Bliss (Roadshow) (1985)

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Released 22-Sep-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Ray Lawrence (Writer/Director) & Anthony Buckley (Producer)
Biographies-Crew-Peter Carey
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Script To Screen Comparison
Short Film-AFTRS Film: The Door
Alternative Version-Original Theatrical Version
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 129:44
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Ray Lawrence
Window III Prods
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Barry Otto
Lynette Curran
Helen Jones
Gia Carides
Miles Buchanan
Jeff Truman
Tim Robertson
Bryan Marshall
Jon Ewing
Kerry Walker
Paul Chubb
Sarah De Teliga
Saskia Post
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $19.95 Music Peter Best

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    In 1966 Ray Lawrence went to New York and then London, trying to get a start in a filmmaking career. He even wrote letters to many renowned film directors requesting work. As well as writing these letters, Lawrence began writing screenplays, while he worked producing commercials in an advertising job he gained in London.

    When he returned to Australia, Lawrence set up a production company called Window Productions. In time, Lawrence would become this country's top director of television commercials, with scores of big name companies as clients. From 1975 onwards, Ray Lawrence's commercials have been widely awarded both in Australia and overseas.

    Author Peter Carey also began his career working in advertising. This was the catalyst for the pair meeting and becoming good friends. Lawrence and Carey shared the same desire to make films and began writing screenplays together. Their collaboration produced two screenplays, Dancing On The Water and Spanish Pink. While they worked on these screenplays, Carey was also busy writing his first novel. The novel, Bliss, would go on to win the Miles Franklin Award and become the feature film that Ray Lawrence had dreamed of making for so long. Bliss was also the third screenplay co-written by Carey and Lawrence.

    Harry Joy (Barry Otto) has it all. He is happy with the world and his place in it. He has a loving family comprised of his wife Bettina (Lynette Curran), son David (Miles Buchanan) and daughter Lucy (Gia Carides). Harry and his partner Joel (Jeff Truman) own and run a very successful advertising company. The Joy family live in a large and beautiful home on the fringe of the city. Life couldn't be better. Harry has one problem that he doesn't know about - he is about to die.

    Harry suffers a heart attack and collapses on his back lawn. We, the audience, also experience Harry's death and subsequent resuscitation, courtesy of some innovative camera work by cinematographer Paul Murphy. Harry was dead for four minutes and his life would never be quite the same again.

    In the days before Harry's bypass operation, he becomes obsessed with his death and the reality of a heaven and hell. He has vivid dreams of impending doom that only intensifies his paranoia. After the successful operation, he begins to notice strange changes in his once normal life. He believes that he has either gone mad or is living in hell, with impostors placed there to torment him.

    As he spies on their everyday activities, he is more convinced with each passing day that he is actually in hell. Bettina is having an affair with Joel, David is a drug dealer and is also supplying Lucy in return for sexual favours. While these factors may be enough to satisfy Harry of his hell theory, his family is convinced he has descended into madness and plot to have him committed to an asylum.

   Harry returns to his office on a Saturday to find one of his staff, Alex Duval (Tim Robertson), typing up conference reports on some of the products their company promotes. These reports highlight chemicals in client's products that cause things like cancer. Harry's initial horror is calmed when Alex reveals he doesn't actually post the reports and that this is his personal punishment for doing what they do. This theory rings true with Harry and he decides to sack every client that sells harmful products, regardless of the financial losses the company will incur. This action will surely bring a positive change to his life and restore some sort of balance.

    Harry moves out of the family home and into an expensive suite, which he charges to the company account. In the process of sacking his biggest client, he meets a prostitute with earthy connections. Honey Barbara (Helen Jones) lives a clean, alternative lifestyle in a forest hideaway and only ventures into the city to earn her living. Harry finds trust in Honey Barbara from the start and they quickly form a close relationship.

    Harry is committed into the asylum and is subsequently forced into an unlikely alliance with Bettina in order to leave the establishment. This goes against all the plans both he and Honey Barbara had made for their lives together. As Harry descends back into the evils of his old life, Honey Barbara returns shattered back to the sanctuary of the bush hideaway.

    Harry soon embarks on a mission of redemption with Honey Barbara. He starts a love-letter project that will take eight years to arrive.

