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An advertising executive dies and goes to hell... except nothing changes. Well, his daughter is buying drugs with sexual favours from her brother, and the number of cancer-causing products is on the increase. But the notes he writes to himself to prove he hasn't gone insane are getting more disjointed, and he runs off with an ex-prostitute called Honey Barbera. Written by
David Carroll <email@example.com>
If Lawrence had cut out a third of the film it would have been better. Within reason, I think he could have got rid of ANY third. A third of the storyline could have gone (the beginning, the middle, the end, or fragments throughout), or a sixth of the storyline plus a sixth of the character development, or a third of the quirkiness, or a third of the odd devices (straight-to-the-camera narrative could have stayed on condition the dream sequences went, or vice versa, or some such). It's like the plate of an overly ambitious diner at a banquet, with quail eggs, a potato dumpling, salad, a banana fritter, baked trout, a small slice of quiche, a strawberry, eggplant, satayed parsnip with brown rice, two roast chestnuts and four kinds of cheese. Thankfully, the elements are positioned so as not to ruin one another's flavour, but there's just too many of them.
But at least this is a fault on the right side.
It's as if "Bliss" were a repository, or a central font, of all of the offbeat black humour, all the odd characters, and all the quirky local colour, to have appeared in every Australian film made since. This isn't a bad thing. (My earlier complaint is that its ferociously luxuriant growth could have been cut back by a third and it would STILL have contained all the offbeat black humour, etc.) What makes it great is that it's more sincere than any of its imitators. A mere seventeen years old, it seems to date from a magical, all-but-forgotten pre-digital age, when we REALLY made films, and didn't just play at doing so.
On reflection: I don't care if there IS too much here. So much of it is so good, like the prim, fascist manager of the lunatic ward, the scene in which the cancer map is unveiled (Lawrence makes much out of a mere conversation in a hotel room), and the "love letter" to Honey Barbara. The strength which flows through the film's limbs is probably inherited from the era in which it was made. This decade (from a few years into the 1980s until a few years into the 1990s) saw Australian society at its most optimistic, tolerant and decent. We've come a long way downhill in the short time since.
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