‘Over the course of a career that has spanned nearly two decades and 25 films, both short and feature, filmmaker Guy Maddin has provided his viewers with more than their fair share of unique, cinematic moments. To provide just one example, in Tales from the Gimli Hospital (1988), his first feature film, the audience is allowed to watch as one of the director’s many eccentric characters, a male who is attempting to make himself more attractive to the ladies relaxing on a nearby beach, disappears behind a dilapidated building, troubled that his hair is dry and in such a mess. At this point, the audience may expect that some grooming is in order, but most first time viewers could never predict how such a grooming process will eventually unfold. Out of sight from the women, the character manages to find a shiny, dead fish, which he then squeezes frantically over his head, until its guts are wretched open, spilling fish oil all over the man’s hair. The character soon reemerges, hair slicked back and full of fish oil. He is now ready to properly swoon the ladies still lying on the sands of Gimli beach.
‘Keeping such a distinct image of a fish in mind, it may be appropriate to consider the career of Maddin in relation to the old cliché about the size of a fish as being relative to the size of the pond that it lives in. In the pond of the Manitoba film industry, he is easily the biggest fish there is. Since making his first short in 1986, titled The Dead Father, Maddin’s reputation has, for the most part, only continued to grow with each subsequent project. The fact that he has remained a resident of his hometown, the provincial capital of Winnipeg, throughout his entire life, has only added to his recognition as a Manitoba filmmaker.
‘Within the pond that is the Canadian film industry, Maddin as fish becomes a bit smaller, having to make room for bigger fish that arrived before him, such as David Cronenberg as well as filmmakers that emerged on the scene at around the same time as Maddin, but have perhaps managed to achieve more far reaching success, at least in their attempts to capture both an international audience, as well as international, critical recognition. Atom Egoyan would be the most obvious example of a successful contemporary director who lives and works in Canada, but whose recognition extends well beyond Canada’s borders.
‘That said, Maddin’s exposure has grown considerably in the past few years. In 2000, as part of the Toronto Film Festival’s twentieth anniversary celebration, 20 Canadian filmmakers, including Maddin, Cronenberg, and Egoyan, were each commissioned to make a short film. The resulting twenty shorts randomly played before feature films throughout the entire festival. By the festival’s conclusion, Maddin’s short, titled The Heart of the World, a six minute, furiously edited, black-and-white masterpiece, was considered by many festival goers and critics to have been not only the best short to play at that year’s festival, but to have been the best film of any length to play during the entire festival run. Since the release of The Heart of the World, he has continued to work steadily, completing several short films, as well as a pair of feature films, one of which is to be released later this year. Co-written by Maddin’s long-time writing partner, George Toles, as well as Kazuo Ishiguro, Booker Prize winning author of The Remains of the Day, The Saddest Music in the World (2003), may well turn out to be the film that shows the world what many Manitobans and Canadians, as well as several cinephiles and professional film critics from around the world, have already known for years: that Guy Maddin is one of the most original, important filmmakers working today, regardless of geography or genre.
‘Born in 1956, Maddin seemed destined to live a life that would breed uniqueness and eccentricity at every turn. His father was a prominent hockey coach, as well as the business manager of Canada’s national team, while his mother ran a beauty salon named Lil’s Beauty Shop. And so, Maddin would spend many of his childhood days at either the Winnipeg Arena, seeing some of hockey’s all-time greats both in practice and behind-the-scenes, or else he could be found playing with his older brother and friends at his mother’s beauty salon. Even the way that Maddin tells stories about himself and his family, from receiving a piggy-back ride from Bing Crosby, to getting a cold from a cousin that resulted in a neurological infection and the permanent, persistent sensation of feeling like he is constantly being touched by ghosts all over his body, to finding out that his father was blinded in one eye as a child, because his father’s mother had attempted to hold her son against her breast, but had accidentally poked his eye out with the pin from an open broach, indicates that Maddin either possesses an especially keen eye for life’s little oddities, or else he has genuinely experienced what many people would consider an existence filled with extreme unusualness.
‘When Maddin was still a young boy, his older brother committed suicide, and while he does not often talk about it, suicide has certainly become a prominent theme that runs throughout his body of work. For that matter, fathers with missing eyes also frequently appear as characters in Maddin’s films, and so, no matter how fictional and exotic the director’s landscapes may seem, they are often fused with pieces of his own autobiographical history.
