CIFF 2011: SNOWTOWN

Justin Kurzel’s SNOWTOWN (Australia)

Friday (10/14), 8:30pm and Saturday (10/15), 9:40pm

For all of you who were wondering when Lodge Kerrigan (CLEAN, SHAVEN) would make an Aussie serial-killer tone poem, well, first-time writer-director Justin Kurzel beat him to it. SNOWTOWN is the punishingly bleak story of John Bunting, Australia’s most prolific serial killer, and his friendship with/recruitment of a teenage boy. But there’s bleak and then there’s bleak. The propulsive drone of the score, the almost physically textured photography, the languid cuts combine to create a test of endurance—a drone of despair, abject poverty, and brutality that’s admirable in its single-mindedness. There’s no particular insight offered beyond the old saw that serial killers are scary, and some of them are really charming folks. The emphasis seems to have been on creating a visual and aural tableau in which serial murder is more likely than municipal trash collection. It’s an astoundingly effective, technically brilliant piece, but there’s just no light here. (2011, 120 min.)

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