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TIFF 2009: Bunny and the Bull Reviewed

Posted by film On September - 27 - 2009

Bunny and the bullBunny and the Bull
Directed by Paul King

By Helen Fylactou

Bunny and the Bull is an innovative debut feature film from director Paul King. King is well known as the director of the cult hit television series The Mighty Boosh. Working with a limited budget, King captures the imagination of his audience in this story of friendship, love, and mental disorders. Although Paul King’s film is sometimes deliberately unclear as to whether or not it is a comedy, a drama or perhaps both, Bunny and the Bull is beautifully written, beautifully shot, and beautifully acted throughout.

Stephen (Edward Hoog) is an obsessive-compulsive that has not left his house in a year. But unbeknownst to him, and the audience, his self-imposed seclusion is about to end. Stephen’s rituals are interrupted by a rodent infestation in his home. This disturbance in his restricted routine triggers hallucinations of his friends and he is forced to re-live his last venture out of his home: a journey through Europe. Stephen uses the mementos throughout his apartment to reconstruct his recent travels with best friend, Bunny (Simon Farnaby). These thoughts force Stephen to face his fragile psyche and to begin to understand the reasons that he became a recluse.

In this seemingly comedic film, there are moments where the audience is forced to deal with serious issues of agoraphobia, obsession, and death. King is skilful in his juxtaposition of a scene of humour with one of anguish. While Stephen is continuously trying to battle his own demons, he realizes that it is up to him whether he leaves the house or not. He tries to leave the house but finds himself paralyzed by a haunting flood of images. It is the mark of a great storyteller to be able to make the audience laugh and then instantly feel sorrow.

Bunny and the Bull 2Normally shot in front of a projection, King’s visually impressive film relies less on visual effects and more on an “arts and crafts” aesthetic of movie-making. In a style similar to Michel Gondry, King uses cardboard boxes, metallic gears, clay models, and paper drawings to build the sets. The alluring visuals make the audience feel like they are part of Stephen’s surreal dreams. As Stephen begins to realize that he is in charge of his own narrative, the sets become more intricate and more complicated, mirroring Stephen’s state of mind. King’s dream-like film is a masterpiece that dwells on the border between the brutal truth of isolation and the whimsy of fantasy.

Fans of Gondry, Terry Gilliam, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet will not be disappoint by Paul King’s film Bunny and the Bull. Mastering the ability to blur the lines between reality and fantasy, King’s movie will definitely make a splash in the world of both movie-goers and filmmakers. Bunny and the Bull is a creative and inspiring movie that is one of the must-see films to emerge from this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

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