‘After graduating with a degree in economics from the University of Winnipeg, Maddin worked as both a bank teller, as well as a house painter, while meeting people whose friendships would serve him well, especially in terms of being able to eventually get his first films made and distributed. As fellow Winnipeg filmmaker, John Paizs, tells it, Maddin and himself would spend entire weekends at the house of fellow friend Steve Snyder, before any sort of formal film school existed in Winnipeg, and would watch hours upon hours of films on videotape and 16mm projection. Eventually, Paizs would go on to make several excellent short and feature films of his own (Springtime in Greenland , Crimewave ), while Snyder would go on to teach film studies as a professor in what would eventually become the University of Manitoba’s film studies department.
‘Even as Maddin was watching his friends make and teach about films, he had yet to make any sort of film on his own. However, in 1985, with the creation of a cable access television show, titled Survival!, in which Maddin played a character named “Concerned Citizen Stan”, while acting alongside his eventual producing partner, roommate, and friend, Greg Klymkiw, the seeds of his creativity began to show some definite signs of life. That same year, Steve Snyder, after screening several shorts that he had made while attending a filmmaking school in San Francisco, California, told Maddin that with the right equipment, he too could make a film just like the ones he had just seen. And so, Maddin finally decided that it was time to write and direct a film that he could call his very own.
‘The resulting film, a 26 minute short, titled The Dead Father, is by far Maddin’s clunkiest work, in terms of both technical prowess and narrative smoothness, and yet, at the same time, the film does not come across as the work of someone who had never written a screenplay or touched a camera before making it. In fact, with his first film, he managed to lay down the framework for so much of what would become his later, consistent style. In The Dead Father, he reveals an obsession with black-and-white cinematography, an interest in opening his films with a series of constantly moving shots—a technique that he has continued to employ in several of his subsequent works—as well as the use of only a singular light source to illuminate his shots. Maddin has actually said that the rationale behind many of these choices is quite simple. By repeatedly opening his films with a moving camera, he easily gets the viewer’s attention from the first shot of the film. As far as lighting is concerned, Maddin has admitted that while he tried to use the traditional three-key lighting set-up that so many first time filmmakers read about in technical handbooks, while making his first film, all that he would end up with were three shadows of one nose on each actor’s face. Since then, he has employed a single light source technique in most of his films, or at least the illusion of a single light source.’ — Jason Woloski
Guy Maddin’s Site
Guy Maddin @ IMDb
Guy Maddin on his surreal seances and sexploitation remakes
‘Vertigo’ Revisited: Guy Maddin Explores Hitchcock’s Classic With Found Footage
Lost in the Funhouse: A Conversation with Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson
THE QUINTESSENTIAL GUY MADDIN
The Sharp Amnesias of Guy Maddin
The Cinema of Guy Maddin
« La Chambre interdite » : les fantômes de Guy Maddin
Guy Maddin on The Saddest Music in The World and His Interactive Seances
Guy Maddin: ‘I wanted to cure myself of myself’
Guy Maddin interviewed @ The Quietus
Guy Maddin Talks About ‘The Artist’ Stealing His Thunder as a Silent Film Director
Guy Maddin interviewed @ The Believer
A Fairy Tale Childhood
Guy Maddin talks about blurring fact, fiction, yesterday, and tomorrow
Monochrome melodramatist Guy Maddin revives himself with a shot of colour
Seances: Guy Maddin’s film generator is an endless cinematic experience
Guy Maddin: The most accessible film avant-gardist
Extending a Sense of Malfunction
From a Safe Distance: Guy Maddin Stills His Lens with Collage
Guy Maddin on Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
Guy Maddin Documentary – Waiting for Twilight
Guy Maddin: My Dad is 100 Years Old
Guy Maddin talks about his editing style
Guy Maddin’s DVD Picks
Guy Maddin Interview (Excerpt)
CE: What are the Hauntings?
