The Desert Star
Home | Online Catalogue | Gallery | Mount Allan Community | Art History
Mount Barker | The Desert Star | Multimedia Gallery

> >

Contact Blogger: Bob Innes

Bliss, Movie Review

A recent television showing of this Australian film, based on the best selling Peter Carey novel, has inspired me (if that is the right word) to start a whole new category of Movie Reviews. I was looking forward to seeing this 1985 film again after many years, it being one of the most innovative and quirky of Australian movies, and a great book. Does it stand the test of time? Well, yes and no. Carey wrote the story while living in the hippy enclave of Bellingen in northern New South Wales, and the film is very much of its time.

The grand themes of Bliss are the contrasting values of the quest for wealth and prestige verses the simple life of the bush dwelling hippies of the era. Harry Joy, a basically good bloke who likes to spin a yarn, runs a successful advertising business, has the house, the Jaguar, and the wife and kids - and all should be well, but he also has the near fatal heart attack which precipitates dramatic change in his life. The out of body experience during the attack brings about a change of consciousness in Harry's life, bordering on madness and paranoia, but also very revealing in relation to his wife's affair with Harry's business partner, the drug taking and incest of his children, and ultimately, leading to doubt about the values he has held so dear throughout his working life, particularly when he discovers that most of the products he promotes cause cancer.

Harry leaves home and moves into a penthouse, where he drinks to excess and explores his core values with his business pals. He also phones for a call girl, who turns out to be the beautiful Honey Barbara, a hippy lady who has come from her bush retreat to sell her body for the good of her commune (the unlikeliest of values for a new-ager in my opinion). Harry and Honey B are attracted to each other, and she suggests that he should move into the bush with her. Meanwhile, Harry's wife and her lover arrange for Harry to be consigned to a hospital for the insane. Through a mix-up of identities, Harry's other friend and business associate is also committed, and they end up in the same room under the same name.

Eventually Harry's wife, Bettina, helps Harry to leave the institution after they pay some money to the corrupt woman supervisor. Harry has to agree to help sell the advertising creations of his wife, and in the more open relationship they are now living in, Honey B moves in with them. Bettina has always dreamed of making it big in New York, and with Harry's help is well on the way to achieving her goal. Honey B, however, soon becomes disillusioned with the bickering family, and with Harry's reversion to the corporate world. She packs up and returns to her bush haunt.

Bettina visits her doctor, and is casually informed that, owing to her life long proximity to petrol, (her father was a garage owner) she has contracted terminal cancer, and has less than a year to live. Bettina's business associates are curious when they see two mysterious objects in large paper bags sitting in her place at the table. When she enters the room, she pulls off the bags to reveal two large bottles filled with petrol. "We sell petrol, which causes cancer" she announces, and lights the wicks, killing them all.

Harry now leaves home, and dumps his jag in the bush as he goes off to find Honey B, lumping a single suitcase. She rejects him, but Harry stays nearby, planting trees non-stop, and building his own bush dwelling. After eight years, Honey B finds that her bees are collecting honey in autumn, normally a barren period, because of the type of trees Harry has been planting; an eight year love letter to Honey B, who returns to his arms.

The final scene shows Harry as an old man, who has been relating the whole story to his daughter, aged about twenty, Honey B having passed on. Harry leaves the house, and while wandering through the bush, is killed when a branch of one of the trees he has planted falls on on him. Unlike the horrific experience of his heart attack and the fear it produced, Harry merges into the forest after his death.

The film stands up very well after twenty five years, and has recently been produced as an opera. Perhaps the most annoying aspect of the film in my opinion, is that, although healthy living, good food, and the threats of cancer are prevalent throughout the story, and a major part of the plot, all of the characters seem to be smoking throughout the film, right down to the finish as Harry's hippy daughter chain-smokes her way through their final conversation. Did the filmmakers not know in 1985 that smoking causes cancer?

Posted: Mon - March 22, 2010 at 12:08 AM      
Home | Online Catalogue | Gallery | Mount Allan Community | Art History
Mount Barker | The Desert Star | Multimedia Gallery

  Site design by Rightside Response

Maintained by Bob Innes