Harry Joy (Barry Otto) is a successful advertising executive but a less successful husband. When he has a heart attack and dies for a few minutes, his life (and his view of life) changes. His wife Bettina (Lynette Curran) is having a sordid affair and his teenage son David (Miles Buchanan) is exchanging sexual favours from his sister Lucy (Gia Carides) with drugs. Life seems somewhat more problematic - more hellish. His discomfort is further propelled when he meets the beautiful nature child (and ex-hooker), Honey Barbara (Helen Jones), but it leads him to discover a new kind of bliss.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Before its time as a film, Bliss confronted the mid 80s audiences with its audacity. As a novel, the themes and symbols are only slightly less striking, but that's because the images are secretly played out in our own mind. Not so with black comedy in the cinema.
It got a dreadful reception at Cannes, with 400 seats slapping upright, most of them at the sardines falling from Bettina's crotch at Harry's bedside. (This follows a fantasy sex scene in a restaurant between Bettina and her lover, who has planted the idea of sardine smell in our minds...) But Bliss did win Best Film, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay at the 1985 AFI Awards, as well as a stash of nominations in other categories. It did so partly because it's a quirky Australian take on life, partly because the book was such a success and mostly because it is unique - but above all for its handling of the characters and themes. The social taboos are woven into the story and linked with the umbilical cord of humanity to the characters: off-limits sex, smoking, cancer, the propensity of moral cancer in advertising, marriage malfunction and betrayal, plus the intimate issues of life in turmoil.
Barry Otto is unique, too, an actor whose peculiar voice characteristics lend themselves to the slightly surreal world of Bliss.
This DVD release is a major milestone for Australian cinema, providing both the theatrical release version and the director's cut, together with the all important commentary track from the filmmakers. This, in part, puts on record one memorable letter (out of many) from a viewer after the film's screening on ABC TV, referring to 'that disgusting, filthy, depraved film you showed the other night... when are you showing it again?'
Of course it's a fascinating experience to see Bliss now, 20 years after its debut. None of its bizarre twists and turns seem to have dated and the film's caustic flavour still bites through its comic delirium. The commentary, beautifully droll and laconic by both director Ray Lawrence and producer Anthony Buckley, has a nostalgia-tinged tone, peppered with anecdotes and memories, to make it as much a personal reflection as a filmic notation.
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BLISS: DVD (MA)
CAST: Barry Otto, Lynette Curran, Gia Carides, Miles Buchanan, Helen Jones, Tim Robertson
PRODUCER: Anthony Buckley
DIRECTOR: Ray Lawrence
SCRIPT: Ray Lawrence, Peter Carey (from Carey's novel)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Paul Murphy
EDITOR: Wayne LeClos
MUSIC: Peter Best
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Owen Paterson
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes /129 minutes director's cut
PRESENTATION: Original: 4:3; director's cut 1.78:1, 16:9 enhanced; DD 2.0 English subtitles for HI
SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc 1: Audio Commentary by writer/director Ray Lawrence & producer Anthony Buckley; Script to Screen - Opening Scene Biography & Filmographies; AFTRS Short Film, The Door (1993) dir. Josie Keys (approx 20 minutes)
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
DVD RELEASE: September 22, 2005