Guy Maddin: Hauntings are film narratives that haunt me. In most cases, they are films lost to film history. About 80% of all silent films ever made are lost. Films made in the art form’s early years were poorly stored in less than ideal conditions. The years often turned these movies into a vinegar-smelling gelatin. Just as often, silent film product was cleared off a studio’s shelves and destroyed – in staff picnic bonfires or by getting dumped in the ocean – just to make room for the next year’s product. If the films survived either of these fates, a shipping error or projection booth holocaust would consign a print to oblivion. Canonical and not-so-canonical films alike were lost in this fashion. Sometimes a director would go mad and destroy his or her own work, or simply leave it on a subway train or a stranger’s doorstep, abandoned like a baby in a dumpster, vaguely hoping perhaps someone might find it and make a good home for the unwanted thing. No matter how, pictures got lost. These are the film narratives with no known final resting place. They are doomed to wander in limbo over the murkiest landscapes of cinema history, no one ever quite recognizing them, no one ever getting anything more than a fleeting fragmentary glimpse of these sad narratives. They are miserable, haunting… and haunting. These films haunt me because I need to see them and I can’t. Some of these films are by Murnau (who made ten now lost films), Hitchcock, Lang, Warhol, Frampton, Tourneur – even Terrence Malick has a short film – made in his youth – that is only rumored to have been screened. All these titles haunt me.
I figured the only way I could satisfy my compulsion to see these narratives would be to remake them myself. I decided I could invoke them in séance-like conditions produced in a dark studio atmosphere. I could make my own short-film adaptations from synopses or reviews I’d dug up concerning the lost films during nocturnal researches into the subject. My partner Evan Johnson and I dug up over 200 titles of lost films. In addition, I realized that I was also haunted by aborted, mutilated and unrealized movies that cram the bloody margins of film history. Therefore, we included some especially powerful titles that fell under this banner, ones whose non-existence tortured us most. Then we decided to make them all.
CE: In total, how many lost, unrealized and aborted film ideas have you and Evan Johnson uncovered?
GM: We have found exactly 1024. We took that number as a sign to quit looking because there are 1024 megabytes in a gigabyte. That’s got to be good luck!!!
CE: That is clear and precise logic, pure and simple. What are some of your favourite lost, unrealized or aborted films that you have uncovered?
GM: I love Oscar Micheaux, who worked from the late teens till the 40s during last century. He is often described as the black Ed Wood (unfairly, to both Micheaux and Wood). Micheaux would finance his films by selling bibles door-to-door. He would show the films by four-walling them, namely, by renting out space in which to project his films, then he both sold and redeemed tickets himself. He made a living in this fashion and also struggled to get the first films made entirely by African-American producers, writers, crew and actors out into the world. Alas, so many of his titles are gone, probably lost forever. I needed, needed, desperately needed to see these films and finally, sadly, came to the conclusion that in order to see them I would have to remake them myself. Most of his films involved moral conflicts endured by African Americans who can pass for white and therefore were free from racism, but in doing so they always would leave loved ones behind. It is endlessly fascinating and painful stuff. Since I decided that hauntings are race and gender-blind, the stories are reconfigured – by Robert Kotyk, Evan Johnson and myself – so that characters who once passed for white are now passing for something else altogether. I love the sudden elasticity of this metaphor for passing – very Douglas Sirk. I’m not trying to steal the African-American film away from Micheaux and keep them in my greedy white hands; I just want to honour the great man without resorting to literal imitation while exploring the possible stretch quotient of his plots and metaphors. I think Douglas Sirk was already onto this idea that everyone passes, or attempts to pass, in his Imitation of Life (1959). Utterly fascinating!
CE: Although I don’t feel this question is really relevant in 2011, I’m sure there is at least one film student or bureaucratic minded reader who is just dying to know, do you think there will be any rights issues?
GM: No, not really.
CE: Speaking of asking for permission, did John Waters ever give you permission to make any of his lost, unrealized or aborted films. I would love to see Water’s aborted Dorothy, The Kansas City Pothead!
GM: No, and he kept evading the issue when I brought it up over and over during my Border Crossings interview with him. He’s slippery that way. I don’t blame him for not wanting another director to make his unrealized or lost pictures, especially if that filmmaker is me! I don’t want to mess with any living directors anyway. They have feelings, they’re much more easily hurt than the dead.
CE: On that note, although you are paying homage to the original directors, you are still altering their intended vision. Do you feel that the original directors may be haunted by your version of their film?
GM: I don’t believe in ghosts normally, but when I hold a camera in my hands I do. I hope my re-filming of their work disturbs them, however, I’m merely paying homage to a dead spirit, through an act of fraudulence, through a mountebank’s séance, by invoking an artificial facsimile of that dead object. I’m as big of a charlatan as the most crooked medium who ever duped a grieving relative. Winnipeg’s famous dabbler in the occult, Dr. Hamilton, started out trying to contact his dead son. Somewhere he quit trying to do that and instead turned all his energies to fooling or enchanting others. The séance reminds me of filmmaking in that respect. Genuine emotions can be sought and earned even though the work of a charlatan. We all know that film is an artifact of artifice, a species of a lie.
