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  • First, let me note that there seems to be different versions of the film floating around on home video. A few reviews complain about poorly lit or dark scenes. Someone mentioned that there's a bad pan & scan version floating around. And apparently, in the early history of the film, there was a badly cut version making the rounds with the title Cars That Eat People. That may have even ended up on VHS. So make sure you get the Home Vision Entertainment DVD released in 2003. It also has director Peter Weir's film The Plumber (1979) as a bonus, plus interviews with Weir about each film, as well as trailers. More importantly, it has a pristine, original widescreen cut of The Cars That Ate Paris. As long as you have your television or monitor set up correctly, the film has remarkably crisp, frequently beautiful cinematography that looks like it could have been shot yesterday.

    There also seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about the nature of the film. Basically, The Cars That Ate Paris is a quirky art-house drama. Yes, it has elements of (macabre) humor, horror and many other genres, but those are not a focus. The Cars That Ate Paris is as much a western as it is a horror film, which is not to say that it doesn't have elements of the western genre--it does. But the tone is much more similar to, say, Bagdad Café (aka Out of Rosenheim, 1987) or Delicatessen (1991) (hmmm--notice the culinary metaphor motif). If you want to think of The Cars That Ate Paris as a horror film--and it is basically a surrealist nightmare--think of it as something like Maximum Overdrive (1986)/Trucks ((1997) meets Horror Hotel (aka City of the Dead, 1960), but made by David Lynch as a "realist" soap opera.

    So what is the film about more literally? Well, it's best perhaps if you know as little about it before as possible, but on the other hand, it's a bit cryptic, and Peter Weir isn't exactly forthcoming with explanatory exposition--the film remains very open to interpretation to the end--so maybe a vague description won't hurt. The Paris of the title is not in France. It's instead a small, bucolic village in rural Australia. The town has quite a few "dirty secrets". The two primary secrets have to do with an automobile (part) obsession and a program of human experimentation. For the most part, they try to keep people out of the town, which has a very small population, but their twisted fetishes necessitate the occasional admission of outsiders, though in an unusual, involuntary manner. The film is centered on the story of one particular outsider, Arthur Waldo (Terry Camilleri), who manages to enter Paris relatively unscathed and who for unspecified reasons is worked into the fabric of the town. Arthur's arrival and integration roughly corresponds to a growing cleavage between generations, or at least between the status quo and a rebellious group of younger men, and he unwittingly serves as a catalyst to what amounts to a civil war.

    Although in Peter Weir's video interview included on the DVD he refers to Arthur as an unsympathetic protagonist, I beg to differ. Camilleri plays Arthur as an enigmatically captivating simpleton--the most entrancing "blank" personality this side of Peter Sellers' Chauncey Gardiner in Being There (1979). For most of the film, Weir shuttles Arthur around like a pawn, enabling a metaphorical window through which to satirically examine small town (Australian) life. In this respect, The Cars That Ate Paris somewhat resembles the basic gist of Lars von Trier's Dogville (2003), except that unlike Dogville, The Cars That Ate Paris is a good film.

    It's particularly funny how Arthur is shuttled into a variety of jobs, which he is assumed qualified for by a mere change of clothing (and very minor changes at that) and title. He's a doctor one moment, a parking enforcer the next. Weir works in satirical jabs towards everything from appealing to noble grand narratives about pioneer forefathers to the discrepancy between religious, private and political life, the myth of the well-adjusted nuclear family, the charade of public ceremonies, and even partakes in a slight Lord of the Flies-styled commentary on "progress".

    But not everything is social critique. Weir is just as concerned with (and just as good at) imbibing in quirkiness for its own sake (although even that stuff we could read as a critique on social conventions if we wanted to) and see-sawing between a kind of community existentialist nightmare and an Our Town-like small village drama. And just in case that's too balanced, every so often he puts us in the middle of a spaghetti western, with the beginnings of mid-street showdowns. Much of the rebellious youth material can be interpreted as a western with hodge-podge automobiles, which is probably why those youths are the ones to don clothing that looks as if Weir borrowed it from the set of A Fistful of Dollars (aka Per un pugno di dollari, 1964).

