Bunny And The Bull

Director of The Mighty Boosh, Paul King, turns his twisted mind to the silver screen for his startlingly surreal debut feature Bunny And The Bull

Image
Self-imprisoned in his Kings Cross flat for the past year, timid, agoraphobic Stephen (Edward Hogg) leads a life dedicated to painstaking routine and the cataloguing of banal trinkets. As he passes the hoard of objects he’s collected over the years like some kind of deranged squirrel, food cartons and old photos stir memories of a road trip he once took with his best friend Bunny (Simon Farnaby) across Europe. The film flips constantly between the present where he sits wrapped in a nightgown in his flat, and his memories of the trip, which are partly constructed from the objects in his flat.

A fantastical take on an odd couple adventure, the film follows the volatile relationship between a pair both curiously mismatched and evidently reliant on each other as they travel through Europe meeting oddballs, falling out, gambling, and eventually making the acquaintance of Spanish waitress Eloisa (Verónica Echegui, who makes the most convincing effort to prevent the cameos from stealing the limelight). Along the way, Richard Ayoade pops up as a mind-meltingly dull shoe factory tour guide, Julian Barratt plays a frighteningly sinister Polish dog breeder with a questionable understanding of the weight of the word “breeder”. And comedy doesn’t get much more ludicrous than Noel Fielding as an ostentatious Spanish retired matador teaching Bunny how to bullfight by charging at him with a shopping trolley.

The most striking aspect of the film is the unique aesthetic. A huge depth of creativity along with a healthy dose of eccentricity have spawned an endless supply of brilliant concepts and set designs, including a sinister horse race, rivers of newspaper, and bulls animated from cogs and wheels, all of which stretches the limits of imagination (and makes up for the sometimes quite dodgy acting). We indulged in a three-way (conversation) with director Paul King and the two stars Simon Farnaby (Bunny) and Edward Hogg (Stephen), to discuss bromance, Brideshead and gambling granddads.

DD: We heard Bunny was based on your grandfather, are you similar to him?
Simon Farnaby:
 I’m very similar to my Granddad; all the things that I heard about him rang true with me. He loved gambling and I love gambling, going into bookies, I don’t have a problem anymore, it’s under control. It was all kind of there for me. I felt quite at home in his skin; I guess he’s kind of an extreme version of me. .

DD: Was it cathartic or celebratory to be playing a character based on your granddad, who on the one hand was outgoing and fun, yet had such a sad aspect as well? 
SF:
 It was quite celebratory. My Granddad was a guy that everyone liked being around because he was fun and he made situations fun, and I think that’s the type of character Bunny is, he wants people to have fun around him. Gambling’s sort of part of that, my granddad used to set up poker schools in pubs, because that was exciting for him.

DD: The character of Stephen is quite odd, was it difficult to write for? 
Paul King:
 When I started writing I spent about a week not leaving the flat, just to kind of explore what that’s like. You do start to go in on yourself a little and get a bit nervy. For a start, it’s very easy to live on delivery food, but you quickly become quite an oddball because what have you got to moderate your behaviour?
Edward Hogg: I understand being someone who’s shy, I understand those basic kind of emotions that Stephen has – being shy and feeling nervous and having friends that open doors that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to open yourself.

DD: They’re the original odd couple, did you draw inspiration from fictional sources? 
PK:
 I was aware of the double-act movie heritage in films like Swingers and Withnail & I, those two guys on the road type movies. And of course, Brideshead Revisited, of all the movies I was stealing liberally from, that was a big one. I really love Brideshead. Bunny is Sebastian – the alcoholic, cool, sexy one. He’s got that confidence to have a good time, whereas Charles always feels really low. There’s that line which I really love, when Sebastian has got drunk for the 80th time and Charles says, 'It’s like a blow falling upon a bruise.' I thought, 'Fucking hell, I wish I could write like that!' The idea that somebody’s just let you down and it hurts and they just keep doing it again and again. I really wanted that moment where you know there’s so much love there, but eventually they just take the piss...

DD: Is Bunny in some ways aspirational? 
PK:
 Yes, and it's a horror film. I love this idea that someone’s capable of this moment of glory. I really wanted his bullfight to be beautiful and tranquil and transcendent. You know he can do this; he’s not just a bullshit artist. .

DD: Why do Bunny and Stephen get on so well?
EH:
 Bunny would probably be dead and Stephen would be who he is at the beginning of the film where he’s just shut away from everything and everyone. I think they exist because of each other.
SF: You can’t really have two hedonists because you’d clash about what fun things you were going to do, whereas what you need its just one of you going, 'Come on, lets go to this thing!' and the other saying, 'Okay!' 
EH: Bunny and Stephen are two polar opposites who when they come together can form a normal human being somewhere in the middle.

DD: What inspired you to place so much emphasis on animation?
PK:
 I wanted the sets to reflect Stephen’s mental state. It starts really childishly. He looks at the crab box and he looks at the photos and he looks at the snow globe and then he starts to think, 'I don’t want to think about this anymore.' But then all his memories are made up of things in his flat, and they’re not merely souvenirs anymore. I wanted it to be like a dream where if you have a big lasagne, you see lasagne land when you go to sleep. I love films that do that, I don’t think there’s any that go this far though.

DD: Despite the fantastical sets, were you also trying to maintain a sense of realism? 
PK:
 I liked the idea of the scenes being exaggerated, like memories are when you tell stories about a holiday. You say you went to a restaurant and have three funny things to say about it, but you didn’t go to a comedy restaurant, it was just a bit bad. In the scene with Richard Ayoade, he’s more boring than he would be in real life and Bunny’s more of a drunk and Julian Barratt is more of a dog fucker.

DD: Nice...

Bunny And The Bull Is Out Today
More Arts+Culture