10 August 2005 | The_Void
Style over substance - but the style is good!
Before Peter Weir went on to make 'A' class films such as The Dead Poets Society and Witness, he had a rather unsuccessful stint as a B-movie cult flick director. Despite the fact that he's become better known for his critically acclaimed films, his lesser cult films show much more imagination and are far more fun to watch. The Cars That Ate Paris works from a delicious premise. A small township in Australia named 'Paris' causes car accidents and salvages valuables from the wreckages. The town's currency is radios, clothes etc and this lucrative business is doing well for the town. When someone survives a crash, they usually end up mentally disabled, which is good for the town as it stops them from being caught by the pesky insurance investigator. This is all well and good until George and brother Arthur drive into town. George is killed in the crash, but Arthur survives it; pretty much unharmed. Nobody has ever left Paris before, which prompts the Mayor to take the young man into his family home. This is something that will go on to have massive repercussions on the township of Paris...
Peter Weir deliciously blends several elements into the plot line. On one hand, we have the incredibly surreal idea of a whole town killing people for their valuables. This blends with the whole crazy cult idea, and this in turn mixes with the idea of the things that people will do to survive. Weir has speckled the movie with loads of great imagery, such as the old women who's job it is to take the valuables from the cars stuffing clothes down their top, and the devilish cornerstone of society, the Mayor, overseeing all the horror. Despite all the film's good elements, however, Weir has failed to make the film a complete whole. It may be down to inexperience, but while he's busy creating his atmosphere; the characters have been forgotten about, and this makes it difficult to care for them, and the story beyond an aesthetic level. There is much to like about this movie, and it's definitely worth seeing for the imagery alone; but it's hard to really love it, and that stops me from giving the film a high rating. I still recommend the movie, however, as it's well worth seeing.