If You’re Sad And Like Beer, I’m Your Lady

maddin.jpgI have this theory about Canadian film makers and it goes like this:

Canada is such a crap place to make films – between the lack of funding, lack of local distributors willing to screen local product, and lack of much of anybody anywhere caring about Canadian films it’s pretty much impossible to get your films made or seen – that those who stick it out are almost invariably people who are incredibly driven by strange and distinctive visions of the world around them. Basically, the “film auteur” is alive and well in Canada at a ratio unheard of anywhere else. I mean, seriously, anybody who’s ever seen a Cronenberg or Egoyan film could never mistake them for anything else. I tried really hard to think of Canadian directors today without looking anything up and could only come up with nine names off the top of my head a shocking seven of whom fit quite comfortably into the auteur mold with the odd men out being Norman Jewison and Ivan Reitman both of whom have worked pretty much exlusively in the US for years. Anyway, all that to say that we may not have many working film makers up here but the ones that we DO have are more often than not pretty darn distinctive.

Enter Guy Maddin. You’ve most likely never heard of this man but he is worshipped as a god in short film circles where his peculiar, wildly surreal, Fritz Lang inspired, hand-cranked, over exposed black and white shorts have been turning heads and blowing minds for years. This is a man steeped in modern irony and absurdism who makes films as though it was still 1930. His new feature – The Saddest Music in the World – opened in limited release in Toronto today and I’m itching to see it. It tells the story of a depression era beer baron – played by Issabella Rosselini – who lost both legs in an accident and had them replaced by clear glass prosthetics filled with frothy lager and is now hosting a contest to discover the saddest music in the world. In Winnepeg. Songwriters gather from around the world, perform their pieces and slide into a giant vat of warm ale. The story also involves a twisted love triangle and an amnesiac nymphomaniac and it’s all shot in a wildly stylized black and white. That’s not good enough for you? Peter Howell – one of the best reviewers in town – just gave it a perfect five out of five star review which you can read here.

Do yourself a favor and check Maddin out if you get the chance … some of his short film work has turned up on those readily available “Short” compilation DVDs … on the Dreams edition, I believe … and the three shorts IFC commissioned to help promote the feature are all available for download here. The Sissy Boy Slap Party is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen …

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