Burning Sensation: Cast and crew discuss The Burning Kiss (exclusive)

Cinema Australia Interview Picture (Small)

The Burning Kiss, described as a ‘hallucinogenic summer noir cocktail spiked with surrealism and suspense’, is an exciting new West Australian feature film nearing the end of post-production. Set to make its festival debut later in the year, the film centres on the unexpected arrival of a stranger, who implicates a father and his daughter in an inferno of secrets, guilt and danger. Shot in stunning locations across the blistering landscape of Western Australia, The Burning Kiss is a surreal, feverish Australian summer nightmare and is generating lots of positive buzz prior to its completion.

Director Robbie Studsor, Producer Megan Palinkas, Cinematographer Ivan Davidov, Composer Christopher de Groot and lead actors Liam Graham and Alyson Walker elaborate on the film:

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On the title of the film…

Robbie Studsor (director):
“I was reading a book called Story of the Eye and it describes a character giving someone a ‘burning kiss’. I immediately thought it would be a cool movie title. It’s fun, dramatic, and little bit campy. It’s also reminiscent of a time when films had titles like that. For instance, in the 40s you would have a standard melodrama and it would be called Desert Fury (laughs). For me it’s also got a Fassbinder/ Almodovar kind of vibe to it too which I like.”

On the production…

Megan Palinkas (producer):
“As you’d expect, it was pretty harrowing. The production was marred by things like a searing heat wave, a hired vintage car catching alight, and one of our major locations being shut down by local council. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything though. It was an invaluable master class in filmmaking. I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved.”

Alyson Walker (actor):
“It was a wonderful, eye-opening experience.  Emotionally at times it was tough. Working alongside so many talented and creative minds gave me an experience that I will never forget.”

Liam Graham (actor):
“The shoot went for around 6 weeks during the middle of summer. The main location was a 1950s house near the beach so we had the joy of the sea breeze each day, which was a relief from our long days in the blazing sun. One of the standout locations was about 5 hours drive in land from Perth. It’s like another planet with sweeping salt lakes and red dirt that goes on for miles.”

On the look of the film…

Ivan Davidov (cinematographer):
“Hot and beautiful.  We routinely used things like lens flares, smoke and heat haze to try and make the viewer feel as hot watching the film as the characters would feel in the harsh Australian summer sun.  As for the beautiful – the scenes that had violence or unpleasant subject matter we shot in an elegant and beautiful way, as opposed to going down the ‘gritty and real’ path.  To me this adds to some of the surrealism and helps build the alternate world that the film occupies – it’s not meant to be a straight up drama.”

Robbie Studsor (director):
“We looked at a lot of movies that have memorable ‘daytime’ aesthetics such as Paris, Texas, Wake in Fright and Godard’s stuff like Contempt and Pierrot Le Fou then we looked at memorable ‘nighttime’ films – such as Blood and Black Lace. We wanted a sweaty Tennessee Williams vibe by day and moody, dark neo-noir vibe by night.  With a Director of Photography like Ivan you can be very visually ambitious.”

On preparing the characters…

Alyson Walker (actor):
“Well, my character in the film is quite complex so I watched films with female characters that had traits I could draw from like Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet, Gulietta Masina in La Strada, and Bibi Andersson in Persona. For me, the preparation needed to be thorough otherwise I don’t think I could have translated her story on screen.”

Liam Graham (actor):
“I decided early on I wanted the muscle memory of a James Dean performance so I would walk around the lounge room with one eye on the TV and one on the mirror trying to mimic Dean’s walk and gestures, which I would then completely exaggerate before pairing right back. I’m pretty sure my housemate thought I was having a psychotic episode for a few weeks!”

On the music in the film…

Christopher de Groot (composer):
“The score of the film has its roots in the exotica music of Les Baxter and Martin Denny. It features an instrumental line up of guitar, piano, vibraphone, organ, mellotron, 2 harps, double bass, flutes, vocals and a barrage of exotic percussion including congas and home made gamelan.
In addition to this, there are a number of sections of the score that use an 8-piece flute choir including alto and bass flutes.
The best way to describe the score is a melting pot of 60s exotica, Delia Derbyshire inspired sci-fi music, classic Bernard Herrmann and a pinch of John Zorn. Tropical noir-nightmare!

On describing the film…

Robbie Studsor (director):
“I’m still figuring this one out myself! There’s a film noir tradition set during summer I heard referred to as ‘soleil noir’ which is relevant to what we’re doing, but there’s also these European thrillers from the 60s and 70s that often involve murder plots mixed with characters relaxing around pools and vacationing which was a big influence over the film. It’s a tradition that possibly started with Purple Noon and goes all the way up to things like Sexy Beast and Dogtooth. We use it as a jumping block to move into some different and exciting places. It’s quite psychedelic and atypical. ”

Liam Graham (actor):
“I’d call it a sexy, dangerous summer noir with hints of classic cinema.”

Alyson Walker (actor):
“For me, the keywords that spring to mind are hot, exciting, dramatic, sexy and mysterious.
It’s got surreal imagery, elements of 60s and 70s culture and classic film. You can feel the heat just by watching the teaser. So you can only imagine what this film is going to deliver…its exciting!”

Ivan Davidov (cinematographer):
“The film deals with binary oppositions both visually and thematically, so I’ll go with ‘hot but cool’.”

Megan Palinkas (producer):
“How about a smoldering psychodrama, etched with exotica and surrealism?”

Robbie Studsor (director):
“Nice one Megan…I like that…”

Christopher de Groot (composer):
“I tell people that The Burning Kiss as a summertime noir film with elements of southern gothic and surrealist pop art. When I get the all too familiar blank look, I go a little deeper and say it’s a crime mystery film set in a time warp 1960s coastal town – think Blue Velvet meets Hawaiian Eye. None of that usually helps… just watch the film!”

The Burning Kiss is set to make its festival debut later in the year. For more information visit http://www.theburningkissmovie.com or like the facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/TheBurningKissMovie


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