Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10


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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A few evenings with Guy Maddin

I recently rented this Guy Maddin collection, which includes Triumph of the Ice Nymphs, Archangel, and the short The Heart of the World. Maddin is one of my favorite directors (if you haven't checked out any of his work, I suggest that you do right this minute), but I had read such conflicting reviews of this DVD collection that I was particularly interested in checking it out. I wasn't disappointed, at least not intellectually.




Twilight of the Ice Nymphs is Maddin to the extreme; a totally surreal and unreal fantasy about a man, just out of jail, who falls in love with a woman on a boat but has to leave her to return to his sister, who lives on their ostrich farm with a grumpy servant who is trying to kill her, only to fall in love with two woman (one being the original woman) and becoming acquainted with a doctor who lost his leg when a goddess statue. I have been considering that sentence for a few minutes now, and it really is the easiest way to describe the plot. There is both so much and so little to the plot; all the relationships are complicated and intertwining, but nothing really happens.

While the movie takes place in a magical, expansive place where the sun always shines, it seems strangely claustrophobic, as if all these settings were actually the same place. In small clip of a making-of featurette included on the DVD, all the settings were actually in an abandoned Winnipeg factory, which isn't surprising. The epic, spacious quality is reigned in by something inexplicable, but that keeps the movie from being as effective as it should be. The most interesting thing about the film, however, is the complete lack of lead actor Nigel Whitmey's name anywhere in the credits. In the commentary, Maddin reveals that Whitmey had his name taken off the project because Maddin had all his dialogue re-dubbed; if you've ever seen a Maddin film, the dialogue always has its Canadian tongue firmly in its cheek, and Maddin thought that Whitmey was too earnest in his acting. A great, telling anecdote from a great director.




Archangel also concerns a one-legged (motif alert!) Canadian WWI soldier, who becomes obsessed with Veronkha, a woman who has an amnesiac husband and bares an eerie resemblance to the soldier's late wife. The story is less convoluted than Twilight's, and also more effective in Maddin's more traditional style of black and white expressionism. There are parts, as in most of Maddin's films, where I have laughed out loud - Maddin's humor is in full-force here, and really takes you by surprise. The themes of obsessive love and bodily misfunctions are here as well, and make this a good, if somewhat typical, Maddin effort.




Maddin's six-minute 2000 short The Heart of the World is the real reason to get the DVD (although you can see it on youtube here, it doesn't really give it justice). Only six minutes long, but on several 2000 year-end best-of lists, Heart is an homage and gentle satire of silent expressionism. Someone on youtube said, without any prior information, they thought it was the best film made in that era, and I would have thought so myself. It is so spot-on to the time that it's almost scary. The story, about a state scientist (another laugh) who has to pick between three men, is told in a frantic, yet elegant, style. It reminds me of so many silent films I've seen, and yet is fresh and completely contemporary. See it right now.


Twilight: 7/10
Archangel: 8/10
Heart of the World: 9/10

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Comments on "A few evenings with Guy Maddin"

 

Anonymous m said ... (9:28 PM) : 

!!!!!

 

Blogger mike said ... (7:16 PM) : 

i've always been in the major minority in pretty much thinking that Archangel and Twilight of the Ice Nymphs are the best things that Maddin have ever done. I'm still convinced that Archangel is the most "Maddin" film that Maddin will ever make, and the reason that I like Twilight of the Ice Nymphs so much is that it doesn't overly feel like a Maddin film, rather it's entirely it's own beast. Also, to be honest, I've never been too impressed with The Heart of the World, and honestly have never understood why so many people were fawning over it?

 

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