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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Bad Boy Bubby


Starring: Nicholas Hope, Claire Benito and Ralph Cotterill
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 18
Available 03 August 2009

For the last thirty-five years Bubby has been locked away in a windowless room by his deviant mother, who tells him that he can never leave as the air outside is poisoned. When she occasionally ventures out she threatens him with an image of Jesus, who sees everything he does. But the lie starts to unravel, first when his cat returns from the outside unharmed and finally when a man knocks at their door. Bubby’s father has returned...

Bad Boy Bubby (1993 - 1 hr, 53 min, 52 sec) is a mad black comedy that almost defies description. Written and directed by Rolf de Heer it charts Bubby’s release into a world he does not understand. The film won seven awards mostly from the Australian Film Institute - Best Achievement in Editing Suresh Ayyar, Best Actor in a Lead Role Nicholas Hope, Best Original Screenplay and Best Director for Rolf de Heer - it also won the Special Jury Prize at the 1993 Venice Film Festival.

The crowning achievement of the film is Nicholas Hope’s (Farscape) portrayal of Bubby. Initially deprived of stimulus and abused by his mother Bubby’s vocabulary consists almost wholly of other peoples phrases. This creates both an internal naive innocence and an external perceived wisdom as those that Bubby meets presume that he knows what he is talking about. When Bubby’s father, Pop (Ralph Cotterill), a drunken lecherous priest returns home, he instantly replaces Bubby in Mam’s (Claire Benito) affections. Frustrated and upset Bubby kills them both with Clingfilm, before venturing out into the night.

The film will offend many with its portrayal of incest, madness and murder, though to be honest, what Bubby does to his cat is likely to disturb most animal lovers, though as Heer points out in the full length commentary, no cats were in fact harmed. Although there is offence to be had, little of it feels gratuitous, even the worst of it helps drive the plot forward. The world that Bubby finds is both magical and terrifying to him. Soon he finds himself bedded by a Salvation Army girl, beaten up by feminist, as Bubby thinks nothing of grabbing random women’s breasts, before falling in with a rock band. Bubby's random phrases and guttural sounds make him the perfect front man for them, eventually increasing their following as more people come to see Bubby’s bizarrely mesmerising performance.

Heer throws in a couple of other story threads including Bubby working with severely disabled children, as apparently he is the only person who can understand what they are saying. It is here that he meets the nurse who sees past Bubby’s strange behaviour, with the two eventually falling in love.

There are two slightly unusual features to the film. The first is that Heer used over thirty cinematographers on the project, and whilst there a noticeable stylistic difference in scenes, Heer draws the strands together so that it rarely interferes with the story. The second interesting feature is the Binaural Headphone Track - Be Inside Bubby’s Head, which draws its sound from a pair of microphones which cage had attached behind his ears, an unusual way to listen to the film but well worth a try as it creates a wholly different audio landscape. As well as the Binaural track the Blu-ray has options for 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio and 2.0 Dolby Digital.

The Blu-ray edition of the film is uncut and presented with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. In the Blu-ray case you get a Blu-ray version of the film, obviously, but you also get a digital copy and a DVD copy. The Blu-ray, encoded as AVC 1080p with 24 frames per second, does have sharper colours and better detail definition, but you have to remember that Bubby started life as a small independent production. The set also sports a twenty page booklet, which rather than the usual blurb about the film contains two letters from Heer and Claire Benito stipulating that in fact no cats were harmed during the making of the film.

The main extra on offer is Christ, Kid You’re a Weirdo: Interview with Director Rolf De Heer (23 min, 49 sec) with Heer talking through the creation of the movie. The disc is rounded off with the Original Theatrical Trailer (1 min, 52 sec).

The film does challenge you as well as making you laugh and in many ways feels like the darker brother of Hal Ashby’s Being There (1979). In the end it is Hope’s magnificent performance which keeps Bubby a sympathetic character and the audience engaged.


Charles Packer

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