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Wednesday 08 April 2009

Review: Rubbings From a Live Man

Posted in: Movies
By Michael Stevens - 6th November 2008

An extraordinary film based on the life of Kiwi entertainer Warwick Broadhead is out now in cinemas across NZ. Here's our review from its premiere back in July.

Review: Rubbings From a Live Man

Director: Florian Habicht

NZ Premiere, Auckland International Film Festival, Sky City Theatre 20 July 2008

It's not often you get to attend the premiere of a great work of art, but I did tonight at the Auckland International Film Festival.

Florian Habicht (director of Kaikohe Demolition) has produced another amazing film, and shown his ability to reveal a part of New Zealand life that is unknown to many. In this he tells the story of Warwick Broadhead, one of New Zealand's most innovative and important theatrical artists. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say he records and shows us through his lens the force of nature that Warwick Broadhead is.

Broadhead tells his story, from a fairly conventional Catholic Mt Roskill childhood and his discovery of his love of performing at the age of four through to the tragedies and triumphs of his personal life and career. He covers suicide, abuse, imprisonment, love and loss. He talks of being gay, going to saunas, the love of men. He talks of his family and those he loves, his work and his life. Yet Broadhead can never just tell a story, however raw, deep and personal. He brings his years of art and training, his brilliance and unique worldview to this work of art. What really lifts this film though is the utter raw honesty and integrity with which Broadhead reveals himself, and the way Habicht is able to take this wonderful fabric of his life and turn it into a compelling, revealing and engrossing work of art.

Perhaps here in Habicht and Broadhead we see a perfect meeting of Director and Subject. Warwick Broadhead has put on over 60 live shows in his life, often vast sprawling, operatic works that are typically built up from a crew of amateurs and shaped and formed by his own take on art and life. But Warwick is no amateur, he is a professional, and a great artist, just not one who has ever felt the need to compromise his principles or who has sought commercial success. His works appear in a blaze of glory, then disappear. However he has never allowed any of them before to be recorded in any form. This film is labelled as a documentary, but unusually it is described as 'A documentary performed by Warwick Broadhead' and it is a performance, and a stellar one at that. Intimate, revealing, raw and deeply honest. Yet it is funny, engaging and warm.

Habicht's expert direction brings out the reality of Broadhead's strong and vibrant personality and gives us a taste of just what his live shows are. What Habicht has done here is draw out and present a deep, resonant and emotionally powerful performance as Broadhead tells us how he lived, how he survived, how he flourished or failed through various aspects of his life. The music, largely written for the film, adds to the whole work. The overall picture that is built up is one of delight in life, the importance of art to us all as humans, and the sheer warm and eccentric brilliance that Warwick Broadhead brings to everything he does.

My only regret was that the film was not longer. Go and see this film.

Michael Stevens - 6th November 2008