Starring: Nicholas Hope, Claire Benito, Ralph Cotterill
Director: Rolf de Heer
Rated: R (18+)
Adelaide based director Rolf de Heer premieres his latest film in his hometown today. Titled 10 Canoes it’s being hailed as Australia’s first indigenous language feature and it represents another major milestone in this fiercely independent-minded filmmakers’ career. Working largely outside the mainstream, de Heer has produced a body of work that is nothing if not eclectic. His first two films, Incident at Ravens Gate (’88) and Dingo (’92) marked him out as someone to watch but it was his freaky and often twisted tale, Bad Boy Bubby that really made people sit bolt upright, winning as it did four AFI Awards including Best Director and Best Actor.
Nicholas Hope stars as the eponymous Bubby, a strange baby-man with frazzled hair and piercing blue eyes, who has been locked in his cockroach infested, hovel of a room for 35 long years by his abusive mother Florence (Claire Benito). When his father, Pop (Ralph Cotterill) suddenly turns up, a window into another world is opened and, after some experimentation with cling-wrap, Bubby nervously steps out into it. By turns he is screamed at by thieves, seduced by a Salvo and enlisted as a beer-swilling roadie.
But like Frankenstein, Bubby has a soft spot for music which casts a sedative spell over his otherwise confused existence. He hears the sound of a violin and wanders dumbstruck into a warehouse to find the source. A bagpipe band, incongruously playing in the jail where he’s imprisoned for inappropriate behaviour, helps him endure the ordeal being raped by another inmate. And when he takes to the microphone in front of a rock ‘n roll pub band and mimics all the foul mouthed phrases that have been hurled at him throughout his entire life, he becomes an overnight punk sensation.
This strangely wonderful film has echoes of Werner Herzog’s The Enigma of Kasper Hauser, which was based on the true story of a young German man who, in 1828, wandered out into the world from the dungeon where he’d been held captive for 18 years. It’s a cruel world but, thankfully for Kasper and Bubby, there is often light at the end of the tunnel.