    The music is similarly disparate, ranging from techno-psychedelia that's something like Pink Floyd's "Time" to pensive contemporary-sounding themes, or the hilariously amateurish performance at the Paris Ball.

    This is definitely not a film for all tastes. If you wouldn't typically like art-house films, you probably won't appreciate The Cars That Ate Paris, either, and even if you do typically like art-house films, you probably won't appreciate The Cars That Ate Paris unless you have a strong taste for the bizarre and macabre.
  • Of course the cars don't literally 'eat' Paris... This film was a good indication of what Peter Weir was capable of over twenty years before he made 'The Truman Show.' This is a strange movie, set in a weird town in a barren outback landscape where the normal rules of western society are being quietly ignored by the citizens for their own ends. There are peculiar parallels with 'Mad Max,' and I wonder if Australians are somehow daunted by the vastness of their own country, what it might conceal and their reliance on the automobile. 'The Cars That Ate Paris' is a gothic horror which takes a glancing swipe at consumerism and how it disassociates small communities. This is flagged right at the beginning with the opening parody of a cigarette commercial (also killers!) ending in the first wreck. There are lashings of black humour like this and a few things to say about religion and the cult of the car. A fine low-budget film.
  • A camp horror classic and Weir's feature debut. It's smart, gross, cheeky, macabre and just great.

    Don't watch it if you think low budget is the same as being 'amateurish' because it's not. And if you're not used to Australian English, well, try not to panic. Doesn't matter if you don't get every word - just go with it!

    This is the kind of film you don't see much any more, perhaps a product of its era. They weren't thinking much about marketing or target demographics - these filmmakers were just having a lot of fun, experimenting and coming up with something unique. Genre crossing, challenging and freaky, it also taps into some big themes about Australian identity and paranoia.
  • This little film appears to have stirred up radical dissent amongst many reviewers. Comments ranging from "stupid," "dull," "dark," "gothic," even "evil!" (I liked that one particularly!) Some other moron figured it was the worst film he'd ever seen. (Obviously he didn't sit through I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE!)

    Now time-out here...let's just back it up a bit! Peter Weir is not what you would term a prolific director. He has made just 15 features in exactly 30 years - he doesn't rush things! This was his second turn in the chair. He had at his disposal a budget not much more than that for a 60 second TV Commercial and he was under pressure to finish the flick in time for its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival that year. He did OK and in a master stroke of marketing, managed to get the "star" of the movie - the spiked beetle, on to the Cannes streets where it caused a media sensation. The film was very well received by an appreciative audience.

    So, the story is far-fetched? Some of the residents of tiny bush-town Paris deliberately cause auto-wrecks to boost the town's economy. Sure its a way left-field storyline and the acting was never going to win an Oscar nomination. It has though, that indefinable "something" and is early Peter Weir - a study of people in crisis or near crisis? It deserves to be seen for what it is, and the manner in which it shaped Peter Weir's future. THE CARS THAT ATE PARIS was in effect a springboard that gave Weir the opportunity to make PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK the following year. If "Paris" had been a total flop he may never have been asked to direct it!

    Watch it again and look for innovation, clever camera angles, smart direction...they're all there! This is relegated now to almost cult film-status in Australia, it is somewhat of a time-capsule!

    The only question I have, is who changed the name of this film to THE CARS THAT ATE PEOPLE for US release? especially as they have their OWN "Paris" Texas!
  • One hour into this movie and I wasn't exactly sure what kind of movie it was trying to "be". It starts off as a smalltown horror mystery of sorts but Peter Weir saddles it with so much absurdist black comedy the mystery all but evaporates and we're looking at something that is more weird/awkward than mysterious/surreal, more slow-ponderous than slow-absorbing, large parts of it reminiscent of Aki Kaurismaki and his static shots, cynical humor, deadpan delivery, and smalltown squalor. By the end of it however, the movie seems to emerge as some sort of societal parable, an allegory to the repression of a close-knit society that values appearances and tradition more than anything else and which must bury secrets in its own backyard to do so, but there's so much distraction and incoherence the point is never made with any clarity or force.

