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GOLDEN BRAID(director/writer: Paul Cox; screenwriters: from the novel by Guy de Maupassant” La Chevelure”/Barry Dickins; cinematographer: Nino Gaetano Martinetti; editor: Russell Hurley; cast: Chris Haywood (Bernard Simon), Gosia Dobrowolska (Terese), Paul Chubb (Joseph), Norman Kaye (Psychiatrist), Marion Heathfield (Cleaning woman), Paul Cox (Priest), Monica Maughan (Antique shop owner), Robert Menzies (Ernst), Jo Kennedy (Paradise), Sheila Florance (Lady with clock), Harold Baigent (Clockmaker), Phillip Green (Cellist); Runtime: 91; Australian Film Commission / Film Victoria; 1990-Australia)
It’s a film for those who appreciate oddities in filmmaking.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Dutch-born but longtime living in Australia director Paul Cox (“Lonely Hearts“), has based this film on a short story set in the 19th century by Guy de Maupassant called “La Chevelure.” It’s set in modern Australia and concerns a bachelor named Bernard Simon (Chris Haywood), who is a specialist in repairing antique clocks. Bernard is obsessed by both clocks and death, keeping a household full of clocks. Bernard likes the ones that are not battery operated because they tick, giving off vital life signs. The protagonist’s obsessions are so extreme, that he’s seeing a psychiatrist (Kaye) to get help in dealing with reality.

The story revolves around Bernard’s newest romantic obsession, another sensitive but lost soul like him, Terese (Gosia Dobrowolska). She’s unhappily married and is a social worker for the Salvation Army. Terese’s naive husband Joseph (Paul Chubb) is a major in the Salvation Army, and would prefer to be kept ignorant of her affair. Bernard is a generous benefactor to the Army, which greatly pleases the major.

When an antique shop owner’s husband dies his wife sells Bernard an antique Venetian cabinet, which instead turns out to be German. But Bernard finds inside one of the secret drawers a golden braid and this sets his imagination off; Bernard tries to have conversations with the braid in order to find out about the love life of the woman whose braid it is, believing that it’s still alive and can understand him. The poor soul has lost track of reality and is absorbed in a world of fantasy, and is in danger of losing the real-life lover who is well suited for him. Terese tells him that she only knows that she’s alive when she’s with someone who loves her, and demands his full attention.

In this slow-paced character study of the obsessed man, there are a few memorable scenes: the gentle lovemaking between the two hurt souls; the brilliant cello solo by Phillip Green entitled “Song of the Birds;” and, a confessional scene between Bernard and the priest, where the priest agrees that as long as you pay for your lust it is not a sin.

The film’s humor is derived from the unique house that Bernard lives in that’s filled with clocks chiming, its many art works and antiques. Also, quite charming is Bernard’s revealing conversation with Terese, where she ridicules him for having slept with around 100 women in his lifetime and can therefore be considered as a collector of women. She says one woman is all one man needs.

There’s a quiet brilliance to this melancholy chamber piece. It is enhanced by the beautiful cinematography of Nino Gaetano Martinetti. It’s a film for those who appreciate oddities in filmmaking and are not deterred by the slightness of the story or the slow way it gets to where it’s going.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”