Guy Maddin Blogathon: Confessions of a Maddin Newbie

[Part of The Maddin-est Blogathon in the World! Contest Head over to that link for more Maddin-ness.]

Nobody can really tell you what watching a Guy Maddin film is like. Or maybe nobody really tried to tell me. My first Maddin experience was Brand Upon the Brain!, and it was less than a year ago. Despite having heard about Maddin from Marina and Kurt for years, I had no idea what I was getting into. Watching a Maddin film is like jumping into another world, and not just in the way that all cinema is a window into another world. Maddin makes films like none I’ve ever seen before, somewhere on the line between narrative and avant-garde, evoking very early cinema but with a soft edge of surrealism that most primitive films only gain through the degradation of nitrate stock, and infusing that very old style with a preoccupation with memory, repression, and sexual anxiety.

Thinking back now on Brand Upon the Brain! and Careful which I watched soon after is like looking through a mirror filled with murky memories – I remember snatches of Isabella Rossellini’s narration, and matted images harkening back to Maddin’s eponymous character’s childhood. I remember muted colors and highly stylized acting. I remember butler school and a lighthouse. I remember troubling mother issues and ghosts and cats. My memories of the two are not mixed up, because though both use a throwback visual style, they’re very different from each other. But both exist in the hazy nether regions of visual memory rather than as fully-formed narratives. Perhaps that’s appropriate. My memories of Maddin films, even ones I’ve seen within the past several months, approximate Maddin’s own slipstream way of visualizing and editing his films with a dream logic all their own.

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Guy Maddin Blogathon: CAREFUL!

[Part of The Maddin-est Blogathon in the World! Contest Head over to that link for more Maddin-ness.]

Outside of the pitch perfect, six minutes of pure cinematic bliss that is Heart of the World, 1992s Careful is very likely Guy Maddin’s best work – at the risk of splitting hairs, it is for me his best feature length film. A culmination of many of the things which keep film-lovers coming back to the Winnipeg maestro’s work: Melodrama heightened to the high of pure comedy, Freud punchdrunk on a cocktail of speedballs and laudanum, flirtations with genre, and the aesthetic of the primordial days of filmmaking at the turn of the 20th century. Although it should be noted that things are done with a subtle modern editing techniques and executed with more-than-a-hint of the grotesque generally not afforded at the time. When you enter the alien world of Tolzbad, leave reality at the door and soak in image and sound boiled down to an essence before being reconstituted as pure fantasy. The surrealism and idiosyncratic personality of Maddin’s work is often compared of David Lynch, but his idiom of resurrecting and reconstructing forgotten sub (-sub-sub) genres puts him in the vein of Quentin Tarantino with hints towards Powell and Pressburger by way of Fritz Lang and Jim Jarmusch. And lest I be branded some sort of leper for suggesting the first name in the previous comparison, I do not mean to imply the rock-star or mainstream appeal of the ‘Pulp’ director, but the idea of a filmmaker that pleasures himself in a video archives for days, weeks, months on end to soak up the juices of cinema before mixing and batching his own, unique and pleasurable concoction. For those of us who have drunk the Kool-Aid, we feel you should too…

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Cinecast Episode 194 – An Island of Loneliness

 
 
After several weeks of ‘shooting the shit’ and not bothering with the current film releases, we attempt to make up for lost time, and even (mother mercy!) get ahead of the game. This episode is loaded down with SPOILER-style reviews of two films in limited release (there is your fair warning) and one that many are looking forward to this Christmas. But fear not dear listeners, Black Swan is getting wider by the week and Finnish oddity Rare Exports, a delightfully deadpan anti-Christmas kids flick is probably coming to a theatre near you any moment now, hopefully VOD or other distribution channels will follow. The last is the Coen Brothers latest, a re-envisioning of the Charles Portis novel that is similar enough to the 1960s John Wayne movie in story and plot that spoilers are more or less moot. The boys pour on the love of classic westerns as well as experimental looks in the genre from Cat Ballou to Deadwood. And being that years end is just around the corner, it is time for lists once again. All three of us present our TOP FIVE female performances as an appetizer for our ten picks of the year. Some great DVD choices this week lead into a rousing “discussion” (and by discussion, we mean an epic They Live styled “PUT THE GLASSES ON” smackdown with Gamble doing his best Roddy Piper and Andrew assuming the stoic Keith David position) of how ‘interesting’ Michel Gondry’s Green Hornet is for what it is. It is worth staying to the end for that one, even if Kurt throws up his hands in exasperation of the whole argument. Oh, and just to mix things up a little we talk some Terrence Malick and the recently web-release Tree of Life Trailer.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_194.mp3

ALTERNATIVE (no music track):
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_194-alt.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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Bookmarks for Mid August