CE: Given that filmmakers are prone to deceiving, have you stumbled across any filmography padding?
GM: Some people think that Hollis Frampton never made Clouds Like White Sheep (1962) and that he just made up both its existence and its loss on that NY streetcar. I chose to reshoot it anyway since I am just as haunted by its possible existence as I am by its possible loss.
CE: I even conjecture that some supposedly lost films are actually not in fact lost. For instance, I recently uncovered a few of James Benning’s erotic films that are considered “lost”, namely Gleem (1974) and An Erotic Film (1975). Since these are the only films in his entire filmography – in addition to 57 (1973) – that have been lost, something tells me this was intentional. Have you ever wanted to lose any of your films?
GM: I have lost a few of my films. I melted the only tape of my 1995 TV exercise The Hands of Ida at a picnic. Too bad, it had a few good friends in it, but I needed to destroy it in a black magic ceremony because this was the first film I made strictly for money ($5000), and the first film I made with producer Ritchard Findlay. This film triggered the first profound depression of my life – all these damned good reasons for throwing the cassette into Satan’s flaming asshole. I had a great time making the movie, but all too often one has a great time doing business with Satan. Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (1997) should really be lost as well, although I am happy to have met two great characters while working on it – Shelley Duvall and Frank Gorshin. If I had made a play with them instead I still could have gotten to know them and there would be no aide memoire linking me to such a terrible time.
CE: Twilight is easily my least favourite of your work, however, it might have actually worked better as a play. On the other hand, The Heart of the World (2000) is my favourite of your films, in fact, it is easily one of my favourite films. Wasn’t Heart of the World a partially realized Abel Gance film? Have you found any of his other lost films?
GM: Yes. Making Heart of the World was my way of seeing the partially lost Gance film La Fin du monde (1931). It exists in highly mutilated form. Also, my short film Odilon Redon (1995) was my attempt at remaking what I thought was a lost Gance film, La roue (1923). I later found out that the film was never actually lost, it just wasn’t available on VHS. Gance has a number of lost films and a number of unrealized projects since he was considered far too mad to trust with money, so his grandest visions went unrealized.
CE: Who will be acting in the Hauntings?
GM: I’m hoping to get a rep company of actors in each city. In Paris, I’ll have 20 French actors, plus Louis Negin. In NY, I’ll have 20 New Yorkers, plus Udo Kier! I will cast these people out of my pool of FaceBook friends. I hate headshots, but I love FB photo albums. One can learn a lot about a way a person will look on film by looking through thousands of snaps taken during drunken frat parties.
CE: Are you still using Sparks in a Haunting?
GM: Ron and Russell Mael – the brothers who make up the pop group Sparks – were been hand picked by Jacques Tati to replace the Hulot character played for so many years by Tati himself. Hulot was to be killed off in a film called Confusion, and the Maels were to run a TV station in the manner of Hulot. Negotiations between Tati and Maels reached the point of press conferences and then suddenly Tati died and the project was aborted. The Maels describe this cancellation as the biggest disappointment of their lives. I’d feel the same. I thought it would be great to invoke the spirit of the Tati, but not the litigious script written by the master himself, and set a little fragmentary story in a TV station and star the Maels in it. My director of photography Ben Kasulke has already shot the Mael portions of the movie. Look for them on TV monitors in the shot-in-Winnipeg tribute!
CE: The Hauntings were originally intended to be directed by emerging directors in a Warhol-esque factory setting in Winnipeg. Is this still happening?
GM: No. But you’re right that my original intention was to make 130 of these things in a big communal and Utopian factory set-up, whereby deputized filmmakers would be shooting the bulk of the films under strict orders to obey my precise list of style commandments. I embarked on this mad enterprise in the summer of 2010 when I was also shooting my feature film Keyhole (2011). I felt the two projects, Keyhole and the Hauntings, were one and the same project. There were aesthetic reasons for making the two massive projects simultaneously. It was a mad, mad, madly naïve idea of mine that five or six handpicked filmmaking colleagues could make twelve films a day after a mere one hour drill on the six basic points of my visual manifesto. Perhaps I was self-destructive, eventually I awoke to the damage I was doing to the Hauntings by spreading my attentions so thin. I suspended the reshooting of these precious lost films until a time in the future when I’d be more ready for the campaign.