    At one point the score turns Morricone circa Once Upon a Time in the West and we get a showdown in the street and young men dressed with cowboy hats. We get Carmageddon-style cars circling the statue of a cannon like Comanches painted for war. We get the vague promise of a subplot about car crash survivors turned vegetables who are kept in the hospital of the small town and who later turn up in a ball masque dressed in hoods and carton boxes (a nod to Shock Corridor?), but it never goes anywhere. Peter Weir went on to make such remarkable films as Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Last Wave, and while this never reaches the hypnotic levels of those films, it's intriguing in its own quirky awkward way. It's like a movie struggling with itself, a cult classic trying to break free from the confines of a forgettable eccentricity.
  • Before Peter Weir got really famous, he made this strange but worth seeing flick about a small town in Australia whose local economy centers on car wrecks, and how they draw an outsider in. "The Cars That Ate Paris" doesn't star anyone whom you would recognize, and there's no big action scenes here, but that actually gives the movie a more realistic feeling.

    I should identify that this is not a movie for those with short attention spans. It's not likely to stick heavily in your memory the way that most of Peter Weir's movies do (it's certainly not my favorite of his movies). But still, it's something to check out as a historical reference if nothing else.

    "I can drive!" You'll probably feel like you can too.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Peter Weir's first film and, looking back to when I originally saw this on general release, this could be described as my first exploitation movie. I always had a soft spot for it and later recognised elements from such video treats as, 2000 Maniacs. Not overlong, it still seems a little slow now at times but it's probably because unlike in the mid 70s when this was considered unique , so much else has been seen. Even so it's well worth watching and whilst in my memory this was all about dressed up cars battling it out, this is , in fact, much more a cynical view of the director's homeland. The mayor who at first seems protective and halfway decent turns out to be the 'fascist' for whom this whole enterprise is run. Paris, Australia, of course, not France although the enigmatic finale will have you guessing.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This truly odd and eccentric black comedy is especially worth checking out in order to notice how drastically Peter Weir's filming style changed from dared and out-of-the-ordinary cult in the 1970's to dull and politically correct rubbish in the 1980's, 1990's and 2000's. No matter how popular and acclaimed films like "Dead Poets Society", "Master & Commander" and "The Truman Show" are, they're blunt compared to the uniqueness and virility of "The Cars that Ate Paris". At least this film doesn't feature tiresome morality speeches and here the dialogues are, in fact, surprisingly controversial most of the time. For example; when explaining to total strangers that you accidentally killed a old man by accidentally running your car over him, do you expect them to reply with: "Yeah, those old pedestrians are a real problem, aren't they?" Welcome to Paris; a remote little outback Australian town where the people go to church, love their families and where the economy entirely thrives on one thing: car crashes! The whole town assists in deliberately causing accidents and then use the parts and accessories as currency to buy stuff in the shops. The outsiders from the accidents either end up in the graveyard, as medical guinea pigs in the local hospital or – as in protagonist Arthur Waldo's case – as brand new residents of Paris and close friends to the mayor. It's truly close to brilliant how Peter Weir manages to sustain the friendly and nonthreatening tone throughout the whole movie. All members of the community are basically insane psychopaths, yet you symphatize with them a lot more because the "hero" (Arthur) is such an antipathetic loser and the young generation (that eventually revolts against the town's ancient habits) are boisterous and uncanny freaks. Even the mayor, who's really the evil mastermind, is portrayed like a jolly figure with whom you'd love to chat. I know that most people wish to forget their viewing of "The Cars that Ate Paris" because it moves slow and looks dark, but the basic premise really is one of the best horror ideas ever coming from Australian cinema. And that WV Beetle covered in spikes is a highly memorable piece of scenery!
  • goldgreen11 May 2013
    Peter Weir must have been an angry young man as his first film makes fun of every level of society. The corrupt, bumptious, mayor of the two-bit New South Wales town is the obvious fall guy, but no single character escapes Weir's wrath. You might expect the wild, local youths with their vitality to provide the film's conscience, but they are ultimately portrayed as dumb, reactionary yokels whose demise is mocked. Tellingly the film's key line, 'I can drive', is used to belittle the death of the gang member we get to know best. However, Weir goes too far by mocking the audience. Our hero is a pathetic emotional wreck who barely speaks, while many scenes are dragged out with ponderous monologues and plodding development, as if Weir is saying 'you've consumed this sort of rubbish before, now I am going to serve it up to you in a dark satire. Can you tell the difference?'. The Cars That Ate Paris is best watched with the fast forward in your hand, but do not skip the brilliant finale in which the sordid little town gets its just desserts.
  • FPilot28 October 2009
    Warning: Spoilers
    In this movie, Paris is basically a typical Third World nation in microcosm: You have a charismatic dictator (the Mayor) surrounded by yes-men and flunkies, an economy that has no real industry as such and forced to take "foreign aid" any way it can, a populace who is so dependent on the dictator's policies that it will support them whatever the moral cost--and not challenge him when times go bad, and the army (the kids with the hot rod cars) who do the dirty work but don't share the benefits and have no future. There is a perversion of civil society, law and order, and moral justice that is acceptable to the "Parisians" but wouldn't be acceptable in a "free" society.

