Smash Palace | Chicago Reader

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The raw material of this New Zealand-made marital breakup film might seem overly familiar, but director Roger Donaldson does some fresh and complex things with it. Bruno Lawrence, in a magnetic, wide-ranging performance, is Al, a onetime Grand Prix driver who has retreated to his father's junkyard business—the “Smash Palace”—in the New Zealand scrub country; his French wife, Jacqui (Anna Jemison), decides she can no longer stand the life there, and walks out with their eight-year-old daughter. Donaldson's interests aren't merely psychological, but cultural and poetic as well: there are hints of Godard in the setting and execution, and the film is based on a beautifully sustained off-rhythm of stillness and motion, violence and tranquillity.

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