BY GAYLE LAKE
Much has been written about Paul Cox since his death over the weekend, and rightly so. His death has provoked an outpouring of grief, fond reminiscence and profound respect across the globe.
Prolific and forensically personal, he will be remembered as having shaped arthouse cinema – both its production and appreciation – in Australia. His sense of social conscience is an underlying theme that is seen in all his work.
A recognised photographer, the twenty-five year-old Paul Cox made his first short film in 1965 (Matuta: An Early Morning Fantasy) just after his arrival in Australia from The Netherlands. Over the next five decades, he made around 50 films which included shorts, documentary, features and television material.
His photography has been celebrated in numerous books and exhibitions. His love of art and music is well documented. He published Reflections: An Autobiographical Journey in 1998 and wrote a memoir, Tales of the Cancer Ward (2011), which detailed his own very personal experience with illness.
His films have been described as ‘cinematic meditations on love, art, solitude and mortality’. His remarkable filmography includes 19 features, starting with Illuminations (1976), and spans 40 years of constant creative output. Among many notable titles are Lonely Hearts (1982), Man of Flowers (1983, invited to Cannes) and My First Wife (1984).
It is a rich and meaningful legacy that culminates with his last film, Force of Destiny, which opened the Melbourne International Film Festival in 2015. In it, Paul Cox fearlessly takes us on a journey based on his own experience of cancer and the remarkable liver transplant that saved his life on Boxing Day, 2009.
His insight into his characters, and ability to extract the very best performance from his actors, is evidenced in David Wenham’s performance in Force of Destiny. And who can forget Cox’s 36-year artistic collaboration with actor Norman Kaye?
The NFSA is proud to be preserving the majority of Paul Cox’s amazing career, a true auteur who shall be sadly missed but fondly celebrated.