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6/24/2004 -- We offer a pair of DVD reviews focusing on two wonderful pieces of work: the tension-filled 70s classic, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, and the gentle, humorous, The Station Agent. And in light of the release of Fahrenheit 9/11, we take a hard look at the “documentaries” of Michael Moore with, Easy Laughs, Easy Money.

6/14/2004 -- Two new DVD reviews have been posted. We take a look back at the 80s, gay-themed classic, Torch Song Trilogy, and the Oscar-nominated Tom Cruise/Edward Zwick epic, The Last Samurai.

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6/3/2004 -- Take a journey into the past. Thousands of years into the past, with the debut review by Kurt Davis of the prehistoric classic, Quest for Fire.

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FILM REVIEW
Movie Rating:
star
The Saddest Music in the World
Star(s): Isabella Rosselini, Mark McKinney, Maria deMadeiros, David Fox, Ross McMillan
Director: Guy Maddin
Writer(s): Guy Maddin and George Toles, based on an original screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro
Company: IFC Films

The Saddest Music in the World Image by Kate Bobby

It’s 1933 in Winnipeg, “the sorrow capital of the world” and legless beer baroness, Lady Helen Port-Huntley (Isabella Rosselini), has come up with a brilliant scheme. In a nutshell: she will host an international competition, awarding $25,000 to the creator of the saddest music in the world.

As for the idea behind the idea, it is simple. Underwritten by proceeds from Lady Port-Huntly’s very own beer and liquor holdings, the contest will inspire millions in Winnipeg to drink like fish, in turn, encouraging a frenzied end to the Prohibition Era in the States. Port-Huntly’s ad campaign tagline: “If you’re sad and like beer, then I’m your lady.”

If the premise alone hasn’t thrown you, the absurdly and surreally comic The Saddest Music in the World may indeed be your kind of film. That is presuming, of course, that you have a frame of reference for this brand of cinematic experience.

Music’s maker, Guy Maddin, has been creating experimental shorts for well over a decade and taking plenty of top honors for it, too. Unfortunately, all the same, the Winnipeg native has never truly broken past the cult status barrier and its plenty easy to fathom why. But while the wildly funny and visually breathtaking Music could well find Maddin that broader audience he so deserves, even then you’ll find yourself in rarefied company.

Hands down, his films will remain an acquired taste.

As in a dream, Maddin’s Music not so much asks as it forces you to abandon all expectations with regard to its storylines and characters. This disorienting fissure between story and emotion only widens as Maddin delivers a mock-sendup of a vintage Hollywood landscape.

Moreover, since the only rules are no rules, Music is the meeting place for a feverishly tainted tincture of cinematic vocabulary. A tongue-in-cheek salute to German Expressionism links arms with the perky MGM musical. Bunuel meets Orson Wells. Douglas Sirk tips his hat and shows his hand to Preston Sturges. Singin’ in the Rain waltzes with Sir Michael Powell’s Red Shoes. To film buffs, Music is surely a head trip and treasure trove, in one.

Maddin’s cast, too, is clearly in on it, not so much acting as winking at you with what could best be described as the sinister glee of conspiring schoolchildren. Detractors, of course, could write it all off as pretentious, but Maddin is not the precocious wunderkind dressing to impress. If anything, he could be accused of failing to consider an audience at all.

This criticism would also ring hollow, however. Maddin simply rides the ferry all the way across, pursuing film as art, come what may. He fashions unique cinematic universes from old materials he adores. The welcome mat, in truth, has always been out. The door is always open. What we do with the invitation is completely up to us. The best to be expected is that Music will actually open doors for us, granting a wider audience greater access to Maddin’s brave and entirely new cinematic world.

All in all, not a bad thing.

Kate Bobby is a freelance writer and copyeditor living in New York City. You can contact her at leftiek2004@yahoo.com.

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