Australian Screen

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Cactus (1986)

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clip 'Are you beautiful?' education content clip 1

Original classification rating: M. This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

Colo (Isabelle Huppert) and Robert (Robert Menzies) talk about blindness, after she has had the operation to remove her left eye. He explains his feeling that there is a kind of knowing possible when one is blind that is like the Aboriginal idea of songlines. At the end of a pier, he asks her if she’s beautiful. She says no, not really.

Curator’s notes

The script does not show us the moment when she decides to have the operation, just the fact that she has had her eye removed. Most of the film avoids this kind of metaphorical dialogue, preferring to try to communicate by images alone, but there are a few scenes – like this one – where it is necessary that the characters talk openly with each other. Cox’s characters often struggle with language. There’s often a sense that what they (and he) are trying to say has no language. The part played by Huppert could have been an Australian character, but the fact that she’s French doubles her isolation, a common theme in Cox’s films. He came to Australia as a young man who knew nobody and he has spoken publicly about the terrible sense of isolation he felt as a stranger in Australia, for the first few years. He became a stills photographer before he began to explore cinema.

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