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1st Review of the Melanie Lynskey starring New Zealand film SNAKESKIN!!!

Hey folks, Harry here with a review of a flick that I was supposed to catch when I was in Cannes earlier this year, but due to time spent covering the LORD OF THE RINGS event there, I was never able to make one of the screenings of SNAKESKIN. Why was I so eager to see this flick? Because I find Melanie Lynskey fascinating. Ever since HEAVENLY CREATURES, I've always been more interested in her career than Kate Winslet's (though I've followed hers quite closely as well). Why? Because while Winslet had the more glamorous role, it was Melanie that anchored that film. Made me care. It was an amazing performance. Since then though, Melanie hasn't been given nearly any chances to take the front and center position in films.. but here, this is her movie. And after reading this review, I just wish I was watching it, right now. This sounds like a helluva film...

Hey Harry,

Last weekend myself and my two compandres, Doctor Jesus and Smug Jonson, had the extreme fortune to stumble upon tickets for the World Premiere (despite it's screening at the Cannes Film Market in May) of the film 'Snakeskin'.

'Snakeskin' is the first feature film from Gillian Ashurst, a writer/director who did "gonzo" (Reference: Hunter S Thompson) style journalism up till 1996 when she created "Confessions of a Latter Day Slut", a short film which won third prize at the Brandywine Film Festival over there in the states. 'Snakeskin' draws inspiration from Gillian's own experiences as a child of the film and television generation. Starring Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures, The Frightners, Coyote Ugly), Boyd Kestner (G.I Jane, The General's Daughter and Hannibal) and Dean O'Gorman (When Love Comes, Young Hercules), it is described by the film makers, in jest, as a tourist brochure for New Zealand.

The film shows a volatile underbelly to New Zealand culture, contrasing with that portrayed in 'Once Were Warriors'. The film gives a glimpse into the NZ skinhead movement (Of which there are apparently only 200 real members in NZ), drug culture (Hallucinogenic mushroom death festivals in the Southern Island) and strange cowboys who powerfuck (Can I use words like that on AICN? :D) mildly innocent girls in public bathrooms...

The story follows Alice (Melanie Lynskey) and Johnny (Dean O'Gorman) on their quest to remove themselves from their mundane surroundings in their extremely generic country town. Alice grew up on television, with idols such as Clint Eastwood, Thelma and Louise, wanting to experience the typical American culture portrayed in the films she has seen. For Alice the line between film and reality is extremely blurred. Johnny is a law student, who is along for the ride because of his adoration of Alice, thus we have the setup for a road film.

Along the way the two pick up a hitchhiker, a misplaced cowboy named Seth (Boyd Kestner) and the pace builds quickly with a little bit of Dukes of Hazard style driving action, where we are then introduced to Seth's pursuers, a trio of skinhead misfits (Speed, Terry and Owen), a Maori drug middleman (Tama) and two wasted pseudo-hippies dealers (Nelson and Daisy).

Essentially up till this point it is a road movie/chase film, with all your regular light hearted gags, cliches and action sequences then it takes a 180 degree turn once various flavours of LSD are consumed and goes in a completely different direction, seemingly drawing on David Lynchesque inspirations, as it realises Seth isn't exactly what he appeared to be, with drugs, theft, murder and quasi-pagan halluciogenic imagery helping to lead up to a shocking conclusion.

'Snakeskin' is a visually beautiful film, rich film stock, lush portraits of South Island imagery and a little bit of CGI. Scenes which particularly stuck out for me were the final action sequence in the abbatoir, when Alice's mind goes sideways on LSD in the sunflower field and Speed's (Oliver Driver) crossdressing scene following his looting of a house.

Melanie Lynskey is at her sultry best in this film and gives an extremely convincing portrayl of her mildly drug addled character Alice. A surprise performance from Oliver Driver as the leader of a skinhead gang, where he goes from being a drug fiend skinhead thief, to a gay crossdressing murderer. Boyd Kestner plays a great twisted cowboy who, in a similair transition to Driver's, becomes a former skinheaded psychopath. Every other member of the cast was brilliant in their roles, especially Paul Glover who played Terry, Speed's reluctant sidekick.

Onto my opinion. What you get in 'Snakeskin' is a completely non-linear plot with no seeming logical conclusion. You go in for a road movie, you come away with a shocking, uniquely foreign story, but if you wanted a road movie, you get the witty retorts, the twisted relationships and the beautiful camera shots, even though it seems the characters are completely out of their heads, but at the same time keeping your feet planted firmly on the ground to look at it from the perspective of a sane outsider.

'Snakeskin' is in a word unique, drawing on inspirations from films such as Thelma and Louise, Spaghetti Westerns and other such genre flicks, then contrasting them with film making techniques and images from David Lynch, Darren Aronofsky.

I never like to give a straight '4/5 stars' type of review, so I won't. I see this as a perfect landmark in New Zealand film, we've had 'horror' (Peter Jackson - Dead Alive), we've had 'shocking' (Lee Tamahori - Once Were Warriors), we've had 'comedy' (Hamish Rothwell - Stickmen), but we never quite got the blend of the 'arthouse' (and I fucking hate saying that) style with the 'narrative' style, which films such as "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" pioneered.

This film may not be many people cup of tea persay, but if you think that after reading my review, regard everything I've said as bullshit. It's good to see New Zealand film flourishing once again with unique stories which the rest of the world can relate to, rather than be alienated by.


