Monday, June 24, 2013

Wild Man

1977, New Zealand, directed by Geoff Murphy

The title might not be strictly biographical, but certainly it's difficult to imagine a leading man better suited to his rambunctious role. This is the legendary culmination of the peregrinations of Blerta, the Bruno Lawrence's Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition, a musical/theatre collective that criss-crossed New Zealand in the 1970s. Bruno, one of the most idiosyncratic stars any cinema has produced, embodies the "Wild Man of Borneo," a travelling attraction that we encounter on the muddy west coast of the South Island, where the "wild man" and his handler challenge the locals to fights.

It's not hard to imagine a certain overlap between the reception afforded Blerta and that experienced by the various wandering entrepreneurs onscreen here, and Geoff Murphy gleefully explodes any lingering myths about the genteel early years of (white) New Zealand life: the townsfolk here are generally drunken buffoons, divested of most traces of civilization in their muddy backwater. The film is a rough and ready draft for more successful future film outings by the Murphy-Lawrence pairing, with some dated humour effects, relying too often on silly speed-up effects or sub-Monty Python anachronisms, though there is some striking camerawork and a very vivid sense of the tawdry small town background.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States