CRUSH

 (Alison Maclean, New Zealand, 1992) 90 minutes

CRUSH

Director: Alison Maclean
Producer: Bridget Ikin
Screenplay: Alison Maclean, Anne Kennedy
Photography: Dion Beebe
Editor: John Gilbert
Music: JPS Experience
Marcia Gay Harden (Lane)
William Zappa (Colin)
Donogh Rees (Christina)
Caitlin Bossley (Angela)
Pete Smith (Horse)

Reviews and notes

A woman without remorse or conscience, her embittered, crippled companion, a young girl and her emasculated father are the luckless characters in Alison Maclean's pseudo-feminist schlock-thriller, CRUSH.

While tension in the first half of the film is well sustained by Marcia Gay Harden's performance as the calculating, misanthropic and charismatic Lane, the plot dissolves into a B-grade melodrama during the second half, with a predictable and unconvincing denouement.

Lane is an enigma; like a feral cat she lives on her wits, ruled by a hedonistic agenda. Stranded in an alien country after surviving a car crash, her first reaction is to steal her companion's diary and leave her to die in the wreckage. What follows is reminiscent of the cross-cutting in Nicolas Roeg's Bad Timing: in a series of quick mid-shots and close-ups, Lane soaks in a bath while her companion, Christina (Donogh Rees), is receiving emergency treatment.

Pitched against Lane's calm is chaos which now fills the mind of Christina, whose career has been destroyed by Lane's provocative behaviour. The cross-cutting reinforces the ambiguous relationship between them: Are they lovers or casual strangers? On one level, Lane's bathing, watching plump drops of water escape the faucet, is symbolic of her washing away her crime. In the interim, Christina, bathed in blood, wrestles with her life, spilt blood releasing a primal reaction, demonstrated by Christina's revenge during the film's second half. Despite Lane's attempts to wash away the past, symbollcally she will forever carry the bloodstains.

Their relationship is sexually ambiguous. In the scenes leading up to the crash, there is a sense of tension and rivalry between the two women: Lane is the aggressor, who causes the accident by playfully fighting off Christina who wants to stop her reading her diary. The scene highlights Lane's need for control: Christina is on her way to interview a famous author, Colin (William Zappa); Lane resents her friend's success and sabotages it by fronting up to the author's home after the crash and makes a sexual play for him.

Sexual power games are the only way Lane can maintain control. At first she achieves this by wooing the author's daughter, Angela (Caitlin Bossley), feminizing her boyish looks by giving her a red dress and taking her out on the town. The young girl initially submits to this makeover, fascinated by Lane's strength and devil-may-care antics, but soon sours when Lane moves on to her father, a sex-starved writer whose sexual juices flow just as his artistic juices dry up.

The title of the film is a word play on Lane's ability to crush all she encounters. First it is her companion, whose career is cut short after the crash, when deprived of voice, leg and hand control. Then the young girl finds her intimacy with her father is crushed as he becomes more and more smitten by Lane. In the meantime, Lane, like a parasite, feeds off each person, growing colder and dismissing them as whim strikes her.

Red is used as a sexual symbol in the film, a power colour that Lane wears like a badge. In her tight skirt, racy leggings, leather jacket, beret and bright-red hooker lipstick, Lane is a garish, incongruous sight, wandering through the landscape with no purpose and no understanding. The film looks at her alienation and her ability to alienate; ironically, despite her girlie clothes, she is more of a venus fly trap, using her sex to tantalize and tempt but being indiscriminate and ruthless in her seduction.

Lane tries to woo the daughter by giving her a red "seduction" dress. It hangs uncomfortably on the young girl's undeveloped body. Spurred on by Lane's charisma, she wears the dress around the house, causing her father to look at her in a more sexual way, Later, forced to rival Lane for her father's attention, she shows her anger by refusing to wear the dress. The red dress on one level showed her equality with Lane, but later shows the daughter's loss of power - she now irritates her father whose growing fascinations for Lane threatens his paternal relationship. A red dress is a power statement for Christina who dons it during the denouement, symbolizing the shift in the balance of power between herself and Lane...
- Pat Gillespie, Cinema Papers, December 1993.

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