    The protagonist comes to Paris as a refugee, accepts the situation, and witnesses the chaos when the moral cost of the Mayor's racket hits a tipping point and people start voting with their gas pedals. The monsters in this movie are the ones we breed in our own societies when those in power do what they want (even if they believe it is for the greater good) and enact unethical policies.
  • How many Paris are there in the world?Thanks to the movie,we know that there's Paris,Texas and Paris,Australia.Ah and there's also Paris

    ,France for those who care.

    Weir is full of savoir faire when it comes to create an atmosphere:"picnic at hanging rock" "Mosquito coast" the highly superior " fearless" would exist even if there was no plot at all.but plots they all have and first-class at that.

    "The cars" begins quite well and the first half is a little treat:this town ,where everybody tries to help you ,this bunch of weirdos ,everything is much fun to watch.Their idee fixe to help the unfortunate hero is not unlike the neighbor's behavior in "Rosemary's baby" .The "test" is sheer shrink paraphernalia spoof and it superbly works.Even the past and the guilty feeling which come back to haunt poor Waldo verge on parody.

    But the movie loses steam halfway through:it features scenes à la Leone (complete with morriconesque music)which come at the most awkward moment and destroy the inimitable atmosphere that Weir had built.

    Despite these reservations,Weir's fans could do worse than watching this little film .Other good lines when the lad explains to moron Waldo: "well,this is the waiting room and these are people waiting!"
  • The residents of a small outback town cause car crashes on it's country, hilly roads and strip all valuable parts from the vehicles to make new cars. When Arthur Waldo survives a crash that kills his brother he stays in town as he is too scared to drive. He begins to notice strange things happening around the town, with the doctor and the mayor drawing suspicion.

    This is a "cult" movie. When someone tells you something is a cult movie it usually means one of two things: 1- it's a small, indie movie that people have come to discover and it's has grown gradually in success such as Reservoir Dogs (that outgrew it's cult status). Or 2- it's a movie of any size that the vast majority of people hate and a small group of fans adore. Unfortunately this is the latter. Some people will sing this things praises till the end of time but I'm afraid I don't get it. The plot seems to be going somewhere - you start off knowing very little about who's involved in the crashes and why they do it etc, along the way we get clues about experiments on humans and outsiders who live like Mad Max style scavengers, but it leaves us with no answers. The relationship between the mayor and Arthur is strange and isn't followed and I still don't see why the crashes were staged - other than to let some of the residents build a scrap yard.

