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Lewis (Ben Mendelssohn) an aspiring young theatre director is hired to stage a therapeutic entertainment for patients in a mental institution. He gets manoeuvred into doing Mozart's opera Cosi fan Tutte by manic inmate Roy (Barry Otto), who is obsessed by the work. Beneath the surface tensions lie deeper tensions that disturb the inmates who become the cast. And the therapy of putting on a show becomes stressful and unpredictable.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Cameos by Greta Scacchi and Paul Mercurio are just a bonus in a dark and hilarious comedy that now looks so much better (to me) than it did in 1996 when it was released to an undiscerning public. The cast is Australia's cream, and here they all perform at their peak, under the baton of director Mark Joffe. Possibly his best work.

Barry Otto is astonishing as the driven Roy, wholly equal to Geoffrey Rush as David Helfgott in Shine. But everyone is terrific (take a look at an early David Wenham), and while the plot is kinda pre-loved, the performances make the film a standout. I don't expect the majority of Americans to get the ironic bleakness of the screenplay, but Louis Nowra never write one dimensional stuff and this is a complex idea (adapted from his stage play).

The screenplay darts into the stories of the central characters with such deft insight we are mesmerised. One of the most memorable scenes has Toni Collette singing to herself, not knowing she is observed by Lewis. It has haunted me for years.

This is one of Australia's comedies that nails the role of pathos in comedy. Possibly because the setting, the large size performances are justified and fit the script. The fact that it doesn't comfortably fit into a genre category has played against it: but if you're not a square, you'll dig it.

Blessed with great editing - not to mention Mozart! - Cosi blends tragedy with humour and after sucking us in with its mood of hilarity, it delivers a nice solid punch to the solar plexus - or is it the heart.

Crystal sound (as it must be for this) adds to the clean images of the transfer, and the DVD offers one bonus feature, a short film whose only connection to the film is Jacki Weaver in the cast. And why not - it's such an excellent idea, disseminating the work of tax payer funded film students with commercially released DVDs.

The Two Wheeled Time Machine, (an elaborate production of 21 minutes) by AFTRS student David Lowe, stars Matt Day as Henry, who discovers a way to stay young - but doesn't think it's worth it without childhood sweatheart Alice (Essie Davis). Ooooohh, it's so bitter sweet.

Published May 6, 2004

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(Aust, 1996)

CAST: Ben Mendelsohn, Toni Collette, Barry Otto, Rachel Griffiths, Colin Friels, Aden Young, Bruno Lawrence, Pamela Rabe, Paul Chubb, Colin Hay, Jacki Weaver, David Wenham, Kerry Walker, Tony Llewellyn-Jones

PRODUCER: Richard Brennan

DIRECTOR: Mark Joffe

SCRIPT: Louis Nowra

RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen; DD 5.1;

SPECIAL FEATURES: AFTRS short film, The Two Wheeled Time Machine, starring Matt Day, Essie Davis, Jacki Weaver, directed by David Lowe


DVD RELEASE: May 3, 2004

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