Fuel for the flame
Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
( Gettin’ Square)
Stars: Matthew Goode, Bojana Novakovic, Rachel Griffiths, Essie Davis, Jack Heanly ON those occasions where Burning Man really catches alight, the film gives off the heat of an uncharacteristically aggressive, lively and hard- hitting Australian drama.
However, whenever that flame sputters and looks like going out, your affection for the picture can get somewhat chilly.
There is definitely a lot to admire about Burning Man, and if you can forgive its flaws a little, then you won’t leave disappointed.
Matthew Goode ( pictured) stars as Tom, a British chef living and working in Sydney. In a genuinely striking early scene – the cinematography of Gary Phillips ( Candy) is stunning throughout the film – Tom is seriously injured in a car accident and rushed to hospital.
A difficult and volatile character ( yes, as most chefs are), Tom takes some getting to know as Burning Man concentrates on charting his very chequered past.
The fiery foodie’s time in Australia has been defined by the women he has befriended, bedded or bid farewell. For better and for worse, this aspect of the script sometimes gives Burning Man the unfortunate feel of a checklist that must be worked through.
Meanwhile, a feverish need to switch timeframes fast and often also tends to muffle the distinctive voice of filmmaker Jonathan Teplitzky’s best ideas here.
It might be an unfair comparison, but another new release this week, We Need To Talk About Kevin, delivers a virtual masterclass in non- linear storytelling.
That movie repeatedly cuts to the right destination on the calendar with ruthless precision. When Burning Man tries the same technique, it seems, out of worry, there is less to Tom than meets the eye.
Enough, then, of the negatives. The resounding positive of Burning Man is the first- class performance of Goode in the lead role, which truly leaves a lasting mark whenever the film takes its biggest risks.
Goode is so committed to embodying the worst of Tom that he almost seems to intimidate his fellow cast members. This takes some doing when you’re sharing the screen with accomplished names such as Rachel Griffiths, Essie Davis and Bojana Novakovic ( a standout as Tom’s late wife).