Friday, 1 June 2018

The Cars That Ate Paris (1974)

In economically-depressed 1970s Australia, it can be tough for a small town to survive.  Or in the case of the seemingly idyllic hamlet of Paris, it can be tough for outsiders to survive them.

You see, just outside Paris is a steep, unsealed road with sharp turns.  The locals have discovered that is you dazzle night-time motorists at just the wrong moment, they're almost certain to suffer a nasty accident.  Their belongings and many of the parts of the car can then be seized for the use of the townsfolk.  Any traveller who survives the crash, meanwhile, is either forcibly adopted into the town (if young enough) or dragged to the town doctor for some very unethical treatment.

The film follows Arthur, a grown man who survives one of these engineered crashes, but who for some reason isn't sent to the doctor and thus retains his full faculties.  Quite why the locals should make this one exception is not explained, which is frankly a fairly major flaw in the script, but it has to be said that the diffident and meek newcomer doesn't seem like he could possibly be much trouble.

But there are strong tensions swirling in Paris, tensions that are on the verge of exploding, and even the smallest spark might be enough to finally set them off.

The Cars That Ate Paris struggled to find an audience on its release, not least because no-one was sure how to market it, but it has become something of a cult hit in the forty years since then, probably due to its quirky premises.  I wasn't much impressed with the film as it is actually executed, though: it lacks a real protagonist (Arthur is far too insipid to qualify, and everyone else is a villain), and it feels like they didn't know how to end it after the tensions in the town finally come to a head.

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