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Australia 1993
Directed by
Rolf De Heer
112 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Bernard Heminway
4 stars

Bad Boy Bubby

Synopsis: Bubby (Nicholas Hope) is a 35yr old man who has spent his entire life locked up in a cockroach-infested flat by his sexually-abusive mother (Claire Bonito). Eventually he escapes his imprisonment to wander the streets where he learns to survive.

Writer/director Rolf De Heer's bizarre film is one of the few truly 'cult' movies to come out of Australia. Opening with a 20 minute-or-so sequence (which was originally intended to be shown in 4x3 TV format before the rest of the film expanded to anamorphic, in the end however only the size of the set changed) which recalls David Lynch's Eraserhead we meet Bubby and are introduced to his truly deranged world. The film then segues into a more conventional, albeit still off-the-wall, picaresque black comedy/drama as we follow the quasi-autistic Bubby, whose communication skills are limited to recycling phrases he's heard from other people, around the streets of Adelaide as he gets himself into all sorts of trouble, becomes a rock star-cum-performance artist and finds the meaning of life (he ends up living around Melbourne's Spotswood).

With 32 cinematographers it was shot on a budget of $800,000. Although not all the scenes in the original script were shot, the film does tend to drag in places and one may question the relevance of such sequences as the one in which he is left at an art gallery and ends up in jail where he is anally raped to the accompaniment of a Scottish pipe band (the latter being perhaps De Heer's version of aural rape). On the other hand there is a remarkable section of the film that concerns Bubby's involvement with a group of cerebral palsy victims (De Heer went on to make a film Dance Me To My Song  co-written by and starring one of them, Heather Rose, along with Carmel Johnson who here plays the carer, Angel).

The film won 4 AFI Awards including Best Director and Best Actor although lost Best Film to Muriel's Wedding. Similarities with Herzog's The Enigma Of Kaspar Hauser are regularly made although De Heer claims not to have seen that film. There is nothing intellectually engaging about De Heer's film and stylistically it is uneven, but it does offer, for the most part, the strange fascination of a nightmare, a discomforting experience which one nevertheless can't help but want to follow through to its completion.




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