From Australia and Italy, Bad Boy Bubby revolves around 35-year-old “Bubby,” whose mental and emotional growth have been stunted by his mother’s having kept him imprisoned, in the dark, dank apartment they share, under threat of the “poisonous” air outside that would kill him. Meanwhile, Mother has made Bubby, whom she relentlessly abuses both physically and verbally, her steady sexual partner. Bubby, tormented, in turn torments the cat, whose cruel death the film graphically portrays, limiting its U.S. distribution. Bubby’s father, who hadn’t known he has a son, eventually shows up and pronounces Bubby a “weirdo”—although the lascivious drunk is most concerned that his son isn’t a “pouf.” (Bubby’s bed partner assures Pop this isn’t the case.) Realizing that Mum’s analysis of the atmosphere outdoors has been a lie, Bubby wreaks retribution and becomes an episodic wanderer, engaging the world and encountering various groups (including animal rights-people) that do not plumb the depths of Bubby’s miserable ordeal but instead challenge Bubby on the basis of their pet cause. Eventually Bubby must cope with alternative claims that are made on his attention from a school for the handicapped, which draws on the empathy that suffering has given him, and a rock band, which draws instead on his embittered resentment.
Meant as a social satire, writer-director Rolf de Heer’s visually striking though nasty, unpleasant film has been lauded for its originality; but, to me, it seems a pastiche of past films, cribbing a perspective from one place and a bit of sensibility from another. Four likely influences are Werner Herzog’s Kasper Hauser film (1974), Paul Verhoeven’s Spetters (1980; de Heer is himself Dutch-born), John Huston’s Wise Blood (1989), Jane Campion’s Sweetie (1989).
Best screenplay, director, actor (Nicholas Hope), Australian Film Institute; best director, Seattle.
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