Picking a movie to watch is sort of like going on a blind date; you’re never complete sure what you’re going to get. I’m not a film snob or a very harsh critic – I usually give most movies a passing grade just for effort – but I do ask to be taken on a journey to somewhere I’ve never been before. It’s just usually never as literal as The Goddess of 1967.
My movie picking process occasionally goes something like this. [insert actor] is really cute. I like her. I’m going to see what other movies she has on Netflix. In this particular case it was Rose Byrne. At the time she had three movies. One was called The Goddess of 1967 and had a gorgeous cover of a pink sky and a pink car with a couple inside. My brain snaps to judgement: ok, so it’s about a guy who meets an amazing girl in the year 1967 but it looks kinda indie so maybe it will be an insightful and pretty road trip movie. Oh wait, it’s from 2001. Rose Byrne must have been very young then. It’s Australian? I thought she was English. Hmm, IMDB says she’s Australian. I feel like I should have known that. I’ll put it in my queue.
And then it sits in the queue until Netflix says it’s going to remove it the very next day so I’m forced to watch it.
It opens with a man living a very strange and lonely life in a blue-toned Tokyo. This is not at all what I expected. I get a little bored. Then I kinda get into it. I find myself consciously taking pride in being a person who truthfully enjoys indie movies and celebrate the moments when I connect fully with someone’s unusual attempt to tell a story. But most of the time my brain shifts into tech mode and I’m just breaking down the elements, imagining the script, imagining the set, and what choices I would have made. Very quickly I gather that the movie is not set in 1967 and that the Goddess is, in fact, a car. Now I really have no idea what I’m in for so I silently congratulate the filmmaker (who is a woman!) and settle in for the ride.
I won’t be giving away any of the story elements in this review because that would be opening the present for you. You should go in with absolutely no expectations, even the ones I’m going to build up. It is a road trip movie, in the present and into the past of a girl (played by Rose Byrne who gives a stellar performance.) It deals with difficult subjects like abuse and helplessness. Every single character is broken in some way. But it is the rare type of movie where the sum is greater than its parts. The director infuses the film with the very intangible element that is movie magic that can only happen because film is art in 3-D. It’s unlike anything else. It uses moving pictures and sound to create an experience that can last forever. The Australian outback becomes a character. It’s vast, lonely, hard and beautiful. The Goddess becomes a character.
It’s a brave movie. It is the kind of movie that only this particular director could make. I pause halfway through the film because I have to know who Clara Law is. At the time of the making of this movie she was in her 40’s. She is a filmmaker born in Macau, China, with a degree in English literature and now she lives in Australia. Her husband is a writer and they co-wrote the film together. Well, that sounds absolutely lovely. I’m jealous, and impressed.
There is a dance scene about halfway through the movie and it actually gave me goosebumps. In the context of the story, the music and Rose’s courage and lack of inhibition elevate the film to art and it’s able to sear itself into your emotional history. This film is now part of how you define human emotions.
The whole film is dream-like, really. Characters enter and exit without explanation, but it doesn’t bother you the way it would with a less skilled director. They are all just pieces to tell the story, the same way not every single person that means something to you stay with you your whole life, but that doesn’t make their presence any less important in your story. I’ve only ever experienced the same dream-like state while watching David Lynch movies, especially Mulholland Drive, which is one of my very favorite movies and the reason I thought I belonged in film in the first place. I saw it when I was 18 in a near empty theater, I felt it on so many levels, and it finally clicked with me that I can’t do exactly this, but I can do something like this. It occurs to me now that I feel The Goddess From 1967 is the female counterpart to Mulholland Drive. The disturbing essence found in many Lynch movies is there, stirring under the surface, but it is softer, comes packaged in pink clouds, whereas Lynch’s horror sometimes peaks out from around the corner and shows its face.
It’s been over a week and I still can’t stop thinking about it. I’m not saying everyone will have the exact same experience as me, but I definitely recommend you give it a try. The movie is not on Netflix US anymore but you might be able to find it in some other regions. You might be able to find it on YouTube, I saw a copy subtitled in French, but it’s really a movie that deserves a high definition than YT’s 480p.