In Bliss, we are told that Dezzy (Dora Madison Burge) is a talented artist. She lives in LA, cheats on her sort-of boyfriend, and mixes every kind of drug with alcohol every night instead of working on her commissioned piece – an impossible dream for many working artists – which is already weeks late. At a meeting with her agent (to which she is also late), she whines that ‘you know how it is’ and that she can’t live off of nothing (later we find she’d already been given a $10,000 advance that she’s ALREADY spent, despite constantly dodging her rent-seeking landlord). She’s self-important, yells at people during drug withdrawals, and is just an overall unreliable, manic, entitled, personal-bubble-dwelling arsehole.
Sounds like every pothead I’ve ever lived with.
Despite this, Burge seems to effortlessly make this hot mess compelling, enigmatic – at times, even sympathetic, as her life begins to unravel around her after taking a mysterious new hybrid drug at a party to relieve her creative block. And, since this is a horror movie, genre + mysterious substance = get ready for 90 minutes of insanity.
Much like the first act’s aforementioned dialogue, I do ‘know how it is’ to have a creative block – it’s a maddening betrayal of something you thought was an intrinsic part of your personality, your hobby, your craft, your raison d’etre. To wake up and suddenly find yourself unable to wield your outlet makes you feel flat, fuzzy, unfulfilled. It’s one of the first world’s worst feelings. But I suppose that’s also why I’ve never tried to make money using my artistic endeavour, because I would suck writing on command to a deadline, so the closest thing I’ll ever release are these half-assed, first-draft, stream-of-consciousness blog entries. Lucky you.
But back to the movie, which is an hour and a half of drunkenly yelling in bars and house parties in between drug-dosing, followed by a dreamy psychedelic montages that quickly give way to nightmarish visions, handled with some effectively immersive camerawork by cinematographer Mike Testin (look out for the dizzying phone call scene). The plot careens along somewhat predictably, but the ride itself is bloody and brutal and shocking (no expense spared on those practical effects). Our passenger journey through Dezzy’s descent into paranoia and uncertainty is a scenic one, with paint and blood indistinguishable from another through every grimy bathroom and stale, smoky card-players’ den (also: weird to see you here, George Wendt).
It’s far from perfect, and the dialogue grates, but this is full-on sensory experience, and it’s no surprise that writer-director Joe Begos is a fan of Gaspar Noe (it shows, and it shows, and then later on it shows). Do yourself a favour and watch this messy, showy, loud, punk-rock madness with a stiff drink, but if you’re anything like me and my OCD (there’s so much fucking hair touching the inside of so many toilets), you’ll find yourself desperate to take a shower afterwards.