Dir: Paul Cox. Australia-Belgium. 2000. 91mins.
Prod cos: Strand/New OZ Productions and Showtime in assoc. with the South Australian Film Corp; Illumination Films in assoc. with Cinete. Worldwide sales: Cinemavault.com, tel: (1) 416 3636060. Producers: Cox, Mark Patterson. Scr: Cox. DoP: Tony Clark, Jan Vancaillie. Prod des: Tony Cronin. Ed: Simon Whittington. Music: Paul Grabowsky. Main cast: Julia Blake, Charles Tingwell, Terry Norris.
The new film from prolific independent Paul Cox was a huge hit with the recent Sydney Film Festival's day-pass audience which comprised a substantially older audience demographic. An elegant, life-affirming reflection on love and sexual awakenings of the over 65s, Innocence has given two of Australia's finest elderly actors (Julia Blake and Charles Tingwell) the welcome chance to show their considerable skill and range of emotions. The film won the Fipresci prize at this year's Taormina Film Festival (July 1-9).
Although he is "too old for a mid-life crisis", Tingwell's ex-musician widower is nevertheless thrown into confusion by the first meeting in 50 years with his ex-lover Blake, who is locked in a comfortably boring marriage with the hapless John (Terry Norris). With persistent flashbacks to their passionate younger selves - dreamy scenes shot in a picturesque post-war Belgium financed from the Grand Prix money Cox won at the 1992 Belgian Film Festival - the overwhelmed couple proceed to baffle family and friends as they grab for some late bitter-sweet happiness and ironic "innocence".
Under Cox's discrete direction, Blake is exceptional, building from frozen orderliness to a sort of ecstasy not often seen on screen; Tingwell, though perhaps a decade too old, brings bursting joy and an appealing adolescent-like ardour. It is difficult to see Innocence making a big impact in today's youth-dominated, perfect bodies cinema market, but given the chance it will bring much pleasure, thought and cheer to a huge at-home audience.