CE: What is happening with what has already been shot?
GM: Well, my editor John Gurdebeke cut 11 of them into little installations designed to haunt the new Bell Lightbox building that TIFF just built for its wonderful festival. I convinced Noah Cowan, the building’s director, that the space was far too new to show films in, and that it needed to be spooked with restless spirits from the musty pasts of film history. He agreed and paid me a nice big commission. I ended up by giving him 11 Hauntings to project during that building’s first few months. Now the place already feels lived in, a bit more mysterious than it would have been otherwise. The 30 other films that were reshot in 2010 remain in storage. I have no definite plans for them. I might lose them on purpose, or abort work on them, thus producing a double haunting – an aborted aborted film, a lost lost film or unrealized unrealized.
Either way, I’m going to start over completely and reshoot everything that was already reshot in 2010. In some cases, there will be many different, reconfigured versions of a lost film. It has been our plan all along to shoot alternate versions of each movie, as if its spirit couldn’t quite remember what form it should take. In other cases, the lost films had many different versions in the first place. For instance, Murnau’s most famous lost film, 4 Devils (1928), had four different endings shot – a different character killed in each denouement. We’ve already shot a different 4 Devils, and now as I am reminded of that wonderful story, I think I’ll double or triple the variations. I don’t think any medium has every guaranteed a crystal clear communication with a dead beloved, why should my precious lost films be literally the same in the afterworld as they were on earth?
21 of Guy Maddin’s 55 films
The Dead Father (1985)
‘Guy Maddin’s The Dead Father is a superb short film and his first. In only twenty-six minutes, it etches a portrait of familial strife and neurotic obsession that’s as poignant as incisive as any that cinema has to offer outside of Bergman. That flattering description doesn’t exactly do the film justice, however, since it neglects to mention the stylistic adventurousness and quirky sensibilities that are found here. Shot in black-and-white, the movie feels like a low budget 50’s era melodrama, complete with minor technical imperfections. The quality of the picture has been artificially degraded, and the sound fades in and out, demonstrating an analogue uncertainty. The effect of these stagy flaws becomes startlingly emotional when the subject matter of the movie is considered. The film’s unnamed protagonist (designated only as “The Son”) narrates the film, reminiscing about his deceased father, who wouldn’t quite stay dead when he was supposed to. Like the work of fellow surrealist David Lynch, Maddin encapsulates the overbearing presence of the father figure by loading the screen with 50’s nostalgia. Since the oppressors (fathers) believed in the power of 50’s melodrama to provoke emotion and the power of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to nourish, their presence here next to the beleaguered son seems downright ominous. More than most filmmakers, Maddin has the ability to recognize the archetypes of cinema and pop culture, and then turn them upside down and against us in a pointed attack.’ — Movie Martyr
Tales from the Gimli Hospital (1988)
‘Guy Maddin’s outrageously bizarre debut was one of the big hits of the 1980s midnight movie circuit. Reckless envy, unconsummated passions and necrophilia set the tone for these surreal tales shared by two patients confined during a turn-of-the-century smallpox epidemic.’ — Zeitgeist Films
the entire film
‘Deep in Russian snows, peg-leg Canadian soldier Boles, pining for his lost Iris, is billeted in Archangel with the family of the lovely Danchuk; but the addled Boles ignores Danchuk’s feelings for him in favour of mysterious Veronkha, whom he mistakes for Iris, although she is really the spurned wife of a faithless Belgian aviator… Confused? No matter; so are the characters in this absurdist melodrama. Maddin’s second feature is pitched straighter than Tales from the Gimli Hospital, but is every bit as inspired and patchy. Pastiche remains to the fore, with Maddin’s acute sense of camp more historically motivated than before. Complete with hieratic ’20s-style acting, the film is an extravagant mélange of All Quiet on the Western Front, Eisenstein and DeMille, all the more impressive for its cut-price mise en scène. The war scenes are extraordinary, although thrown in far too liberally; even better are the daft tableaux vivants which seem to comprise Archangel’s only entertainment.’ — Time Out
