Rubbings from a Live Man

Warwick Broadhead recounts, re-imagines and re-enacts a life lived to the full and dogged by personal tragedy.
Director: Florian Habicht
Year: 2008
Country: New Zealand
Running time: 75 mins
New Zealand
Producers: Philippa Campbell, Florian Habicht
Photography: Christopher Pryor
Editors: Florian Habicht, Christopher Pryor
Sound: Ray Beentjes
Original music: Marc Chesterman
R13 adult themes

With: Warwick Broadhead

World Premiere

Warwick Broadhead, veteran performer of arch, cracked "theatricals" seems unlikely ever to share a joint in a hot pool with the Demolition Derby racers of Florian Habicht‘s previous Kaikohe Demolition. What they do have in common is the reckless, self-exposing flamboyance that excites Habicht‘s eager eye for revelry in the face of restriction. Broadhead has been performing on stages as big as the Botanic Gardens and as intimate as private parties for years, but he‘s never allowed his work to be recorded.

He has now been induced by Habicht and his cinematographer/editor Chris Pryor, to re-enact some of the key moments in his far from ordinary life for this film. Calling on a cast of talkative alter-egos, not least a vile and shrewish God, he revisits his straitened childhood in 50s Kiwi suburbia, his ecstatic 60s in San Francisco and a heap of trauma, exaltation and grief ever since. He claims he never feels more disguised than when naked and silently cruising a sauna. The converse seems just as true: decked in a ceremonial costume so cumbersome that he needs the rugby team thoughtfully recruited by the filmmaker to lift him, he flaunts his infirmity.

There are many documentaries that might be said to be performed by their subjects. Few push that element of performance so far or confront it with such intense curiosity as Habicht has here. The combination of rawness and artifice with which Broadhead re-enacts grave personal trauma is disconcerting, and there‘s no guessing where it‘s taking him. Tidy emotion is the last thing you should be seeking from Habicht and Broadhead‘s exhilarating carnival of laughter, tears and death-cheating stunts. — BG

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