    The performances are sufficiently creepy to help build an air of expectation. Terry Camilleri is epically good and the wishy-washy Arthur. However they are all betrayed by a story that has nowhere to build to and nothing to say. The director also builds the tension well but with nowhere to go what could he do, it's good he's had much better material since.

    Overall the film was a severe disappointment - and I wasn't expecting much from it! It's full of promise but the story dies three-quarters of the way in. The spiky beetle is very menacing and looks great but it's not enough to build a film around one cool image. OK - but don't expect any answers.
  • 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.
  • "The Cars That Ate Paris" is delightfully shocking in a way that still resonates today. I say delightfully because there is every indication in the subtext of the film that what we're watching is a biting, hilarious satire. It works as a satire because of the naturalness of the actors. It doesn't work so well to caricaturize personalities in film as much as it does in literature because caricaturization loses its shock and becomes simply a cause for unbelieving laughter. Instead, satire works better in film when the personalities of the characters are as honest as can be against the backdrop of outrageous circumstances. I'm sure I could think of exceptions, like Dr. Strangelove for example, which needs the caricaturization I think because its plot deals with the mechanisms of government and war. When the scale is that large, caricaturization works. But "The Cars That Ate Paris" doesn't have such lofty targets. It deals with the ordinary people in the world who are easily swept into the agendas of others, sometimes by their own mindlessness. Speaking again for the naturalness of the actors, the "ordinary people" in this film all seem like real citizens of a dusty, scavenger town with delusions of order and efficiency. I was particularly stunned by John Meillon who plays the mayor of the dusty, scavenger town called Paris, Australia. His performance is so seamless, so richly mixed between an authoritative assurance and a desperation to hide from the truth, that he is frightening, frightening in what seems to be his complete lack of introspection or morality. And there doesn't seem to be the need for either in Paris. His character, while in control of most of the goings-on in the town, doesn't seem to need to order anyone around. It's as if they accepted him and his authority as a matter of practicality, as if it were unfathomable to do otherwise. He therefore carries an almost metaphysical command over the actions (and even appearances of) the other characters in the film. It's a hefty role to take on and make real, but John Meillon succeeds marvelously. It's one of the great bad guy performances that isn't really a bad guy performance. As an audience member you just feel the entropy and instability vibrating behind the eyes of Meillon. Aside from the natural acting, the film succeeds because of Peter Weir's vision, which finds its greatest catalyst in the "wild west," sepia toned cinematography by John McLean. The camera is focus more on the faces of the actors than anything, and anytime it steps out into the dirt roads of Paris, it exposes hardly anything other than the commotion and impenetrability of the town. It's a skillful early work from Weir who would later succeed again in satirizing authority and control over the events of life with The Truman Show in 1997. The only thing that wasn't all that awesome was the performance by Terry Camilleri as Arthur, the man who comes to live in Paris by accident. It seems like he was uncomfortable as an actor, almost unable to get into his character's shoes. However, it doesn't ruin the film when Meillon's performance is so intoxicating.
  • This is a well made, at times bleak, dark and funny film - you never quite know what to expect. This is no more obvious than with the start of the film which commences with what appears to be a sexed up cigarette commercial (the kind that would have invariably preceded the film when it was in cinemas) featuring a hot couple blasting about in their convertible. This all ends very, suddenly and very badly and decades later Tarantino would steal/borrow the same device and make it the pivotal moment in Deathproof...

    The film drifts along introducing you to a fairly bizarre town called Paris in the Australian countryside and there is a lot of brooding and suspense but it doesn't really build because you never know quite what is what or what will come next.

