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Frank, full-frontal nudity, metal regression, excrement, mother/son incest, animal abuse, suffocation, and more unwanted grotesqueries all slather themselves across the viewer’s eyes in the first ten minutes of Rolf de Heer’s Bad Boy Bubby, and things don’t get any easier over the next 40 minutes. The problem here isn’t the frequency of disturbing imagery, but its purpose. I’m fine with disturbing for disturbances sake of subversion and subtext ( Cannibal Holocaust), disturbing for the sake of brutal reality ( Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer), or even disturbing just for disturbances’ sake in some cases (Fulci’s Zombie), but de Heer seems to be stuck somewhere between all of these. I believe he was looking for some kind of wretched reality as a means of subversion, but he ends up with sadly shallow and repetitive odd for odd’s sake first act. It’s only brutal in its lack of pace, and disregard for the comfort of kitty-cats.

Once Bubby gets out of his one room apartment de Heer musters some wonderfully haunting, dream-induced imagery, Nicolas Hope gets a chance to build a character beyond mimicking twitters, and an actual narrative arc begins to develop. De Heer’s possible intent is apparent in the surprising sweetness of a man out of place and time. I’d assumed, based on his depressing Lynchian beginning that the director would take the Gaspar Noé route, but the latter two thirds of Bad Boy Bubby are more like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure or The Brother From Another Planet on bad ether. The relative warmth to which Bubby is treated by the scary outdoors is strangely touching, and definitely out of expectations. I mean, things go wrong, of course, but cruelty isn’t the first reaction most characters aim towards our protagonist (except prison rapists). The film’s constant war between redemption and damnation, not to mention the dueling black comedy and stark melodrama, is likely what led to such high critical acclaim upon its initial release. I’m not fully buying into things, but with a bit of retooling for pace and focus Bad Boy Bubby may have been a minor masterpiece.

Video


Bad Boy Bubby is a great big glob of disturbing realism, so it isn’t a surprise that this 1080p presentation isn’t an apex example of hi-def perfection. Presented in 2.35:1 widescreen, the print is swimming in grain, and displays a few flickers of print damage. Other minor ‘problems’ include inconsistent focus (possibly intended, or even an accident while filming), slight warping of the image (again possibly intended, or even an accident while filming), and a general lack of sharp detail when compared to even some of Blue Undergrounds other titles. The first act is very dark, almost indiscernible at times, but once Bubby’s released into the open there are oodles of naturalistic colours to give the transfer a reason to be presented in hi-def. Colours are relatively clean outside of the omnipresent grain, and mostly finely separated, though in a few cases warmer hues infiltrate the blacks, which are otherwise solid. There’s not a lot of consistency to the print (likely due to the use of 32 different cinematographers), but at times it does look pretty great.

Audio


I received an email from Blue Underground before watching the Blu-ray warning me of an unnamed problem with the disc’s sound. This problem was apparently fixed for the actual release. The stereo effects are all over the place, seemingly for no reason other than, as the pre-title card tells us, this was how it was intended. Apparently the placement has to do with Bubby’s point of view (the filmmakers actually placed dual microphones on Nicholas Hope’s head), but the effect unfortunately doesn’t quite work (mostly because the camera work isn’t as subjective). I’m assuming my message from Blue Underground refers to this, along with the odd echo effects and fluctuations in volume levels. If the final mix sounds similar to this review copy I’d vastly recommend the Dolby TrueHD track over the DTS-HD track, as the breadth is wider, the volume levels are higher, and the overall experience a little more nightmarish. Things definitely get better once Bubby leaves home and the sound design is given real purpose. The character’s new exposure to music is a good source of aural wonder, and often set at almost deafening levels.

Extras


The extras begin with an interview with director Rolf de Heer, entitled ‘Christ Kid, You’re A Weirdo’ (24:00, SD). De Heer chats about the several year evolution of the film, and his personal place in the film (he really has nothing in common with the character). His approach was not surprisingly intellectually based (a bit too much so if you ask me), and he points to some intriguing behind the scenes stories, such as the discovery of Nicholas Hope, the original plans to change aspect ratios, the use of 32 different cinematographers (one for each locations), and the use of binoral sound. The cat wasn’t actually killed, by the way.

‘Being Bubby’ (14:00, SD) is a chat with Nicholas Hope, who runs us through his career, including his work on the short film Confessor Caressor (which was what brought the actor to de Heer’s attention), gives us his take on the film and character, and tells us a bit about the film’s effect on his career. Missing from both interviews is any mention of working with the mentally challenged actors towards the end of the film.

Next is the actual short film Confessor Caressor (19:30, SD), the semi-comedic, mockumentary story of a murderer/rapist looking for attention. There are obvious comparisons to be drawn between the short and films like Man Bites Dog and Behind the Mask. This short is set apart by its surreal nature, and a slightly more objective look at the subject overall. The highlight comes when the killer shows us what’s inside his prized suitcase, which is mostly just a series of knives. The short appears to have been filmed on 16mm film, and has one very obnoxious bit of dirt that slides around in the left side of frame.

Things end with the original trailer.

Overall


It’s too long, and meanders for quite a while, but once it finds its way Bad Boy Bubby is a warm and consistently surprising little weirdo flick. It seems that writer/director Rolf de Heer was making things up as he went along, but in a way this is an advantage and leads to a strange on screen evolution. I recommend seeking out a copy to other jaded film fans, and to fans of Garth Ennis’ infamous comic series ‘Preacher’. Bubby and Arseface have some definite similarities by the time the curtain falls..

Sorry I couldn't get any screencaps for this one. If anyone has some to share I'd be much obliged.


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