    I have tried to present a comprehensive synopsis of this film without revealing the genuine surprises and twists in the story. Bliss has so many idiosyncrasies and sub-plots that my synopsis here in no way reveals too much of the detail.

    When Bliss premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, it was a widely publicised disaster. A large walkout of patrons in the cinema started early in the film with the infamous sardine scene and continued thereafter. The only film to fare worse in that regard at Cannes was Antonionio's L`Avventura in 1960, when the only people left in the cinema were the director and the producer. The initial Cannes reaction thankfully wasn't consistent or sustained. Bliss was invited to screen at the New York and London Film Festivals and obtained an excellent international distribution deal with New World. At the 1985 AFI Awards, Bliss won three major awards including Best Film, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

    The Cannes version of Bliss had a running time of 135 minutes. This was subsequently re-edited by Lawrence in order to improve the flow of the film. This edited version became the original theatrical version that screened in cinemas worldwide.

    It would be some sixteen years before Ray Lawrence would direct another feature film. Lantana (2001) was an instant critical and commercial success and also scooped the AFI Awards that year with seven awards, including Best Film. Ray Lawrence's next feature film, Jindabyne, is due for cinema release some time in 2006.

    This two disc DVD edition of Bliss contains the original theatrical version (107:04) and the Director's Cut (129:44) of the film. My personal preference is for the Director's Cut, although I know many will disagree. The scenes that were either trimmed or removed for the original theatrical version are not vital to the telling of the story. However, these scenes are included in the Director's Cut of Bliss and include;

  • Scene with David meeting Honey Barbara in the kitchen .
  • Extension of the scene with Harry at the Police Station.
  • Extension of the scene of Alex and Harry at the office.
  • Extension of the drunk Alex scene .
  • Scene of Alex's "vision splendid" story.
  • Joel's self explosion scene.  
  • Scene of Honey Barbara, Lucy and Ken discussing food .

        Footnote: There is a printing error on the rear of the packaging which is worth noting. The correct disc contents should read as follows; Disc one contains the director's cut of Bliss complete with audio commentary and all the extras that are mentioned later in this review. Disc two contains only the original theatrical version with subtitles and descriptive audio .

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    Transfer Quality


        The video transfer for both versions of Bliss is a mixed bag to say the least. I have decided to award the scores for the transfer on an overall basis.

        Both versions of Bliss are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are 16x9 enhanced. I can't confirm the correct and original aspect ratio, however it seems very likely to be close to that presented on these DVDs.

        The Director's Cut - Disc One

        The sharpness and clarity of the Director's Cut is quite disappointing. This version is some twenty-two minutes longer than the original theatrical version and has been placed on the same disc as all the extras. The levels of compression have obviously taken a toll and video quality has suffered. Blacks and shadows were disappointing and generally inconsistent, exhibiting heavy grain at times.

        Colours appeared slightly washed out when compared against the original theatrical version on disc two.

        There were no MPEG artefacts noticed. Aliasing was rather frequent, albeit mostly of a minor nature. One annoying example occurs at 54:07 on the striping of a jacket. Reel change markings are easily noticed, but not particularly problematic. These are first evident at 15:42 and then reappear on a further six occasions, just prior to reel changes at approximate twenty minute intervals. Some negligible telecine wobble was also noticed at 77:49 and 94:56. Film artefacts were infrequent and inconsequential.

        English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available on this disc. They are white in colour and are easily read. An English audio description option is also available. This is an excellent feature that is reminiscent to listening to an audio book. It accurately describes what is happening on the screen during the pauses in dialogue.

        This a single sided, dual layer disc. The layer change occurs at 74:20 and although it is quite easy to spot, it is quite well placed and not disruptive.

        The Original Theatrical Version - Disc Two

        Sharpness and clarity was generally very good and a marked improvement on the Director's Cut on disc one. Blacks were clean and deep. Shadows were clearly defined and held a high level of detail. Although occasional grain was noticeable, it was not at the same levels or consistency as the other version.

        Colours also appeared natural and very well balanced.

        There were no MPEG artefacts noticed on this disc. The aliasing that was quite common in the Director's Cut is thankfully very well controlled in this version. Film-to-video artefacts were generally insignificant and posed no problems. I noticed only one reel change marking while viewing this version which was evident at 15:49. As with the director's cut, film artefacts were minor and infrequent.

