The Adventures of Faustus Bidgood

The Adventures of Faustus Bidgood
June 23rd 2024

The Adventures of Faustus Bidgood (1986) is a sprawling work of comedic delirium that evokes the work of Monty Python, Mad Magazine, and Thomas Pynchon while on a shoestring budget and from a purely Newfoundland perspective. The writer/star/producer/co-director Andy Jones had never made a movie before Faustus. He had been involved in comedy his entire life, being a member of the legendary CODCO stage troupe, but the world of the silver screen had always eluded him and the only way he would ever make a movie was if he did it himself. So, he gathered his friends and family, with his brother Michael Jones taking on the helm of co-director, and set out to tell the story of a loser (a Canadian tradition) named Faustus who lives in St. Johns, Newfoundland, works for a corrupt government, and spends his days imagining he’s the king of the island whenever he’s not visualizing the graphic death of his co-workers.

By Jones’s own admission, he didn’t know how to structure a feature-length motion picture, but he sure had a lot of ideas and every single one of them is breathlessly thrown onto the screen. Faustus isn’t a gag-a-minute comedy nor a meditative piece of work; instead, it brings together a series of surreal tableaux from everyday life that brush up against fantastical reveries. The film’s magic is how these disparate elements build off one another, slamming the viewer at a frenetic pace until its shape becomes apparent during a grandiose finale that involves blackmail, a gun, a pregnancy, and some on-stage theatrics.

Faustus is too hyper-specific, ambitious, and niche to work as a breakthrough comedy, especially since it never holds the viewer's hand or gives them any time for a breather. It’s the kind of project that had to be pruned, re-organized, and thought through as it was being put together—which ended up being one hell of a long time. (I was unsurprised to learn the film took ten years to complete.) In interviews, Jones has pointed out that the movie took so long to wrap up that the pregnant woman in the film gave birth during its lengthy production; her kid can be seen walking around at a party at one point.

The most depressing thing about Faustus is how little it has been seen over the years. Sure, you’ll find a VHS rip uploaded by the great Doug Tilley (a movie-obsessed Newfoundland native) on YouTube, but the film rarely gets mentioned by anyone discussing Canadian comedies, and its DVD release (featuring some fun special features like a commentary and some short films) was released independently and soon disappeared without a trace. Faustus is a film begging for a bigger cult audience to obsess over, deconstruct, and hold up as one of the Canadian canon's great comedies. Thankfully, places like Spectacle are giving it another chance, and seemingly out of the blue, the Canadian Broadcasting Center has produced a retrospective documentary on the film, proving that some people are still carrying a torch for this odd little piece of art.

The Adventures of Faustus Bidgood screens this evening, June 23, and on June 27, at Spectacle. Robert Joy, who acted and helped produce the film, will be in attendance for a Q&A.