    The film terminates with a fantastic scene of violence that I will not reveal in any detail here. It really, really appealed to my sense of humor and I hope it does yours - if you take the time to see it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Arthur survives a car crash, but his brother was not so lucky. When he finally comes around he finds out he's in small country town called Parris and the local mayor tries to get Arthur to become a citizen. Strangely there some offbeat things going on in Paris and when the traumatised Arthur tries to leave he realises that he's trapped in this hell of a town. But what becomes a shock to Arthur is when he discovers the main source of income is that of salvaging parts of passing motorist's car after causing them to have a car accident.

    Peter Weir's first feature is a kooky, low-budgeted flick that I saw quite awhile back, but I did not remember too much about it, other than the devilishly looking sliver Volkswagen covered with spikes. I actually managed to record it off TV only couple nights ago and I just finally got around to seeing it again. This cult film I still find to be one tasty dark comedy that has a biting satirical edge about it. It ain't a perfect production and the film is highly incoherent, but damn the novelty behind it is far from generic, which made it such an engrossing and energetic exercise. Weir went onto make some prime films in the 70s with "Picnic at Hanging Rock" being his most vintage of his work in the period. "The Cars that Ate Paris" was a learning step in that right direction and a chance to find his feet. While the enigmatic story leaves many things up in the air with it's odd assortment of characters and ironic turns, but it's Weir's creative style and sly humour that shines through. Some of the satirical comments worked into the picture is that of Australia's obsession with automobiles to that of rebellion with the younger generation disrespecting their elders' terms. Weir is able to poke fun at these points with such nice balance of black humour and the smirking tone of it all really does stick to you without losing its way. There's some unbelievably humorous quotes in the dialogue too. But I actually found some disturbing scenes in the way how this car fetish lifestyle (a guilty sin waiting to break out) has become part of everyday life for the town that the harshness devoted on unexpected motorists is simply part of the parcel. It's a dog eat dog world in Paris. The actual feel of the film towards it deterioration of the town and menacingly, designed cars you could say goes on to find its way into the Mad Max films. Even a little homage of a spaghetti western standoff creeps in. There's not much in a way of suspense and it lumbers about in patches, but when the mayhem escalates it's plain devastating in its terrorising short bursts. The violence on the other hand isn't shy either with being well conceived and there's one memorable aftermath. The rural location and inhabitants of the town are simply alienating in their welcoming vibe and also with an eerie score that gives out a groovy twang that works up the mood rather effectively. There's just something essentially, whimsical about Bruce Smeaton's variety of tunes. The relax performances are adequate even though the characters are pretty much vacant shells, since most of the effort went into the look and thick atmosphere. John Meillon is great as the self-righteous Mayor and Terry Camilleri was solid as the timid Arthur who I actually sympathised for. The manipulative relationship between the Mayor who basically adopts Arthur as a son is an interesting set-up. Another recognizable performance that stood out was Bruce Spence as the very loopy Charlie. Simply a fun movie that's hardly dull, because it rambles along with many awkward situations and black humour.

    It's not for everyone, but people who are interested in Weir's work or that of odd premises should give it a go.
  • Woodyanders27 October 2006
    Warning: Spoilers
    Peter Weir made his directorial debut with this truly bizarre and unique blackly humorous multi-genre pastiche that's a compellingly novel and singular blend of horror, Western and sci-fi conventions mixed together into a jarringly offbeat whole.

    A pleasant, mild-mannered American tourist (a sweetly amiable performance by Terry Camilleri) finds himself trapped in a remote backwoods Australian hamlet after he narrowly survives a car crash. The naive, gullible yank soon discovers that things are not exactly quite right and okay in the deceptively sleepy burg. For starters, that car crash wasn't an accident; it was deliberately staged by the resourceful and enterprising townspeople who eke out a living by salvaging car parts from wrecked vehicles. Then there's a resident mad scientist who's fond of experimenting on car crash survivors, turning the hapless folks into mute lobotomized imbeciles called "veggies." And the local drag-racing teenage hooligans are getting increasingly out of control, carousing about in their lethal, garishly made-up cars (one sports spikes all along its body like a porcupine!) until the wee hours of the morning and making a real nuisance of themselves. The town's friendly, but ineffectual mayor (winningly played by John Mellion) offers Camilleri the plum job of parking superintendent in a desperate attempt to restore law and order.

