07th Oct2019

‘Bliss’ Review – Second Opinion

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Dora Madison, Tru Collins, Rhys Wakefield, Jeremy Gardner, Graham Skipper, Chris McKenna, Rachel Avery, George Wendt, Abraham Benrubi, Mark Beltzman | Written and Directed by Joe Begos

bliss-poster

Directed and written by Joe Begos (Almost Human), Bliss follows an artist named Dezzy who is confronted by the biggest block in creativity she’s ever experiences, and so attempts to free herself from this creative cage by doing all she can, taking her on a journey of drugs, sex and murder in the flashy sparkly hallucinatory underbelly of LA.

This is one of those films that won’t find a huge audience, but it will find a niche audience who will fall for its gritty artsy nightmare feel, its drug-addled dark atmosphere and its heavy handed and confident style that is entirely its own. The film looks and plays out like an arthouse flick in both tone and performances from its cast. Dora Madison, who plays Dezzy, is furious and energetic in her role, and while she delivers dialogue in a manner that feels a little “from the page”, it works here. There’s a dreamlike nature to this, so the way of the delivery doesn’t feel out of place, in an odd way. It’s an imaginative film, that’s for damn sure, and while I’m unfamiliar with Begos’s prior work, seeing this has intrigued me for sure. He’s got some very interesting ideas.

There’s that indelible grindhouse nature to Bliss, a colourful edge to the murderous nature of the open-hearted story. It feels like something completely unique, which I love to see when I watch a film like this. It’s got plenty of gore amidst the vibrancy and confusion, and yeah… this can be a confusing film. It’s got a manic soul, so you are expected, I feel, to experience this rather than understand and enjoy it. There’s a sleaziness and hardcore punk-rock sensibility running along the thin-yet-interesting plot. Dezzy, desperate to finish a clients painting is let go by her art agency and then her landlord threatens to kick her out. Her life falls into this world of rock and roll, sex and depravity set in the highly questionable and grimy side-alleys of Los Angeles. The locations are on point, the visuals are perfectly realised, and the film does work in this smooth way. Everything works together and whether you actually like it or not is another story.

I thought the purple haze of the film was a delight, with the hazy flashing stupor that Dezzy wanders along being a strong heavy-rock depiction of desperation and unlawful weirdness. It’s got some strangely relatable themes going on, if you’re an artist of any kind, be it painter, writer or any sort of creative, you’ll know the feeling of having the mind blocked up at an important moment, and the feeling of frustration and anxiety that comes with that. It’s explored here in a way unlike anything I’ve seen before, though, with bloody, sexual, punk rock disco lights hitting you in the face every few moments.

It’s a hard one to review, really, and a hard one to either recommend or tell you to avoid. This is the kind of heartfelt passion-project that feels so personal and fresh that it’s hard to really score it. You might love this, find something deeply powerful and exciting in its hard stiff guts, or you might find it all to be a big pile of nonsensical drivel, unable to figure out why anyone would want to sit through it. It’s that kind of movie. I found plenty to like about this. It’s the kind of after-midnight horror movie you can toss on while you’re sucking down insomniac levels of coffee and chewing on your lip. Brutally individualistic and remarkably new, Bliss is mysterious and emblazoned with creativity, but it’s also fun and balls-out wacky. It’s not exactly a “great” film, but it certainly had my attention for 80 minutes.

Also… check out Phil’s review of Bliss from Frightfest right here.

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