Bliss Image


By Michael Talbot-Haynes | January 20, 2024

The stark beauty of the desert enshrouds everything, thanks to the cinematography of Harlan Bosmajian. At one point, Amy says this little patch of paradise is heaven on earth right after the dope hit her system. The brilliant location shots build a barren Eden of narcotic isolation. The score composed by Sam Bisbee weaves into the imagery a throbbing field of energy, with each note exactly what is needed—also, a big shout out to Katie Miles dead on target costume design. The authenticity of the wardrobe worn at the world’s edge is awe-inspiring, as real as rust on a fender. You feel like you are slowly fading away with the characters onscreen into the deafening silence. Oh, and the lead singer of Jesus Lizard and Scratch Acid, David Yow, has a cameo as a Pizza Boy. How fun is that?

“…it has the black blood of film noir running through its veins.”

The big picture for Bliss is that it is crafted as a drama. However, it has the black blood of film noir running through its veins. This keeps things very lively while we make our way to the emotional crescendos. The issues of hiding the corpse are dark enough, but the picture takes a surprisingly deep, dark dive in the middle. Also included are the noir gold standard visuals, such as the Venetian blind shadows. My favorite eerie imagery was the amazingly dark feel of the hazy images of a woman’s silhouette that is put to use. I am also impressed by how seamlessly the noir thriller elements meld with the serious character drama. But that is the future for you.

At this point noir is not just normal, it is also everywhere. The opioid epidemic ushered in a new era of noir, where thousands were turned into outlaw couples on the run. This feeling of floating desperation is perfectly shown through Jordan’s performance. He does a masterful job of hiding from his demons until they eat him raw, and he makes sure you feel every sore inch of it. I really want to go back to the first movie to see how he started off as Virgil, as he totally breathes through him. Amadeus is a wonder in her dual role as the two sisters. She radiates respect for them when she is inside both, while a lesser actress would have ridiculed along the faults. The performances press the plunger down to the hilt with this film. Bliss guides you to strange emotional haystacks that you would not expect to find hidden in all the needles. 

Bliss screened at the 2024 Slamdance Film Festival.

Bliss (2024)

Directed: Joe Maggio

Written: Joe Maggio, Clint Jordan, Faryl Amadeus

Starring: Clint Jordan, Faryl Amadeus, Juan Fernandez, David Yow, etc.

Movie score: 8.5/10

Bliss Image

"…strikes the perfect steel guitar chord of the call of the west."

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  1. […] is a moving target that drug addicts try to hit with a spike in the gritty noir-tinged drama Bliss, directed by Joe Maggio. Way out west, Virgil Bliss (Clint Jordan) has been hiding out for two […]

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