The joke derives perhaps from a choice bit of Pythonesque animation, only here cars are the ones being jumped and munched on. "Those old pedestrians are a real problem, aren't they?" Off the New South Wales highway is the rural hamlet named after the City of Light, causing road crashes and stripping the wreckage for valuables comprise the venerable industry, villagers from top to bottom are in on it. (Survivors go in the surgery ward and come out as "veggies," growling armored jalopies guard the exits.) Stranded after his brother's death, the schnook with driving phobia (Terry Camilleri) is taken under the wing of the Mayor (John Meillon) and anointed parking superintendent, a cushy job but for the town's raucous young joyriders. Out in the country, "where all the exciting work is being done," a curious allegory of unnerving expanses and hazy menace, already a Peter Weir specialty. Australia in the middle of a consumerist surge and on the verge of a cinematic wave: "Progress" is the byword, old and new orders in tenuous balance, all it takes is a diffident outsider to unmoor it. (Camilleri's affably neurasthenic pantomime evokes a kinship to Polanski's The Tenant.) Echoes of Weekend animate the self-conscious sang-froid, the Morricone pastiche that sets up the satirical view of westerns yields to a tinkling "Little Brown Jug" loop at the pioneers' ball, "a real boneshaker." The climactic rampage of metal spikes and fanged grills is answered by George Miller's own mecha-apocalypses, the rest is for Cronenberg. With Kevin Miles, Rick Scully, and Bruce Spence.
--- Fernando F. Croce