  • When should a director stop messing with a movie?
    “There are many kinds of re-cuts, created for different reasons, under different circumstances. Whether you consider a second or third or fourth cut valid (or superior) to the first depends on what you liked or disliked about the first cut, and the circumstances that produced that first cut, and what you think was gained or lost in revision.”
  • Lock & Load (Video)
    A video montage-essay on Cinema’s fetish with guns (mostly America, but look for a lot of Johnnie To and John Woo in there too.)
  • Mit Out Sound, Mit Out Solution
    Guy Maddin on Josef von Sternberg: “With this mild mea culpa, von Sternberg was done turning out his pockets. Every interview he did after that, until his death just a few days before Christmas of 1969, was a variation on the theme of “I could tell you the secret of my genius, but upon reflection, I prefer it remain a mystery for the ages.” He’s left it for us to work out, that dumpy, dapper rapscallion, but I can hardly blame him. A mystery as insoluble as this is a gift nearly as great as the films themselves.”
  • ‘Scott Pilgrim’ Versus Itself
    “I don’t want to be the guy arguing that a movie adaptation of a comic book doesn’t do justice to the original comic. I especially don’t want to be the one doing that about Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, because there have already been dark accusations about it being too fanboyish, and I am most definitely a fanboy for Scott Pilgrim the comic book. But the little things that bug me about the movie all ultimately feed into one big complaint: the wonderful treatment of female characters in the comic book gets lost in the transition to the big screen. It’s what happens when you make a big action-filled summer film. But it’s not good that this requires the female characters and their particular relationships to be swept under the rug. ”
  • Half a Century of Making Cars Into Stars
    “There was KITT, the modified Pontiac Firebird Trans Am that protected and talked to David Hasselhoff in the 1980s television series “Knight Rider.” There was the rebuilt and countrified 1921 jalopy that Jed Clampett drove — with Granny in a rocking chair behind him — from the Ozarks to Hollywood in the 1960s series “The Beverly Hillbillies.” And most notably there was the 1955 Lincoln Futura with the bubble top that Mr. Barris and his crew chopped and stretched into a sinister-looking shiny black-and-red crime fighting machine called the Batmobile “In the hall of fame of car customizers, George Barris is No. 1,””
  • Rene Laloux’s Fantastic Planet on Blu-Ray (U.K)
    “I hesitate to use the word ‘surreal’, because it has become so dulled by overuse as to become almost meaningless, but if there was an animated work that warranted such a label, it is this one. Be warned though – the drug-inspired and often highly sexualised designs complete with images of bare-breasted aliens will probably deter the more Victorian-minded from presenting this to their pre-teens as a Disney substitute. This is definitely one to be filed under the category of “adult art animation”.”

 

You can now take a look at RowThree’s bookmarks at any time of your choosing simply by clicking the “delicious” button in the upper right of the page. It looks remarkably similar to this:

Guy Maddin’s KEYHOLE

Kier_Maddin

Way back in 2008, Guy Maddin offered a prelude peak in collaboration with collage artists at his new feature film, Keyhole. Apropos, considering the directors peculiar (and magnificent) style of filmmaking. Well, more details (thanks Marina and Monika!) have surfaced as the production heats up in Winnipeg, the key revelation is his wonderful cast: Jason Patric, Udo Kier, Kevin McDonald and Isabella Rossellini.

It is about bloody time that Udo Kier and Guy Maddin worked together. Yummy!


A gangster (Jason Patric) returns home after a long absence toting a drowned girl, who has mysteriously returned to life, and a bound-and-gagged hostage, who is actually his own teenage son. His odyssey is through his own house one room at a time until he arrives in the boudoir of his wife (Isabella Rossellini.)

All the details can be found here, at the Winnipeg Free Press.

Bookmarks for January 25-26

 
 

You can now take a look at RowThree’s bookmarks at any time of your choosing simply by clicking the “delicious” button to your left. It looks remarkably similar to this:

Guy Maddin Working on New Short Film

Guy MaddinWe love Guy Maddin. Sure, some of his stuff is a little hard to grasp but one thing we can always expect is creativity. Get ready for some more Maddin creativity.

Yesterday Maddin announced that he has a new project on the go in celebration of the NFB’s 70th anniversary. Titled Night Mayor, the film will be a “cinematic riff on the significance of a public film producer.”

In his interview with The Globe & Mail, Maddin explains that he was initially against making the film but was sold after falling in love with some of the material in the NFB’s archives during his research for material for My Winnipeg.

Looks like this will be a quick turn around: Maddin expects to start shooting next week and hopes to have the new short completed and turned over to the NFB by the end of the month. With this timeline, we’re likely to see some new Maddin material in the next few months!

Maddin Inspired My Canada Coming in 2010

Maple LeafI‘m not sure the what sort of reception Guy Maddin had expected for My Winnipeg but I have a suspecting feeling that he never imagined that his personal account of growing up in Winnipeg would have this sort of permeating effect on culture. First it was the UK competition which asked that filmmakers send in 3 minute short films about their hometown (the online contest was sponsored by a Winnipeg tourism group and several U.K. production houses) and now it looks like Maddin’s heartfelt ode is going to spread across the Great White North.

Thanks to Colleen over at 353 Haiku Review who sent over the story, it’s come to my attention that My Winnipeg producer Michael Burns is putting together a project titled My Canada. Working from Maddin’s blueprints, the film will feature Canadian filmmakers creating odes to their own cities and the list of participants is very impressive. Announced so far are internationally acclaimed Canadian filmmakers Atom Egoyan (Victoria), Julia Kwan (Vancouver), Gary Burns (Calgary), Charles Binamé (Montréal), Don McKellar (Toronto), Patricia Rozema (Sarnia), and Thom Fitzgerald (Halifax). It seems that each filmmaker will be creating a full length feature that will then be compiled for special presentation under the My Canada banner.

The films will premiere in Vancouver in 2010 before going on the road on a cross-country tour. I have a feeling Colleen’s right on this one: seems to me this is a tie into the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

I’m not convinced any of the films will be as magical as Maddin’s but it’s exciting to see a film initiative that celebrates Canada from coast to coast. The added fact that some of Canada’s biggest exports are involved helps a fair bit. Here’s hoping that My Winnipeg is also included in the special screenings. It wouldn’t be the same without the film that started it all!