Friday, 31 August 2012

filmbore pick of the week - Bunny And The Bull

Bunny And The Bull Paul King
Screenplay: Paul King
Starring: Edward Hogg, Simon Farnaby, Verónica Echegui
Year: 2009
Language: English
UK rental release: March 2010

Rotten Tomatoes

Two friends, two and a half thousand pounds and two views on how a great holiday should be. Organised itineraries, or random occurrences, or maybe even a mix of both, Bunny And The Bull is a off kilter British buddy movie with a difference.

Stephen Turnbull (Edward Hogg, Anonymous, White Lightnin') hasn't left his house for a whole year. Through his institutionalisation he has transformed into an obsessive-compulsive, agoraphobic hermit - a pure exaggeration of his insular, disciplined self . Then one morning, when his routine is disrupted, he his forced to face his demons and take a walk down memory lane. Luckily, his ridiculously organised life means that the stacks of boxes in his home contain enough mementos for him to re-live (though reluctantly at times) the partly fond memories of his recent trip outside of the UK with his best friend, Bunny (Simon Farnaby, Burke And Hare, The Mighty Boosh TV series), who is the pure anti-thesis of Stephen - a cocksure, confident risk-taker.
Flashback to one year ago. A lucky bet lines the lad's wallets with enough cash for a tour of Europe. Stephen wants culture, sifting through the more unique museums, but Bunny craves danger. In an attempt to break the regimented fun, he pushes for a bit of spontaneity, setting them on a path of uncontrollable outcomes... and more gambling!

Along the way, they meet Eloisa (Verónica Echegui) - the potential light in Stephen's life, who cushions him from the new chaos introduced by his travelling buddy. But this softening is short lived, as Bunny keeps raising the stakes on every bet he far can he go until his luck changes?!

Bunny And The Bull is the feature-length directorial debut of Paul King, the same man at the helm for British TV favourite, The Mighty Boosh, and it's clear to see the kinship between his works. This tale, even though brave and subjective, is easy to get into but also satisfies your need for wonkier comedy, if that's your poison.

Paul has also brought in some old friends, as a few of the "Boosh" boys step into to play some fantastic cameos: Noel Fielding as a washed-up, alcoholic wannabe Matador, Richard Ayoade as a dry flat-lining shoe museum curator, and the scene stealing Julian Barratt as Atilla, the dog drinking vagrant (seriously!). These moments sit perfectly in the overall piece. Our lead characters are strong too, where Hogg's subtle performance as Stephen balances well against the bravado of Farnaby's Bunny.

However, another strong character, holding the film from start to finish, is the overall design. From great use of stop-frame animation and clever segues between the house scenes and flashbacks, every element of creativity brings a unique identity to the fore. The real star here lies within the genius set design.'s some of the best I've seen in years, being both astounding and inspired. When Stephen relives the past through items in his home, the object in question becomes the theme of that scene's set - for example, looking over photos of the train journey conjures up images of their experience where everything around them is built from a photograph, or peering at the numerous clocks on the wall brings back memories of a visit to fairground, which happens to crafted from numerous clockwork parts. Detail is also put into the backgrounds of our fantastical scenery, adding real depth to the surroundings. These crazy but smart ideas give an art house feel, insuring the necessary quirkiness needed to support the left-field but confident humour in the tale. The sets are the film's biggest talking point and it's clear to see why.

Returning back to Stephen's home between these scenes is extremely poignant too, as the real set here pressures him to deal with the harsh reality creeping towards him through his flashbacks. It's clear that there is a dark rift throughout, assisted by a strong score from British folk artists, Ralfe Band. Their music is haunting, and carries a gloomy cloud to preempt Stephen's fears and what drives them, while infusing well with the lead's journey by morphing their sound to the cultural melodic tones of the country that they currently reside in.

On paper, the overall combination of these ideas really shouldn't work but luckily they do, softly knotting together as the film evolves and helping to identify how Stephen's new heavily organised life opposes Bunny's maverick impulsiveness. All of this is a superb achievement, making Bunny And The Bull a great example of successful quirky British film making. And if my comments won't convince you, just check it out for the unforgettable the dog drinking!

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