‘Guy Maddin’s early masterpiece takes place in a 19th-century Alpine village where the wary residents —adult, child and animal!—must speak softly and tread lightly lest they cause an avalanche. But sexual frenzies teem in this world of repression, setting off incestuous love triangles and quadrangles with deadly consequences. Bathed in lurid, luminescent tints, Careful resembles a vintage melodrama from another planet—something that could only emerge from the singular mind of Maddin.’ — Zeitgeist Films
Odilon Redon or The Eye Like a Strange Balloon Mounts Toward Infinity (1995)
‘Weird and wonderful oddity from remarkable Canadian auteur Guy Maddin which, at six minutes, lasts only slightly longer than it takes to say the title. It refers to a little-known 19th-century French surrealist painter and one of his works. Maddin uses the painting as inspiration for a strange fantasy about father-and-son rivalry over the affections of an underwater train-crash survivor. He uses his trademark distressed film stock and silent cinema pastiche to mess with your head even more.’ — Metro.co.uk
the entire film
The Hands of Ida (1995)
‘Hands of Ida is a half-hour TV drama which Maddin directed for hire and is probably the worst thing he ever made. In revenge for the rape and murder of a girl named Ida, a group of radical women go about surgically castrating randomly kidnapped men. A bickering pair of former lovers who work for a market research company conduct an implausible opinion survey to find out how people feel about what’s going on. The script is ridiculous and the acting amateurish in what is, to date, Maddin’s only attempt at a contemporary story set in the supposedly “real” world.’ — mr_avid
Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (1997)
‘Twilight of the Ice Nymphs is the dream-struck fantasia of Peter Glahn, a political prisoner returning after several hard years of incarceration, to his homeland of Mandragora where the sun never sets. While traveling by boat, he spends a few precious minutes in the enticing and rarefied company of Juliana (Pascale Bussières), a beauteous young woman with whom he falls desperately and immediately in love. He disembarks to find a veritable ronde of romance brewing in the smouldering passions of sun addled Mandragora: his ostrich-farming sister Amelia (Shelley Duvall) is sick with heartache for the mesmerist Dr. Solti (R.H. Thomson), who with a greedy and voluminous passion, seeks the favours of both Zephyr (Alice Krige), a fishermans widow now married to the forest, and the statue of Venus recently uncovered and mounted imperiously on a hilltop. Zephyr gives herself to Peter upon his arrival, but he can think of no other than Juliana and her strange connection to the haughty Dr. Solti. Amelia, driven to distraction by her unrequited passion for the Doctor as well as by the unwelcome attentions and misguided vengeance of her handyman, Cain Ball (Frank Gorshin), loses her reason and spirals into homicidal madness, gravely injuring Cain. Peter is also maddened by his unrequited love for Juliana and the way in which it is constantly thwarted by the wily Doctor, and so the story goes .’ — Winnipeg Film Group
The Heart of the World (2000)
‘Maddin pulls out all the stops in this dreamlike, hyperkinetic tribute to silent films. ‘The Heart of the World” could easily have been a throwaway film, given the circumstance of its origin. The Toronto Film Festival commissioned Maddin to make a brief film to fill a gap in their programming schedule. A mere time-passer. What Maddin gave them was utterly unexpected. Maddin uses large-grain film stock and Klieg-style lighting techniques to replicate the look of silent film. Maddin’s production design (costumes, makeup, hairstyling) impeccably recreates the images of that period. It’s easy to believe that ‘Heart of the World’ is actually compiled from old UFA out-takes, circa 1925. Only just occasionally does Maddin’s grasp on the 1920s show the joins, and then those lapses are probably intentional. ‘The Hearts of the World’ depicts the rivalry of two brothers. Nikolai is an idealist engineer. Osip is playing Jesus Christ in a passion play, and seems to have developed a genuine messiah complex. Amusingly, Osip does his Jesus routine whilst toting a cross made from metal girders … an Art Deco crucifixion!’ — Shorts Bay
the entire film
Hospital Fragment (2000)
‘The attempts of a young man (Neale) to consummate his love for a young woman (Heck) are thwarted by a fish monger (Fehr). The woman’s beloved (Gottli) cuts bark fish.’ — Winnipeg Film Group
the entire film
Dracula, Pages Tirées Du Journal D’Une Vierge (2002)
‘After garnering widespread acclaim with his mini-masterpiece THE HEART OF THE WORLD, Canadian cult auteur Guy Maddin concocted his most ravishingly stylized cinematic creation to date. Beautifully transposing the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s interpretation of Bram Stoker’s classic vampire yarn from stage to screen, Maddin has forged a sumptuous, erotically charged feast of dance, drama and shadow. The black-and-white, blood-red-punctured DRACULA: PAGES FROM A VIRGIN’S DIARY is a Gothic grand guignol of the notorious Count and his bodice-ripped victims, fringed with the expressionistic strains of Gustav Mahler.’ — Fandor
