An Evening of Cinema

  • Date(s): Wednesday, November 30th 2005
  • Time: 6:30 p.m.
  • Location: Niobrara County Library


“He Died with a Felafel in His Hand”

a film by Richard Lowenstein

“He Died with a Felafel in His Hand” is a darkly humorous search for love, meaning and bathroom solitude. Faithful to the cult novel by John Birmingham upon which it is based, the film follows Danny through a series of shared housing experiences in a succession of cities on the east coast of Australia. Together these vignettes forma forceful, sometimes turbulent narrative that leaves the viewer entertained, exhausted and surprisingly reflective. Australian in English, 109 minutes

Review – Review – Review – Review

Capturing the anarchic, reign-of-chaos comic spirit of Australian writer John Birmingham’s 1994 novel — for better or worse — “He Died With a Felafel in His Hand” depicts a generation approaching 30 and struggling to make its mark on the world with little sense of commitment or focus. Piloted by a likeably deadpan turn from ever-reliable Noah Taylor, this carousel ride of bizarre characters and out-of-control situations rarely remains stationary long enough to allow its themes to gel fully, but gradually coalesces into a reasonably satisfying whole. Limited theatrical play should segue to greater rewards on the ancillary route. By far the most distinctive aspect of writer-director Richard Lowenstein’s film is its wryly sardonic but perceptive grasp of the particular zeitgeist and physical feel of the three vastly different settings — Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney — where the frenetic action unfolds. Brisbane’s subtropical climate inspires unpredictably lame-brained, sunstruck behavior; Melbourne’s wintry, indoorsy mood lends itself to indolence, introspection, half-baked political causes and claustrophobia; and seaside Sydney comes across as a wannabe Los Angeles, peopled by superficial body culture slaves and dedicated hedonists. Having lived in 49 shared-house situations during his young life, Danny (Taylor) has been subjected to the dizzying stimulus of an endless succession of oddball housemates and constantly changing environments. Still puzzling over the departure of his girlfriend six months after her exit, he obsesses about finding his purpose in life, toying with the idea of becoming a writer. In an overpopulated Brisbane household overflowing with testosterone, the closest thing available to a voice of reason is savvy Sam (Emily Hamilton). But her attentions are soon monopolized by intense, free-spirited Eurobabe Anya (Romane Bohringer). When debt-collectors close in demanding months of unpaid rent, and the house is trashed during a wild winter solstice party, Danny flees south. In Melbourne, Sam turns up on his doorstep depressed following the burnout of her relationship with Anya, falling into Danny’s bed after a suicide attempt. Immoderate credit card spending and antsy cops soon prompt another hasty escape. Final, perhaps most cohesive section takes place in Sydney, where Danny lives with self-absorbed bulimic actress Nina (Sophie Lee) and gay Dirk (Francis McMahon) fresh out of the closet and riddled with persecution complexes. Danny’s undefined but warm relationship with Sam remains the only relatively stable factor in his life until Anya resurfaces to reinstall chaos. The absurdist humor and messy, freewheeling narrative approach of Birmingham’s novel don’t entirely lend themselves to linear storytelling. But the film more or less comes together in the closing chapter. The enjoyable, but too unrelenting, quirks here become secondary to Danny’s emotional connection to Sam, who articulates some confronting truths about him, and his exasperated response to his egocentric housemates. Perhaps most important is his friendship and sensitive dealings with Flip (Brett Stewart), a junky whose dependency caught him unawares, and who eventually expires in front of the TV while eating Middle Eastern takeout, supplying the book and film’s title. Taylor’s wiry presence gives the multicharacter piece more of an anchor than it might otherwise have had, gradually shifting from lazy, indifferent detachment to thoughtfulness as he reveals hidden emotional layers. Hamilton makes a sympathetic female lead despite her character’s underexposure. The remaining cast have fun playing exaggerated eccentrics. Lowenstein’s deployment of a different tone to underline the contrasts between each of the three cities is mirrored by the varied ways talented lenser Andrew de Groot’s lights and shoots each setting. The mix is capped off by a lively soundtrack of well-chosen vocals. Reviewed By – DAVID ROONEY (

Review – Review – Review – Review

SYDNEY — With a title like “He Died With a Felafel in His Hand,” and Richard Lowenstein, director of 1986’s offbeat “Dogs in Space,” at the helm, could this film be headed anywhere else than directly for cult status? After directing several award-winning videos for the rock band INXS, Lowenstein knows his way around wild subject matter. The film is based on John Birmingham’s highly popular book about share-housing, based on his experiences of living in dozens of houses with dozens of people throughout Australia. Driven by absurdist humor, random off-the-wall moments of originality and a generally anarchic tone, “He Died With a Felafel” mixes the heightened silliness of youth cinema with a more studied, film-literate approach. It’s the type of film that should click with festival audiences looking for a comedic shot in the arm among the usually more serious offerings. The fact that the film also drops references to all kinds of elements of popular culture, as well as several cinematic icons (such as Jean-Luc Godard and Hal Hartley), should make it a hit with serious film enthusiasts looking to spot the influences, too. The oddball aesthetic, combined with its left-of-center cast, might deter mainstream audiences from embracing the Australian offering, but those who like their cinema on the edge should find a lot to enjoy here. Danny, a fine study in comedic reserve by Noah Taylor (“Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” “Almost Famous”), is trapped in share-house hell. He moves from house to house, sharing space with people he hardly knows, watching his life slowly unravel. It doesn’t help that the same eccentrics keep following him from city to city: the boyishly sexy Sam (fresh-faced newcomer Emily Hamilton), French anarchist Anya (a very impressive Romane Bohringer) and drug-addled Flip (Brett Stewart). But when he hits Sydney, and shares house with a bitter homosexual and a society bitch (Francis McMahon and Sophie Lee, respectively, are both sidesplittingly hilarious), Danny’s rambling life finally catches up with him. Lowenstein fills the screen with vivid imagery and even more vivid characters and manages to hold them back from overstepping the mark and falling headlong into complete absurdity. It’s a risky ploy, but one that works. “He Died With a Felafel” walks on the right side of the fine line between being a charming mess and a total shambles.
Reviewed By – Erin Free (

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