6.9/10
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24 user 14 critic

Bliss (1985)

After a near-death experience, a man wonders if he actually did die and is now in Hell.

Director:

Ray Lawrence

Writers:

Ray Lawrence (screenplay), Peter Carey (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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4 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Barry Otto ... Harry Joy
Lynette Curran ... Bettina Joy
Helen Jones Helen Jones ... Honey Barbara
Miles Buchanan Miles Buchanan ... David Joy
Gia Carides ... Lucy Joy
Tim Robertson ... Alex Duval
Jeff Truman ... Joel
Bryan Marshall ... Adrian Clunes
Jon Ewing Jon Ewing ... Aldo
Kerry Walker ... Alice Dalton
Paul Chubb ... Reverend Des
Sarah De Teliga Sarah De Teliga ... Harry's Mother (as Sara De Teliga)
Saskia Post ... Harry's Daughter (as Saski Post)
George Whaley George Whaley ... Vance
Robert Menzies Robert Menzies ... Damien
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Storyline

Harry suffers a heart attack and has a near-death experience that changes his outlook on life. His miraculous return convinces him that there is a heaven but that his life on Earth is hell. His wife Bettina has her worst fears realized when she develops brain cancer from gasoline fumes. His son David deals cocaine and receives sexual favors from his drug-addicted sister Lucy. Harry finds love with a kind-hearted prostitute "Honey Barbara" who kills a top oil-company executive, and then herself, with Molotov cocktails. Shocking scenes include cockroaches bursting from Harry's stitches after his open-heart surgery, and fish dropping from in between a woman's legs onto a restaurant floor. This bizarre and often slow-moving film lampoons the luridness of the human condition. Written by David Carroll <davidc@atom.ansto.gov.au>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

After Harry Joy dropped dead... his life was never the same again.

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Was shown on Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) by John Hind on his film show, and created a mass controversy due to the film's sexual content. The complaints at the time created the most criticised event ever on the ABC. See more »

Quotes

Adrian Clunes: Y'know Harry, where exactly are you going to draw the line? If you fire us, you have to fire all the clients.
[Oyster flies off his fork]
Adrian Clunes: I'm sorry. Now listen: they release about 18,000 totally new organic compounds every year; none of them are properly tested. God knows how many cause cancer! The whole of the Western world is built on things that cause cancer. They cannot afford to stop making them!
[pause]
Adrian Clunes: Oh, for Christ's sake, look at your clients. Austrol had benzine in petrol; which is a ...
[...]
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Alternate Versions

There is a Director's Cut version running 135 minutes. The main addition is a lengthy monologue to camera by the protagonist in a police station. See more »

Connections

Featured in Century of Cinema: 40,000 years of dreaming (1997) See more »

User Reviews

Poetic satire blissfully filmed
6 November 2001 | by Philby-3See all my reviews

The Australian Broadcasting Commission recently treated its Saturday night audience to a director's cut showing of Ray Lawrence's semi-classic to coincide with the release of Lawrences's next film, made a mere 15 years later, `Lantana'. Unlike `Lantana', adapted from Andrew Bovell's play, `Bliss' is derived from Peter Carey's novel, yet is a very cinematic piece. Both Lawrence and Carey laboured long in the advertising world and clearly enjoy sending up the foibles of the hucksters.

The protagonist, Harry Joy, teller of tales (especially to policemen), can sell almost any campaign to his morally challenged clients. He drives a Jaguar and lives in a splendid large house in the leafiest part of Sydney's North Shore. Unfortunately Harry is felled by a heart attack after a long (family) lunch and wakes up in what appears to be Hell, which strangely enough seems to be just like his life on earth. He finds his wife shamelessly carrying on with a particularly vulgar American colleague, his nerdy Young Liberal son trading cocaine to his sister in return for sex, and his biggest client frantically trying to conceal the fact that their artificial sweetner causes cancer. Harry storms out to hole up in a luxury hotel where he orders in a girl, Honey Barbara. She turns out to be an alternative society person earning a bit of money for her north coast community. Naturally Harry falls deeply in love, but their romance is rudely interrupted by Harry being carted off to a mental hospital (at whose behest is not clear). Harry gets out, and sets off to find his honey flower girl.

You could describe the style here as early Australian magic realism (the fish dropping from Harry's wife's vagina as she lies about her affair, for example). Some of it is surreal, like the opening sequence when Harry's mother stands in the rain like some religious figure in a small boat outside a flooded church (a similar shot showed up in `Oscar and Lucinda' a couple of years later). The soaring camera beautifully captures Harry's out-of-body experience following his heart attack, and the scenes shot in the rainforest are appropriately lyrical.

Barry Otto as Harry gives us a decent if somewhat self-centred man confronted with the futility of the fatuous lifestyle that he has so effectively promoted to others. Even as he goes to pieces we can see him looking for a way out – even hell must have an escape hatch or service tunnel somewhere – and we are not surprised when he finds it. Lynette Curran as Harry's tough bitch wife carries off what could be a repellent role with great panache, particularly in her final scene. Miles Buchanan (scarcely seen since), with a fantastic 30s brylcream hairstyle, is particularly effective as the young fogey dope-dealing son (`I'm just a businessman'). Jon Ewing does an amusingly campy number as a haughty restauranteur who despises most of his diners and Bryan Marshall is very effective as Harry's befuddled client. Gia Carides as Harry's daughter Lucy, is fairly unremarkable here but has gone on to an active movie and TV career.

Although this is a film on its own terms the essential quirkiness of the book is retained. The message on one level is stark; our consumer society values are f**ked and we better get back to nature fast, yet somehow Lawrence and Carey don't beat us over the head with it – humour takes precedence over anger. And, of course there are dangers in nature also, as the ending shows.


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Details

Country:

Australia

Language:

English

Release Date:

21 February 1986 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Błogość See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

AUD3,400,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (director's cut)

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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