Fancy, Fancy Being Rich (2002)
‘Silent, surreal short about drunk sailors hunting women, based on a kitsch opera aria.’ — iffr
the entire film
Cowards Bend the Knee (2003)
‘According to the feverish dream logic of the very first shot of the faux-silent film Cowards Bend the Knee, an insidiously entertaining bit of whimsy courtesy of Guy Maddin, all of life’s melodrama can be found within a single drop of sperm, so wash those cum rags at your own aesthetic risk. Cowards might not be the first time Maddin, Canada’s own titan of twee avant garde cinema, has focused his vision down to its most basic elements. (Most seem to agree that his five-minute The Heart of the World is his masterpiece.) But it is undeniably a much purer representation of his “devil may care” approach to film form than his other, more widely distributed recent film, the amusing but narratively overbaked The Saddest Music in the World. And it’s more insane.’ — Slant Magazine
the entire film
The Saddest Music in the World (2003)
‘The more films you have seen, the more you may love “The Saddest Music in the World.” It plays like satirical nostalgia for a past that never existed. The actors bring that kind of earnestness to it that seems peculiar to supercharged melodrama. You can never catch them grinning, although great is the joy of Lady Port-Huntly when she poses with her sexy new beer-filled glass legs. Nor can you catch Maddin condescending to his characters; he takes them as seriously as he possibly can, considering that they occupy a mad, strange, gloomy, absurd comedy. To see this film, to enter the world of Guy Maddin, is to understand how a film can be created entirely by its style, and how its style can create a world that never existed before, and lure us, at first bemused and then astonished, into it.’ — Roger Ebert
A Trip To The Orphanage (2004)
‘While an opera singers sings in a snowy and cold street, we are allowed to witness a meeting between a man and a woman through blowing net curtains. The music is touched by sadness and the emotions of the characters are no different. Nearer they become while the singer sinks deeper into the melancholy.’ — letterboxd
the entire film
Sombra dolorosa (2004)
‘“Sombra Dolorosa” returns us to more familiarly comic Maddin territory, with a deranged plot, hysterical intertitles (“to save your daughter you must defeat… El Muerto!!”), and the same psychotic editing that characterized Cowards Bend The Knee. It tells the story of a bereaved widow who must defeat death in a wrestling match, before an eclipse arrives, in order to save her daughter from suicide (“FROM SUICIDE!”, the titles remind us). After bodyslaming El Muerto into submission, however, the rules suddenly change. Now, Death must eat her husband’s corpse before the sun comes up, or he’s forever lost! Meanwhile, inconsolate daughter Delores decides to kill herself anyway by throwing herself into a river, but a good Samaritan saves her. It all ends happily (?) with the father’s ghost entering a mule to wander the world.’ — 366 Weird Movies
the entire film
Sissy-Boy Slap-Party (2004)
‘I made this film as part of a teaser campaign to help promote The Saddest Music in the World. I like to think it merely promoted more slapping. Inspiration for the title came from my friend, the author and actor Caelum Vatnsdal, who described to me Sissy-Boy Slap-Party as a game he played frequently with great pleasure and large quantities of salty tears. I kept him on set as a technical consultant to make sure my interpretation of this sport matched his own.’ — Guy Maddin
the entire film
Brand Upon the Brain! A Remembrance in 12 Chapters (2006)
‘In the weird and wonderful supercinematic world of Canadian cult filmmaker Guy Maddin, personal memory collides with movie lore for a radical sensory overload. This eerie excursion into the Gothic recesses of Maddin’s mad, imaginary childhood is a silent, black-and-white comic science-fiction nightmare set in a lighthouse on grim Black Notch Island, where fictional protagonist Guy Maddin was raised by an ironfisted, puritanical mother. Originally mounted as a theatrical event (accompanied by live orchestra, Foley artists, and assorted narrators), Brand upon the Brain! is an irreverent, delirious trip into the mind of one of current cinema’s true eccentrics.’ — The Criterion Collection
‘Short documentary revealing how the sound effects were created for Maddin’s film “Brand Upon the Brain”.’ — Letterboxd
the entire film