        The same quality subtitles and audio description are available on this disc as the first.

        This is a single sided, single layer disc. Subsequently, there is no layer change on this disc.

    Video Ratings Summary
    Shadow Detail
    Film-To-Video Artefacts
    Film Artefacts


        The audio transfer is basic, but highly effective.

        There are three audio tracks available on these DVDs; English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s), English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s) and English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s).

        Dialogue quality on both discs was outstanding. I had no problems hearing and comprehending any dialogue, even when quietly spoken. Audio sync was also excellent.

        The musical score by Peter Best is superb and enhances the mood and general atmosphere of the film a great deal. Peter has an impressive list of credits for quality musical scores for many Australian films and television programmes.

        The surround usage was not significant enough to warrant much comment. The sound was predominantly front based, especially the Director's Cut. The original theatrical version seemed to use the surround channels more, but didn't provide any real enhancement.

        The subwoofer was active during both versions, emphasizing bass elements in the music and the general sound design.

    Audio Ratings Summary
    Audio Sync
    Surround Channel Use


         The selection of extras is quite good.


        Both discs have the same design menus with the difference being disc one has a bluish hue to the menu and disc two has a golden hue. The menus are both 16x9 enhanced, feature a looped music and sound sample from the film and are both cleverly animated.

    Audio Commentary on The Director's Cut  -  Ray Lawrence (Writer/Director) and Anthony Buckley (Producer)

        This is an excellent audio commentary for anyone wanting more insight into the making of Bliss. Ray Lawrence and Anthony Buckley seem to relish the opportunity to not only re-view the film, but to add relevant comments and anecdotes about each scene as it presents on screen. Judging by some of the comments made during the course of the commentary, I would guess that this piece was recorded around 2001. Ray and Anthony easily avoid the trap of simply describing the scenes and offer fascinating information on a wide cross section of the filmmaking process. There are a few small pauses, especially in the second half, but this is only because they themselves get caught up with the film. This commentary is clearly one of the best I've heard in recent times and is highly recommended.

    Biography - Peter Carey

        This is an eight page text based biography on Peter Carey, the author of the novel and co-writer of the screenplay.

    Filmographies - All text based pages

  • Ray Lawrence - one page
  • Barry Otto - four pages
  • Lynette Curran - three pages
  • Helen Jones - two pages
  • Anthony Buckley - three pages

    Script To Screen Comparison  (4:03)

        A short but very interesting comparison between the storyboard drawings, screenplay and the final film. These three elements play together on the screen to show the first four minutes of the film. On the top left of screen we see the storyboard drawing. Underneath that we see the final film. The screenplay scrolls to the right of screen to complete the comparison.

    AFTRS Short Film - The Door  (18:59)

       Made in 1993, this short film from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School is a welcome inclusion, even though it has no direct link to the film Bliss.

       The Door is directed and co-written by Josephine Keys and features the actors Barry Otto, Penne Hackforth-Jones, Inge Hanstra and Ivan Zuvela . It's a drama about a teenage girl and her emotional struggle after the divorce of her parents. Life with her strict and overly thrifty stepfather is impossible and although she loves her mother very much, their relationship is pushed to the limits as a consequence. Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) audio.

    R4 vs R1

    NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

        At the time of this review, there is no R1 version of Bliss available.


        Bliss is one of my favourite Australian films of the eighties. The screenplay is incredibly brave and confronting, which proved to be simply too much for some people at the time of its release. Thankfully, AFI members judged the film correctly in 1985, awarding it three major awards including Best Film.

        I find the surreal images and foreboding atmosphere of Bliss totally alluring. I have seen the film somewhere in the order of twelve times over the years and haven't tired of it yet.

        I am not suggesting for a minute that Bliss is a film for everyone. Those who have seen the film will already have an opinion. But for those who haven't and love to be challenged by a film, this might just be the first of many viewings.

        The video transfers are mixed. The Director's Cut is disappointing in overall video quality, but the original theatrical version is really quite good. Based on all this, is this DVD edition worth buying? Yes.

        The audio transfer for both versions is very good.

        The selection of extras is also worthy and interesting, especially the audio commentary.

  • Ratings (out of 5)


    © Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
    Sunday, March 05, 2006
    Review Equipment
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    DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
    Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
    AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
    SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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