We could be in Los Angeles. In any case, its one of those soulless cities with concrete architecture, corporate “underground” clubs and where all the men wear hipster beards. Dezzy is a struggling artist, but of course these things are relative. She still runs a convertible car, lives in an ample flat and spends most of her time hanging out in said clubs full of record company executives who are pretending to slum it.
But Dezzy’s landlord is on her back and its been a couple of months since her last $30,000 commission. Added to that, her latest work is due to be shown soon, and she has creative block. So, she pays a visit to her local dealer Hadrian to see if he has anything that can help stimulate an unblockage (yes, indeed, we are inhabiting the sort of scene where people can call themselves Hadrian without any sense of embarrassment).
Hadrian’s flat is a rum old place. When Dezzy arrives in the afternoon its full of old men playing cards, and one of these is Norm from Cheers. In a film that’s full of scenes that show the effects of drug-induced psychosis, apparently this is one of the few things that we’re supposed to take for real. And, sure enough, Hadrian has something called Diabolo which is a brand new drug which hasn’t been tried much, so she should be careful that she doesn’t take too much. Seeing as its her, he’s happy to give her a load without obviously asking for any money. Can you guess what’s going to happen next?
Dezzy retires for what she thinks is a couple of minutes to try some Diabolo. By the time she returns, obviously several hours have passed as a full on party is in swing. Pausing only for a threesome with her mate Courtney and her bloke, Dezzy returns home and starts working on her painting. What started as a reddish abstract piece starts to accumulate bodies looking not unlike tortured souls trying to escape eternal damnation and the fires of hell. But Dezzy then passes out and can’t quite remember any of the previous night. Plus she seems to be coughing up blood more than she used to.
She goes out again with Courtney to a sub-standard metal club, where Courtney decides that Dezzy hasn’t been having enough drugs lately. She slips her some more stuff, which means that on top of the paranoia and voices in her head, Dezzy feels the need for blood. Luckily she also gains superhuman strength, so when she gets a craving, she’s able to jump on people and rip their throat out with her teeth. And at least the painting is getting better.
All this is, of course, nonsense on stilts. Its a low budget The Hunger where none of the actors has a shred of the charming intensity of David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve, and the music is about as far from Bauhaus in a cage as you can get. But I’m not really sure that Bliss is going for quite the same audience, given its prediliction for showing barely clad young women wrestling while covered in blood.
I’ve read reviews which have reported with awe the profound statements that the film is making about the creative process and the relation of artists to outside stimulants – legal and otherwise. This is entirely the wrong way to approach the film. It has virtually nothing of any depth to say, and if you look at it with any degree of attention, all you’ll see is a sob story from wannabe creatives who think that if they say “fuck” enough times the world will reel in awe at their creative genius.
Fortunately, the cinema decided to show this on a Saturday night, thus encouraging us to leave our brains at the door. And, as long as you excuse the (male natch) director’s need for Dezzy to get her top off at every available opportunity, it passes the time adequately enough. And at 75 minutes, it doesn’t outstay its welcome (other directors take note).
Look, I’m not objecting that Bliss somehow got overlooked at the Oscars. Pretty much from the beginning you know more or less everything that’s going to happen, and that none of it will be of any great profundity. But have you seen the poster? Were you really expecting anything else?
I was surprized to see that it was released this year as everything looks like it takes place in the 1970s. At first I thought this was an artistic decision, but it was probably just cheaper that way. You get what you pay for. And rather this nonsense than another Megablockbuster whose main purpose is to sell spin-off toys and unnecessary sequels.
It was fine. Fine. Did you really expect any more?