"If you're sad and like beer, I'm your lady."
"In my pocket is a jar. In the jar, preserved in my own tears, is my
son's heart." If those quotes simultaneously give you a chuckle, puzzle
you, disturb you, and perhaps promote the tiniest tinge of wistfulness
or longing, then Guy Maddin's hilarious, surreal, frenetic, and even
slightly sad tribute to Busby Berkeley musicals, beer and international
relations circa 1933 just might be the thing for you.
This is as crazy and inventive as anything Maddin has ever done, and
contains most of the themes and tropes for which he has become famous
(well, famous amongst connoisseurs of weird): a film language that has
for the most part skipped the past 75 years of history, instead relying
on silent, early sound and 2-strip Technicolor devices for its bizarre
and beautiful style; dysfunctional families and equally dysfunctional
sexual situations, with a father and son both smitten with the same
woman and both partially to blame for the loss of her legs, and the son
and his brother also smitten with another woman who happens to have
amnesia. Add to this Maddin's typical self-deprecating love of his
country (Canada) and city (Winnipeg) and a plot involving a contest to
find "the saddest music in the world" and you've got the makings of
something that only this demented director could dare to dream.
The mutilated woman happens to be beer baroness Lady Helen Port-Huntley
(Isabella Rossellini, channeling Jean Harlow and perhaps a bit of
Marlene Dietrich), and her would-be-lovers are Canadian WWI veteran
Fyodor Kent (David Fox) and his estranged son Chester Kent (Mark
McKinney) whose name is taken from the character played by James Cagney
in the 1933 Berkeley-choreographed Footlight Parade and who also has
dreams of Broadway grandeur. The two Kents had competed for Helen's
hand years before and both played a part in her disfigurement; now, the
legless lady of lager holds a contest in the middle of worldwide
Depression, asking: which country produces the saddest music? Not only
do father and son both compete for the prize of $25,000, representing
Canada and America, but another son, now representing Serbia, returns
to compete as well. This is Roderick, aka Gravillo the Great (Ross
McMillan), cellist extraordinaire, who has lost his wife and son
(prompting the quote about tears and heart above) and who now wishes to
compete for the prize and atone for Serbia's role in starting WWI.
Unbeknownst to him, though, his wife Narcissa (Maria de Medeiros) has
not merely run off, but through amnesia and typically outrageous
Maddinian coincidence is now the girlfriend of his brother.
The musical sequences are generally quite amusing, and not only offer
elements of the backstage Hollywood style but also a game-show format
reminiscent of cheesy TV programs like The Gong Show - presided over by
the thumbs up/down of the beer baroness, and announced for the radio by
a pair of effusive sportscaster types - most of the real poignancy that
is actually apparent in some of the performances is undercut by all of
this lunacy, as well as regular scenes of audience members enjoying the
sponsor's beverage in large quantities - and regular dunkings of the
winners in each one-on-one elimination contest in a huge vat of suds.
I could go on at length about the absurdities of the plot, but I think
you get the drift; what's fascinating to me is how the sexual intrigues
and the whole baroque strangeness of the basic situation - worldwide
musical competition during the Depression, set in Winnipeg in the
winter - seems to refract the Canadian sense of provincialism and
dependency on America. Of course such an event could never, would never
have happened, not in Winnipeg of all places - but of course when
Maddin invents it, and offers it as a lens through which to filter the
American fantasy-world of the backstage musical of the era, it all
seems to make some kind of crazy sense; and though the film is for the
most part quite funny and absurd it gains a strange kind of power as it
builds towards an apocalyptic climax, and I for one found myself
thinking a few sad thoughts to go with the smiles of gratitude at the
masterpiece Guy Maddin had made for me.
Presented on the excellent MGM DVD with two making-of documentaries
that are both solid, and three shorts, "A Trip to the Orphanage",
"Sombra Dolorosa", and "Sissy Boy Slap Party"..
Tunechifan237 watch L.A. Confidential movie
Awesome movie, at first wasn't sure but turned out to be okay.
gamer745 watch The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button movie
it make want to cry a lot, man.
katy2 watch Risky Business movie
Master and Commander is awesome..
katy2 watch Songcatcher movie
Love actually is a film by?.
yersin watch Magicians movie
this is a great film of guy maddin.
but highly derivative of David Lynch, especially his 'Industrial Symphony'
and short film
in the Lumier collection (the name escapes me now). Also has the absurdist
humor that Lynch displays in "The Cowboy and the Frenchman". While I
and enjoyed this film, I think he would do better if he just stopped aping
I would recommend this, but would advise them to seek out better and more