Holy Smoke Review

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Ruth (Winslet), swaps life in the 'burbs for nirvana in India. Fearing that she's has been cult-napped, her family hires P.J. Waters (Keitel), a US 'de-programmer' of brainwashed hippies, to bring her back. On an isolated farm in the middle of the Outback, the two are brought together in bizarre psycho-sexual combat.


After the rhapsodic beauty of The Piano and the cold austerity of A Portrait Of A Lady, it's easy to forget that Jane Campion first made her name with Sweetie, one of the freshest and funniest features to come from down under. Her latest work marks a welcome return to that crookedly comic world, once again casting an absurdist eye across the mores and (ill) manners of a dysfunctional suburban Australia.

This time round, the vision is angled in such a way that it becomes an ambitious satire on Eastern philosophy and Western hypocrisy and a surreal but modern love story. The naked energy and emotionally charged performances by Keitel and Winslet - both superb - provide the film with an intelligent centre on to which Campion grafts another brilliantly observed study in suburban eccentricity. The director's command of visual irony means the family's daily rituals and - even the very landscape itself - are made to appear more alien than the foreign culture with which they are doing battle.

It's not perfect by a long chalk: there's a lot of waffly verbosity and Pam Grier is woefully underemployed, but behind the philosophical smoke burns a genuine comedic fire.