    The quirky, imaginative script by Weir, Keith Gow and Piers David ingeniously uses the oddball premise as an ideal springboard for barbed social commentary on the perils of cross country traveling, the very modern dangers the automobile poses to quiet everyday life, how isolated communities cut off from the rest of civilization can easily degenerate into barbarism and lawlessness, the extreme measures impoverished people will resort to in order to get by in life, and even a wacky generation gap conflict pitting uptight, disciplined, morally rigid adults against rowdy, uninhibited nihilist youth. Weirs' direction is precariously pitched between the grimly horrific and the darkly facetious, boldly maintaining an uneasy tone which keeps the viewer constantly off guard and gives the irregular proceedings a potently unsettling weirded-out edge. John McLean's grainy, luridly grungy cinematography allows the Australian outback to take on a scary, nightmarishly surreal aura while Bruce Smeaton's sometimes dissonant, more often strangely jaunty rock-tinged score adds substantially to the pervasively unnerving nuttiness. An authentically grotesque and intriguing one-of-a-kind curio.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Weir's first film is hardly a milestone in the history of cinema. The title is misleading inasmuch that it promises or at least suggests light-hearted goofiness. It's supposed to be a satire of some sort, but you won't find any laughs here. There is a weird feel to the whole film. It's about a small town of people who make car accidents happen so that they can loot and what not. For some reason Weir draws a clear line between the town's youth and the town's older folk; the youth is out of control and relishes the violence, while the older citizens are calm, collected, and regard the whole thing as merely business. This distinction between generations is what Weir was trying to get at. Right? But what exactly his point was, I'm not sure.

    If you want early Weir, ignore this, and watch "Picnic At Hanging Rock" instead: his best movie.
  • after hearing about this film since the 80s, i finally got the chance to see it and was seriously disappointed. it's only slightly unusual and not at all funny. i was under the impression that mysterious possessed cars attack a town in a campy hysterical "attack of the killer tomatos" style.

    the cars are just human driven customs and very little actually happens in the film. there's one or two chuckles, but there are many more wierder and/or funnier b-movies out there more deserving of a "rep" than this one.

    it's like a watered down "present day" version of "the road warrior" without any of that film's charm. it may have been the influence for it though as the "helicopter jockey" plays a small part in this film.

    worth seeing if you have to see every cult film ever made, but not if you need to stay awake.

    4 out of 10 overrated as a classic b-movie.
  • A man and his brother are involved in an accident deliberately caused by the residents of a hellish little town, Paris, New South Wales. The surviving brother doesn't realize that the accident was deliberate and oddly the town's weirdo residents decide to keep him and make him a part of their community. I have no idea why they didn't just kill him. Regardless, during his stay he begins to see how bizarre this town is, with young people driving around like extras from the Mad Max movies and a lot of mindless violence late in the film--violence that really looked as if the filmmakers didn't quite know what to do with the story.

    When "The Cars That Ate Paris" debuted, a lot of folks were upset because they found the film so bloody and gross. Well, today you certainly wouldn't think that, as times have certainly changed. Instead, you might be more likely to have folks react as I did-- with a surprising amount of boredom. While the idea is pretty radical and sounds exciting, it somehow isn't due to very slow pacing and a story that fails to capitalize on the great idea. Watch it if you'd like...just don't be too surprised when you find the whole thing a bit ponderous. The only thing I really liked in this film was the spiky VW. Where can I get one of those?!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I wasn't surprised to read that distributors didn't know whether to market "The Cars that Ate Paris" as a horror movie or an art movie. I don't really know what to make of it. Its fundamentally disturbing premise - a town in which the residents engineer car "accidents" and scavenge the remains - is handled so sedately it barely even registers. There is also a more serious social issue that the movie deals with about the battle between the young and the old. Any Australian is familiar with the term "hoon" and knows that these are usually young men. The movie does next to nothing with this premise either.

