. When Taylor steals Danny's credit card and uses it to run up an $8,000 casino bill, the poor guy is forced to relocate once again, landing in a Seaside flat in Sydney owned by high-strung actress Nina (Sophie Lee). His past catches up with him when both Anya and Sam turn up, joined soon after by Flip, fresh off his recent stint in a drug rehab. Worried that he’ll never become a professional writer, Danny falls into a deep depression, and locks himself away in his room for days at a time. It isn’t until Taylor makes a startling discovery while flipping through the pages of Penthouse magazine that Danny’s life finally begins to straighten itself out. But how long will his new-found happiness last?
He Died with a Felafel in his Hand feels a lot like a Wes Anderson film in that it creates a world resembling our own, then fills it with a string of peculiar characters. And as strange as things sometimes get in both Melbourne and Sydney, its Danny’s experiences in Brisbane that truly stand out. Among the unusual goings-on is Flip’s tendency to tan himself by moonlight and Taylor getting his frustrations out by driving toads into the side of the house with his golf clubs. The film’s most outlandish scene, however, occurs when Anya organizes a wiccan-like ceremony to usher in the next lunar cycle, during which she plans to carry out an actual human sacrifice! While the characters themselves are occasionally fascinating (especially Danny, played to perfection by Noah Taylor), it’s the chaos they stir up that makes He Died with a Felafel in his Hand so entertaining.
So do yourself a favor and check out some of the movies available over at the Film Movement website. Odds are you’ll find a new favorite among its featured titles, and even if He Died with a Felafel in his Hand doesn’t crack your personal top-10 list, it’s a quirky, well-acted, beautifully shot motion picture that brings a lot more to the table than your average comedy ever would.