Comrade Spides of

Readers Talkback
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  • July 30, 2001, 7:28 p.m. CST

    I am first and see my wrath

    by Daredvl25

    didn't even read the review

  • July 30, 2001, 7:34 p.m. CST

    Now I read it.

    by Daredvl25

    This sounds soo cooooooolll. truthfully I needed to look up on the IMDB who this chick was but still and all.......Let's hope this gets a bit of a wide release. probably not. They still need the room for all the piles of stink left over from A.I.

  • July 30, 2001, 8:28 p.m. CST

    Don't listen to them, they've got it all wrong.

    by It Burns to Pee

    The movie is about Richard Simmons in a snakeskin wedding dress, he travels around New Zeland fighting crime with a group of hefty side-kicks. It's really being directed by Woody Allen, who co-wrote the screenplay with President Clinton, Charelton Heston, The Queen of England, and Madonna. They're being really secrative about the ending, but I've got the inside scoop. Richard Simmons turns out to be an alien, and then Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones come to deport him but he's rescued by the Ghost of Christmas Past (not the traditional Ghost of Christmas Past, this time he's a street smart Ghost, who lives in a studio apt. in Manhatten), played lovingly by Haley Joel Osment. Steven Speilberg makes a cameo as a prostitute that Richard Simmons falls in love with while he's hiding away with the Ghost of Christmas Past. There is already a script for a sequel floating around the internet where Richard Simmons gets pregnant by Steven Speilberg, but the baby turns out to be a Ghost. The movie will chronicle Steven Speilbergs spiritual wanderings, as he tries to find himself, and foils numerous terrorist attacks in the process.

  • July 30, 2001, 8:39 p.m. CST

    This post is dedicated to Alexandra Dupont!

    by Ms.DupontsLover

    She is not only the most competent reviewer on this site (with Moriarty in a far second), she is the most beautiful.. the most alluring. I know you love her as much as I: Show it, you fools! show HER. Dedicate posts to Alexandra Dupont! -------------------------------------------- Dupont: Greatest. Reviewer. Ever.

  • July 30, 2001, 10:55 p.m. CST

    Was it just me or did anyone else think of...

    by Huneybee

    Thelma and Louise when you read that two women picked up a cowboy hitchhiker? T&L meets meet Road Warrior meets Crocodile Dundee meets Shaggy and his wife or something similar. Oh, and they all do drugs and commit violent acts. Actually, it sounds like the kind of twisted movie I might just like...

  • July 31, 2001, 3:23 a.m. CST

    It's my review after all!

    by spides

    Hey, cheers for posting my review Harry. Hope you all liked it, I'll try get along to more NZ Film Premieres and hopefully relay some sneak reviews to you. I really did like Snakeskin and I tried to let my usual cynicism be bypassed because it's truely a great film, it has it's glithes like any other (I'm not going to start preaching about it being Citizen Kane), it was just a really well written, unique, well filmed flick. Thanks for all the feedback. comrade spides The Anticow Literary Collective: Reviews, Poetry, Scrawlings, Rantings and Rhymings.

  • July 31, 2001, 6:22 a.m. CST

    Remember what I said about "weird"?

    by rabid_republican

    For anyone who read my post on Wes Andersen's new film, I suppose you'd safely assume there's no way I'd pass this one up. NZ certainly has some odd buggers, to say the least, after reading this review. As far as I'm concerned this one sounds like a big pass for me. I have little patience or mercy for the counterculture gonzo journalists. Once again we have a film where something that might be considered profound is merely in bad taste. The whole road film concept sounds great (not that I'm one for the usual gags) but then goes to hell in the proverbial handbasket._______________________ By the by, my condolences to Baron Von Flapjack. If one's signifgant other goes that far away for any duration of time, I would reccomend going with them. Of course this from a guy who didn't (and couldn't) follow his own advice...but I digress.

  • July 31, 2001, 7:09 a.m. CST

    New Zealand talent

    by Logan5

    Well firstly a big fuck you to Baron VonFlapjack...Secondly SixtyFoot is right on the money. Down here in Dunedin we run an amateur film competition called the Mothra doubt SixtyFoot has heard of it...You should check it out Harry there is some crazy shit shown there, but there is also some rare Gems. I Love my country but our government doesn't support talented writers or film-makers...It just gets it's actors from the rather limited roster of Shortland Street, (Tem Morrison was on this) and their writers are people who may have written a column for the Listener (Magazine). Or maybe somebody who wrote a badly received film in the '70s. Apart from that we get people who host infomercials host bullshit reality shows. But we're getting there, Pete Jackson will probably help get us going, I like to think of him as a NZ George Lucas (But more approachable) As for snakeskin, yep I wanna see it.

  • Aug. 1, 2001, 9:09 a.m. CST

    I apologise BaronVonFLapjack

    by Logan5

    Yeah I'm sorry man it sucks having these bitches break your hearts....As for the Ozone layer, yeah it is biggest down here and that's thanks in large part to your redneck president, fuck don't vote him in again. Hopefully the CIA have a trip to Dallas arranged for him ;) He's VERY bad for the world.

  • Aug. 1, 2001, 1:50 p.m. CST

    Melanie Lynskey is the best young actress!!

    by meataicn

    Melanie Lynskey is an amazing actress. Her work in "heavenly Creatures" is unmatchable.sheer brilliance.I'm glad to hear about how great she and the movie both are.I hear she is incredible in Stephen Gaghan's new movie "Abandon" She is able to morph into any character and completely inhabit their world.That alone will get my 9 dollars admission ticket to "Snakeskin" and "Abandon"When is "Snakeskin" coming to the U.S.?Have other people noticed how equally adept she is at comedy as well as her genius for drama.Her comedic turns in "But I'm A Cheerleader"and even "Coyote Ugly " and "Ever After" rule. More Melanie MOvies!!!!!!