Grae Drake
Keyhole Review

Grae's Rating:



Try as I may to come up with a theory, I have no idea what Guy Maddin's latest film is about. I was able to determine that Jason Patric is Ulysses, a gangster-type guy whose family is dysfunctional (to say the least), and whose sexual and interpersonal issues have consumed him. He spends the night running around his house, apparently trying to find his wife while dragging around a girl (Brooke Palsson) who drowned. Or is going to drown. Or something.

Farther past that, it gets murkier and murkier because it's impossible to tell who's alive or who's a fever dream. His wife Hyacinth (Isabella Rossellini), seems dead and ghostly, as she constantly disappears and reappears wearing a selection of flowing sheer gowns. He has an entire family that he doesn't recognize, perhaps because one of them "plays Yahtzee" in the closet with his private parts and another allows himself to be kidnapped and tied up by bad guys. And his family doctor is Udo Kier, who is still making house calls even though he has had a really bad day.

Guy Maddin's films are always mental calisthenics, which I am a big proponent of, but this one seems more unintelligible than usual. Although this effort is an impressive jumble of set design, costuming (for all the people who aren't running around naked, anyway), and expressionistic lighting and camerawork, it really just comes off as what happens at the Haunted Mansion once all the tourists are gone. Except less fun. Think back to any parody of an independent foreign film you've ever seen--entirely in black and white, a shot of a chandelier swinging, a waif in a corset throws a glass of wine in the fire, an aged naked man whips a scullery maid, and then there's a canted close up of the protagonist's face and he whispers "Lies." That's sort of what this entire film is like.

To everyone reading who now sees me as an uncultured buffoon, well, I would respond to you if I weren't so busy making a wallet out of duct tape and guzzling some Schlitz malt liquor. At least I understand that the movie is chock full of literary references and enough Freudian imagery to make Jung spin in his grave--I just remain unable to make it cohere into anything meaningful. I get the impression that this is the kind of movie that actors sign on to do just to seem smart, and then quietly ask each other what the hell it's about. Or maybe I'm just trying to make myself feel better.

If you choose to enjoy this AP Literature teacher's dream, you can enjoy Grandpa naked and chained up, alternately forlorn and delighted by all the members of his household. Jason Patric constantly pulls strands of hair through keyholes (hello, title!), Kevin MacDonald (of Kids in the Hall fame) is rewarded for his persistence in trying to have sex with a ghost maid, Isabella Rosssellini gets a message from Calypso that her daughter's head is underneath the forget-me-nots, and there's a penis mounted on the wall that is covered in cobwebs. Thankfully, when it's dusted off, it gives a twitch of delight. Seeing the movie is a visual treat, and the journey to understand it a little less so--if you happen to catch it and can help me understand it, please let me know.


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