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The Saddest Music in the World
Canada 2003
Directed by Guy Maddin
Running time 99 minutes
Rated M
3 stars

Cross-fertilize L'Age D'Or with The Marx Brothers and add a touch of German Expressionism and sprinkle into the mix some David Lynch and Tim Burton and you might come up with something like Guy Maddin's black musical comedy. Whilst the film with its silent era stiltedness initially suggests the work of a precocious art student, Maddin's work goes back to Tales From a Gimli Hospital which was made in 1988, and unlike most such films, which tend to be heavy on the quotation and parody of earlier works and to trade overmuch on their offbeatedness without achieving a sense of wholeness, this sustains a consistent level of quality throughout. Whilst impressively well-made, both for its budget and in terms of technical realization, visually inventive and with excellent performances from all the cast members how many people will go for its deadpan macabre humour is another matter.

Set in Winnipeg in 1933, brewery owner and double amputee Lady Port-Huntly (Isabella Rossellini) is running a competition offering $25,000 "in Depression era dollars" to the performer of the saddest song. To the contest comes the American Chester Kent (Mark McKinney), his amnesiac lover Narcissa (Maria de Medeiros), Kent's brother Roderick (Ross McMillan) who keeps his son's heart in a jar in his pocket and their father Fyodor (David Fox) who cut off Lady Port-Huntly's legs when drunk. These characters form the nucleus of the drama which is interspersed with excerpts from the musical contest. Rather surprisingly, the screenplay, by Maddin and George Toles, is loosely based on a work Kazuo Ishiguro, who wrote the very different Remains of the Day and who is also credited a collaborator on the screenplay. BH

DVD Extras: 3 short films by Maddin, A Trip To The Orphanage, Sissy Boy Slap Party, Sombra Dolorosa; a worthwhile making-of featurette with interviews with all the principals; the theatrical trailer.

Available from: Force Entertainment




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