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"For the role of the Phantom we wanted somebody who has a bit of rock and roll sensibility in him. "  -Andrew Lloyd Webber, composer, The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
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Confined to a grotty two room hovel his whole life, 35 year old Bubby (Nicholas Hope) knows of no-one but himself and his mother (Claire Benito) who shares the bath and her bed with her son. He has none of the guideposts of society, and behaves with the abandon of childish pragmatism and inquisition. When Bobby's long lost alcoholic father returns, the jealous Bubby bursts out into the world. Abused and exploited at every turn by feminists, prisoners, a policeman, animal lovers - and even the Salvation Army - Bubby gradually starts to find his feet in a rock band, with the help of the few (inopportune) phrases he learnt from his mother and other bits of human behaviour that his mimicking skills help him acquire.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
For certain films, it's the miracle of casting, like Shine, that marries the right actor to the right part; with Bad Boy Bubby, Rolf de Heer plucked Nicholas Hope from obscurity and gave him the role of his acting life. In turn, Hope gave de Heer a Bubby that is riveting and perfectly in tune with the writer/director's ambitions for the film. And Claire Benito plays the crucial support role as Bubby's mother at just the right disturbing pitch.

The first 30 minutes or so are especially outstanding, as de Heer creates Bubby's cell-like world in claustrophobically brilliant strokes, and establishes the scenario with a sure hand and perfect vision.

This highly acclaimed film (bristling with awards and festival invitations) is finally out on DVD and thus in a handy format for detailed study. Such studies will be enormously aided by de Heer and Hope's joint commentary. Between them, this is an informative, intelligent and often entertaining element. So are the interviews, one with de Heer (Christ Kid You're A Weirdo) and Hope (Being Bubby).

In the former, we learn that the film percolated with de Heer for a decade or so, and why he used 32 different cameramen/women. Pointedly, he also mentions he had wanted to explore the darker side of childhood issues, which he could never do in a film with children - but Bubby gave him that opportunity. There is also a Q&A with Hope recorded at a Popcorn Taxi session in 2004.

But for anyone coming to the film for the first time, it offers a searing movie experience. Above all, de Heer's unique and complex take on the world forms the basis for Bubby's journey, and despite occasional false notes, it combines the dark central story of a bizarre family story with a razor sharp satire on human weaknesses as well as the subject of god. On the latter, de Heer's screenplay damns the almighty in standard terms (how can any god watch innocent children suffer, for example) but he does it in a variety of forms and in several circumstances so that it becomes a substantial theme within the film. The Salvos get a salvo, too, in what is a darkly funny satire, as do piously hypocritical Catholics (god again) and just about everyone else who use Bubby.

Another theme is pop culture and how in this pop-filled world, today's fringe is tomorrow's mainstream, and how Bubby's accidental accoutrements - like his pastor's collar, his gasmask and his clingwrap - all become instant pop icons, while he becomes an accidental star. Nobody, least of all Bubby, knows why, but nobody cares.

Bad Boy Bubby is one of Australian cinema's most intriguing and original works, filled with pain, idiosyncratic humour and attitude; a comedy that plays like drama.

September 1, 2005

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(Aust, 1993)

CAST: Nicholas Hope, Claire Benito, Ralph Cotterill, Carmel Johnson, Syd Brisbane, Norman Kaye,

PRODUCER: Girogio Draskovic, Domenico Procacci, Rolf de Heer

DIRECTOR: Rolf de Heer

SCRIPT: Rolf de Heer

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ian Jones with 32 cameramen and women

EDITOR: Suresh Ayyar

MUSIC: Graham Tardif


RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen; DD 5.1 or 2.0;

SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc 1: audio commentary with Rolf de Heer and Nicholas Hope; Disc2: interview with Rolf de Heer; interview with Nicholas Hope; Popcorn Taxi Q&A with Nicholas Hope; Confessor Caressor (short film starring Nicholas Hope); stills gallery


DVD RELEASE: July 26, 2005

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