Man of Flowers - screener

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Man of Flowers

Film by Paul Cox

Year: 1983, 88 mins
Code: PCO-Man
ISBN: 978-1-921882-77-7

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Paul Cox’s breakthrough film, premiering at Cannes Film Festival, and playing in festivals worldwide, and considered a masterpiece of Australian cinema.

Charles Bremer (Norman Kaye), a reclusive collector of paintings, sculptures and other rnore delicate works of art, such as rare flowers and naughty postcards, each Wednesday takes Lisa (Alyson Best), an artists’ model, to his sumptuous house and pays her handsomely to do a striptease to the ‘Love Duet’ from ‘Donnizetti’s Lucia Di Lammermoor’. He then leaves quickly and plays the organ alone in the church across the road from his house.

Charles we learn, has not always been rich and is currently in therapy; a part of which is to write, daily, a letter to his dead mother describing in euphemistic terms his growing obsession with his “little flower”, Lisa the model.

Her boyfriend, David (Chris Haywood), a failed painter, once successful and famous, but now addicted to cocaine., is convinced that daily he is making conceptual breakthroughs with his swift ugly canvasses. He treats Lisa as a sexual convenience and a source of money to serve his addiction. Lisa finally leaves him for a no less savoury arrangement with Jane, her lesbian fellow art student.

It is obvious from Charles's dream-life that his mother loved him, but in the name of love she smothered him, and sent him against his deeper wishes.

During the course of the film, we slowly learn the source of Charle’s little sexual ritual; its effect on the ambitions of David and his  eventual complex fate.

Man of Flowers is both erotic and richly amusing, with a tragic after-glow. The essence of the story is the confrontation between modern art and traditional art; or between modern love and traditional love; or even between modern life and traditional life. The old world meets the new world and only the old, traditional world has any substance.

Director: Paul Cox
Producer: Jane Ballantyne, Paul Cox
Writer: Paul Cox, Bob Ellis
Cinematographer: Yuri Sokol

Cast: Norman Kaye, Alyson Best, Chris Haywood, Werner Herzog, Julia Blake

Born in Holland and settled in Melbourne since the mid-‘60s, Paul Cox is an auteur of international acclaim, having received numerous international awards.  He is one of the most prolific makers of films in Australia, with numerous features, shorts and documentaries to his name. He is the recipient of many special tributes and retrospectives at film festivals across the world, including a major retrospective at the Lincoln Centre in New York in 1992.

His films of the early and mid ‘80s – Lonely Hearts (1981), Man of Flowers (1983), and My First Wife (1984) – were highly acclaimed both locally and internationally. 
Man of Flowers premiered in Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984, and went on to win Best Film at the 1984 Valladolid Film Festival as well as Best Foreign Film at the 1991 Warsaw Film Festival.
Cactus premiered in Director's Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in 1986 and Vincent won the Jury Prize at the 1988 Istanbul International Filmdays.
A Woman's Tale won the Grand Prix at the 1992 International Flanders Film Festival in Ghent and Exile screened in competition at the 1994 Berlin International Film Festival.

More recently, Cox's highly acclaimed feature Innocence (2000) won massive audience and critical acclaim, including Best Film and the People's Choice Award at the 2000 Montreal World Film Festival; and 5 Australian IF awards including Best Film, Independent Filmmaker of the Year for Paul Cox, and Best Actress for Julia Blake.

Cox’s career continues currently, with features such as Human Touch (2004) and Salvation (2008).

Norman Kaye - Best Actor 1983 AFI Awards

Best Film at the 1984 Valladolid Film Festival

Best Foreign Film at the 1991 Warsaw Film Festival

Quoting IMDb:  This is a classy movie.  I saw it by chance nearly 20 years ago & it remains one of my great memories of the cinema. Back then, I thought this loner was intriguing but nothing more. In this world's terms, he was a loser, a grief-stricken man sending letters to his deceased mother, friend of the postman, lover of fine art! In his eccentric kingdom that the palatial few are privileged to find! But his complex nature is balanced by the puritanical historical background he is enlivened by, privileged by, but too, imprisoned by! So he sits at his lonely piano in a deserted church of grandeur … playing his heart out.   A perfect Catholic solution by the reckoning of some … without hope of any resolution.

The settings & the musical background are most impressive, from the fineries of the outside garden, to the gardens that are revealed to us layer by layer in the relationships of the protagonist to the beautiful female model who undresses for the man of mystery, on appointment, to the crass judgemental nature of her accomplice & lover in his satire of derision. Or even in the art classes where this trio mingles in a volatile atmosphere within seconds! The chemical reaction is furious!
This is NOT a good movie! It is a CLASSIC!   Personally, I rate this with "Cinema Paridiso", as one of the finest films ever made …


Paul Cox is one of the most important filmmakers to come out of Australia ... he is a filmmaker of incredible energy, persistence and vision - all qualities which are crucial to survive as a filmmaker. He is also uncompromising in fulfilling his vision which is almost always achieved with comparatively small budgets of about $1 million. As a director, he has an ongoing screen relationship with many of Australia's greatest actors. The themes in his films - isolation, faith, hope, love, survival - remain the same and reoccur over and over, but above all else his films are about human frailty ...

Philip Tyndall, "Paul Cox - Filmmaker", Senses of Cinema


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