BLISS

BLISS

(director/writer: Joe Begos; cinematographer : Mike Testin; editor: Josh Ethier; music: Steve Moore; cast: Dora Madison(Dezzy), Tru Collins (Courtney), Rhys Wakefield (Ronnie), Graham Skipper (Hadrian), Jeremy Gardner (Clive), George Wendt (Pops), Chris McKenna (David), Mark Beltzman (Lance), Abraham Benrubi (Abe), Jesse Merlin (Dante), Rachel Avery (Nikki St. Jean); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Joe Begos, Josh Ethier, Dora Madison, Graham Skipper, Caroline Metz, Lyle Kanouse, Andrey Wasilewski; Dark Sky Farms; 2019)

“Please note that Begos is an admirer of madman filmmaker Gaspar Noé.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An in your face low-budget bad trip horror flick, that veers off into psychedelics, a cat fight, violence, an explosion of punk-rock music and vampire themes for starters. It’s meant for stoner midnight audiences to get high on; straight viewers stumbling into a theater to see this will probably want to head for the exits as soon as possible. The outlandish work of auteur Joe Begos (“The Mind’s Eye”/”Almost Human”), who shot it on a jittery hand-held camera in 16mm, knows his audience and gives them all the filth they may desire without saying much that’s worthwhile instead pummeling their senses with an orgy of style. Please note that Begos is an admirer of madman filmmaker Gaspar Noé.

The brilliant but troubled L.A. artist Dezzy (Dora Madison), hardly a sympathetic figure because of her temper tantrums, foul-mouthed rants and lacking of compassion, is going through a bad time in her creative career. Her high-profile agent David (Chris McKenna) has just dropped her and she feels the pressure of delivering an unfinished painting in a few days commissioned by gallery owner Nikki St. Jean (Rachel Avery). And there is the question of how the broke artist can pay her overdue rent or face eviction from her impatient landlord (Mark Beltzman).

Needing drugs and booze to get her creative juices flowing again, she scores from her drug dealer Hadrian (Graham Skipper) the latest hot drug called Bliss and finds herself wasted on a sexual pleasure trip with her degenerate married artist friends Courtney (Tru Collins) and Ronnie (Rhys Wakefield). The next morning she awakens in her apartment to find her unfinished commissioned painting taking shape as a masterpiece, but doesn’t remember working on it. Not caring how the art is created as long as it is (which could be the film’s theme), Dezzy goes through several more nights of drug-induced blackouts at various underground clubs in the city and awakens each morning not remembering how she became naked and bloody or how her painting was getting better despite not remembering working on it. Only she is now alarmed about craving for blood and a need to withdraw from people.

Dezzy’s transformation (or breakdown) has her wasting away into a state of madness and hallucinating to the point where she loses any sense of reality. In the underground scenes of L.A. she runs around out of control and runs into all sorts of sleazy caricatured freaky characters, where she interacts with those who may be real or the delusional drawn from the psychological underworld of monsters.

Dezzy’s trip leads to an unfulfilling climax that begs to answer the question if the pursuit of art at any cost has its inevitable drawbacks or of how much fun is it when letting go of all inhibitions to party at will, reach for godlike status without restraints and go through life in an unconscious state. For a film delving into the art process, it retreats from answering such sobering questions by making this a film only about Dora Madison and how well she performed handling her fractured psyche. It has no intention of enlightening us on art but to be viewed only as a trashy hipster pic that challenges our sensibilities through its heroine’s excesses, as it takes us to her dark side–brazenly showing us what may happen if not treating addiction or mental illness problems.

REVIEWED ON 9/28/2019       GRADE:  B
https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/

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