    Its hard to think that anyone who went to see "The Cars that Ate Paris" - and certainly no one in the US who saw it as the even more misleadingly titled "The Cars that Eat People" - would have come away satisfied. It resolutely refuses to be of interest in any way, shape or form. Want horror? There's no tension and the only "shock" comes from photos of the results of grisly car crashes. Want art? The movie is shot fairly interestingly, just without anything interesting within the shots. Want cars, even weird looking cars, like the ones featured on the poster? The only car related action the movie really features happens in the final ten minutes.

    Like I said, there's not really a whole lot to like here.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A movie done in style, all about relations between people, not normal people but where everyone is insane to varying degrees. These insane people try to create a town whose purpose, whilst fulfilling the normal needs is done in an insane fashion. They trap passing motorists at night and run them off the road. Should they survive they handed over to a macabre doctor who lobotomises them with a power tool to become his, experiments. There cars are stripped of any valuables than burned. Any equally disturbed individuals are recognised and kept to become a part of the insane community. To be best enjoyed as art background when suitably intoxicated and quietly partying. A movie clearly done to be enjoyed in this style, as it drifts from sane to insane in the same activity, as moments drift from sense to senseless. A movie that keeps you hanging on the edge of having a plot, of accelerating the story, of having real meaning only to leave you drifting along with it.
  • Zoopansick27 October 2003
    I really wish that the cars had hurried up and eaten Paris like 10 minutes in, so I wouldn't have to sit through this boring waste of time. The poor lighting and budget really show here and make this movie painful to watch. This movie is so devoid of any action and is so frustratingly paced that I barely made it through without fast forwarding. In fact I showed this movie to a friend with major parts fast forwarded and he didn't miss any of the plot. Watching this movie in fast forward (my 2nd viewing) shows just how many scenes were totally worthless and just add to the boredom. I have seen other Weir movies before, and understand that his pacing is really slow and doesn't follow conventional plots, but this movie was very unappealing. Picnic At Hanging Rock is a vastly superior Weir film if you are at all interested in the director. That movie creates an interesting mode and the mysterious circumstances are inticing, here there is no inticement. This movie is recommended only to those who are either Austrailian and have an interest in some black humor (which is greatly lost on anyone who isn't austrialian) or those who like to watch MST3k quality movies, minus the commentary.

  • Warning: Spoilers
    After enjoying The Plumber by Peter Weir,i hoped that this would be as good (or better) then that movie,sadly it came nowhere near being that. The plot:

    In Paris (Australia),a man who had a while a go,accidentally run-down an old man,car breaks down in a small town.While there,the memories of his brother (who has died in a crash)come back.The man finds out,while staying in a local hospital that the towns people use the crashed cars in a strange ways... View on the film:

    While there are some interesting set-pieces (the derby-style crash,the psychiatrist identifying items scene).The rest of the film feels painfully slow,with the third-act feeling a bit rushed.Weir does a very good job with some of the small set-pieces,but makes the rest of the film to slow. Final view on the film: Good to see if nothing else is on,or if you want to see Weires films,by film-to-film.
  • This movie was recommeded to me by a friend, who, by the way, is no longer a reliable source for movie recommendations. I was expecting to see cars, Awesome cars with huge motors tearing up the lamest place on the planet "Paris" with extreme prejudice. I ended up sitting through a snore fest, and I can't even tell you what it was about because my attention span stops after 5 minutes when there isn't a violent murder. I was expecting something like Death Race 2000 meeets the Roadwarrior and got Mister Rogers in rehabilitation, Do not watch this movie, there was a VW bug with rubber spikes on it, thats all I remember, and it did nothing. They didn't even drop a thermo-nuclear bomb on the eiffel tower, what a horrible film.
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