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'Price of Milk, The'

'Price of Milk' is strangely romantic

Friday, April 20, 2001

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Movie Critic

The lush New Zealand dairy farm in "The Price of Milk" is fairy tale-gorgeous, and so is Rob (Karl Urban), the dark-haired man who singlehandedly runs it. He's not just sexy but enormously kind, gentle and loving, especially to animals. He lets his insanely agoraphobic dog Nigel walk around beneath a big cardboard box, rather than put it to sleep. He knows all 117 of his cows by name or number, talks to and gets responses from -- actually converses with -- them.

'The Price Of Milk'

RATING: PG-13 for nudity and drug use

STARRING: Danielle Cormack, Karl Urban, Willa O'Neill, Rangi Motu

DIRECTOR: Harry Sinclair




Equally sexy Lucinda (Danielle Cormack), from her nearby trailer, whistles for him after work one day. They undress each other and have sex out in the open (one of various things you can only comfortably do in New Zealand and, though not ballyhooed by its Chamber of Commerce, another reason to move there). They'll later take an erotic nighttime bath together in the outdoor bathtub heated by lovely red coals. This bathtub contains a ring, not the grime kind around the top, but the engagement kind at the bottom -- Rob's romantic way of proposing marriage.

He is the world's most perfect man, and they are deliriously, perfectly in love -- too perfectly. Something must be wrong, she feels. Her not-quite-trustworthy girlfriend Drosophilia (Willa O'Neill) advises her to pick a fight and otherwise test his love.

Preoccupied with such thoughts in her car, she runs over a mysterious Maori woman called "Auntie" (Rangi Motu), who gets up and walks away unharmed with a cryptic warning -- "Remember: Keep warm."

The early surreal touches in "Price of Milk" escalate into whole surreal scenes -- and, essentially, a whole surreal film.

Auntie's aboriginal nephews steal Lucinda's prized quilt from off her sleeping body, and she becomes obsessed with recovering it -- finally succeeding by swapping all of Rob's beloved cows. Rob freaks, loses his voice, and henceforth speaks in a ridiculous falsetto.

"I might've pushed him too far," Lucinda muses.

Pushing far, if not too far, is something director Harry Sinclair clearly enjoys. His major previous picture, "Topless Women Talk About Their Lives," I regrettably haven't seen. This picture sports the most idyllic scenery and cinematography, by Leon Narbey, and the equally idyllic Russian music of Rimsky-Korsakov, Liadov and Rachmaninov, performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.

It's a truly beautiful, romantic, playful film -- also a truly obtuse and bizarre one. At one point, Lucinda is attacked by cups, pots and pans that affix themselves to her hair. A milk flood stemming from inside her refrigerator almost drowns her. An SUV drops down from the sky directly on top of Drosophilia's vehicle. Garcia Marquez magic realism meets Down-Under Fellini, or plain witchcraft. Or perhaps it's all, proverbially, "just a dream" by Lucinda -- who is a cross between Snow White and Cruella de Vil.

Ah ... Were you paying attention, at the outset, when I said something about a fairy tale? Do you pay attention, in the end, to either the real or the metaphorical "Price of Milk"?

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