In director Joe Begos’ (The Mind’s Eye) astounding Bliss, a struggling artist called Dezzy (Dora Madison) resorts to taking a highly-addictive, hallucinatory drug called Bliss (a tasty blend of cocaine and DMT) to help get her creative juices flowing. What ensues is a mind-bending and visceral experience; one where the line between reality and fantasy is as hazy as Dezzy’s memories of the night before.
Bliss is what you’d get if Gaspar Noe and Abel Ferrara co-directed a drug-fuelled vampire movie with Kathryn Bigelow over-seeing the whole shoot. It’s what The Addiction would have been if Lili Taylor‘s character had taken a shit-ton of hallucinogens before biting into her victims or if the drugs in Climax turned everyone into blood-thirsty creatures of the night. It’s a real treat.
Hiding behind the Bliss façade of trippy visuals and a nightmarish soundscape is a vampire movie through-and-through. The film tricks you into believing you’re going to see a certain of film, before it shifts 180 degrees and takes you on a completely different journey. Sure, Dezzy takes a ton of drugs, gets addicted and craves the creative high she experienced that first night, but it soon becomes clear that her thirst is not for drugs at all.
It all begins when Dezzy bumps into Courtney (Tru Collins) and her partner Ronnie (Rhys Wakefield) who exhume coolness with their dark sunglasses and don’t-give-a-fuck, life-is-for-living attitudes a la Near Dark. They tease Dezzy with a life of excess, encouraging her to stay out late and leave her normal life for tomorrow. It’s one of Bliss‘ most risque scenes as the trio embark on a night of drink, drugs and sex against a backdrop flooded with bright and brazen, flashing lights. Get used to this because Bliss is FILLED with visuals that’ll leave your eyes sore and your brain thumping.
The camera is as high as the characters as it weaves in and out of crazed-scenes drenched in blood to the sound of screams of pleasure and pain. It’s a traumatising descent into a hell that is beautifully captured, but there’s nothing here that will leave you desiring the life that Dezzy now has to live with. Her painting may be getting painted – despite her never remembering actually picking up a paintbrush during her nights of unadulterated bliss – but what is being exposed on the canvas is dark in itself, teasing a climax that is going to be more painful than pleasurable.
Bliss is a heavenly mind-fuck. A visceral, hypnotising exploration of the pain that comes with creativity and the lack of it. What Joe Begos has delivered is a semi-autobiographical (…I hope) piece that delves into his own creative struggles, leaving me thankful that he had these conflicts. Without them, we’d not have had this intoxicating, mesmerising and unforgettable slice of psychedelic cinema and that’d be a downer.