My First Wife is about the dramatic collapse of the marriage between John (John Hargreaves) and Helen (Wendy Hughes). It is also a film about our children and the future we offer them.
Helen has decided to leave, and it is John who lacks the inner resources to cope with the impending tragedy.
Slowly he is sucked into a tunnel of despair – fighting his conservative nature and the romantic memories of his married life.
“We must love one another or die” W. H. Auden said in 1939. This sentiment is very much at the heart of the story.
My First Wife pleads for more patience, more understanding, more tolerance and more care for our “loved ones”, and if the time for parting arrives, to be more careful with the way we say goodbye.
Director: Paul Cox
Producer: Jane Ballantyne, Paul Cox
Writer: Paul Cox, Bob Ellis
Cinematographer: Yuri Sokol
Cast: John Hargreaves, Wendy Hughes
Born in Holland and settled in Melbourne since the mid-‘60s, Paul Cox is an auteur of international acclaim, having received numerous international awards. He is one of the most prolific makers of films in Australia, with numerous features, shorts and documentaries to his name. He is the recipient of many special tributes and retrospectives at film festivals across the world, including a major retrospective at the Lincoln Centre in New York in 1992.
His films of the early and mid ‘80s – Lonely Hearts (1981), Man of Flowers (1983), and My First Wife (1984) – were highly acclaimed both locally and internationally.
Man of Flowers premiered in Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984, and went on to win Best Film at the 1984 Valladolid Film Festival as well as Best Foreign Film at the 1991 Warsaw Film Festival.
Cactus premiered in Director's Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in 1986 and Vincent won the Jury Prize at the 1988 Istanbul International Filmdays.
A Woman's Tale won the Grand Prix at the 1992 International Flanders Film Festival in Ghent and Exile screened in competition at the 1994 Berlin International Film Festival.
More recently, Cox's highly acclaimed feature Innocence (2000) won massive audience and critical acclaim, including Best Film and the People's Choice Award at the 2000 Montreal World Film Festival; and 5 Australian IF awards including Best Film, Independent Filmmaker of the Year for Paul Cox, and Best Actress for Julia Blake.
Cox’s career continues currently, with features such as Human Touch (2004) and Salvation (2008).
Winner 3 AFI Awards: Best Male Actor, Best Screenplay, Best Director
Quoting IMDb: My First Wife is an excruciatingly emotional film about the break-up of a marriage in contemporary Australia. There's not much new in it, and the dialogue isn't especially brilliant, but it's exceeding well done and sharply observant.
Director and co-author Paul Cox based the story partly on events in his own life, and it shows. I feel a little cool about the film, as it delves into extremely intimate feelings with a mix of openness and artlessness that I find at times offputting. There are things that we are told about the husband that it might be better not to know, or to have told differently.
The cast, led by John Hargreaves and Wendy Hughes, is flawless. Like so many films from Australia and Great Britain over the last twenty years, My First Wife has about it an undercurrent of pessimism that goes beyond its putative subject matter, as if the real subject were the Anglo-Saxon world in general, and its imminent demise, which, as is suggested in this film, richly deserved.
Paul Cox is one of the most important filmmakers to come out of Australia ... he is a filmmaker of incredible energy, persistence and vision - all qualities which are crucial to survive as a filmmaker. He is also uncompromising in fulfilling his vision which is almost always achieved with comparatively small budgets of about $1 million. As a director, he has an ongoing screen relationship with many of Australia's greatest actors. The themes in his films - isolation, faith, hope, love, survival - remain the same and reoccur over and over, but above all else his films are about human frailty ...
Philip Tyndall, "Paul Cox - Filmmaker", Senses of Cinema
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