‘Keyhole situates itself in the heart of that unconscious where all events are simultaneous and death is never more than a distant rumor. There is less distancing here; the sense of constant and overwhelming incongruity is less comic than mournfully unsettling. We are in some kind of horror movie, or a mash-up of horror movies, as if Carnival of Souls, The Exterminating Angel, A Page of Madness, Castle of Blood, The Invisible Ray, Vampyr, and assorted episodes of The Whistler had all been thrown in the blender. Everything here—dissolves, blurs, superimpositions, harsh lighting contrasts, along with the B-movie poetry of Maddin and George Toles’s screenplay—says to be afraid. Everything is a cue calculated to terrify an unwary 3-year-old. The action is nominally centered on some gangsters holed up with their hostages in a house under siege. The living are to be separated from the dead, but one way or another they’re all dead, ghost outlaws holding ghost hostages and themselves held hostage by the house’s resident ghosts, a maid eternally down on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor, a naked old man shackled to a bed (Louis Negin) who also provides a constant voiceover wail of fragmentary revelations.’ — Film Comment
The Forbidden Room (2015)
‘Guy Maddin’s latest creation begins with a bath—and continues as a bath, an immersive plunge into the roiling waters of cinema’s history and its unconscious. Note that I didn’t call The Forbidden Room Maddin’s “latest film,” for this isn’t so much a film as an encyclopedic compendium of cinematic possibilities, a cauldron bubbling over with highly spiced visual and narrative tropes. No apologies for the hyperbolic tone of the above: to wax over-lyrical is simply to enter into the florid, wildly heated spirit of The Forbidden Room. Credited to Maddin as director and Evan Johnson as co-director, this 119-minute marvel is a genuinely experimental experience, at once an imagistic neo-“happening,” a cornucopian overflowing of story, and a materialist rhapsody on the textures of antique film stock—albeit one that happens to have been created 100 percent digitally. The Forbidden Room might be described as a kind of deconstructed portmanteau movie, with its torrential flow of tenuously linked episodes and fragments. The film begins with a portly, avuncular roué (long-standing Maddin regular Louis Negin) saucily discoursing to camera on the best way to take a bath. When you soap yourself, he advises, start at the armpits and work down to the genital area: “Work carefully in ever-widening circles.” The film too proceeds in widening or possibly ever-narrowing circles, following a concentric structure of tales within tales. The bathwater leads—free-associatively, it seems—to another kind of tub, a submarine. Perhaps the sub is present as a microscopic toy within the bathwater, just as the events in Maddin’s faux-autobiographical melodrama Cowards Bend the Knee (03) apparently take place in a drop of sperm viewed through a microscope in the opening sequence.’ — Film Comment
‘Seances presents a new way of experiencing film narrative, framed through the lens of loss. In a technical feat of data-driven cinematic storytelling, films are dynamically assembled in never-to-be-repeated configurations. Alongside other audience members, glide your hands over a screen filled with images, titles, and descriptions, each of which is connected to a unique scene. This is your opportunity to influence what you’re about to see, and the only time the film you create will ever exist. There is only this moment in which to watch it. Seances is the brainchild of award-winning Winnipeg filmmaker Guy Maddin, one of the world’s foremost outré directors. Long haunted by the idea that 80 percent of films from the silent era are lost, Maddin and brothers Evan and Galen Johnson have re-imagined many of these old movies with the express goal of combining and recombining them to create infinite narrative permutations.’ — NACC
p.s. Hey. ** Ferdinand, Hi. Thanks. Cool, I’ll go read your poem asap. Everyone, You can read a new poem by Ferdinand called ‘Dragking’ if you click this. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. I was very, very into psychedelic rock when I was a teen so I ended up with a fairly thorough knowledge of the turf. I’m fond of the Boston psychedelic bands. Can’t say there’s actual greatness there, but their particular blur/take on the genre can be quite charming. ‘Hallelujah’ is definitely ready for a decade-long hands-off period. Very lucky you to get to see that Ottinger in the theater. Cool. I’m so-so about the new Myrkur album, but I haven’t given up yet. I can’t stand Dead Can Dance, so that might be part of the problem. I like Ultimate Spinach. I mean they’re kind of ludicrous, but much charm there. I don’t think they could polish Jefferson Airplane’s shoes, but I get what you mean. I totally understand the protective feeling re: your film before it’s finished, but if you can find someone very trusted who knows what you’re doing and going for, that could be good. I just read your exact same comment about ‘mother!’ on Facebook. Mm, I’m still very unconvinced, although I’m sure curiosity will get the best of me at some point. ** Tosh Berman, Hey. You’re a Vanilla Fudge fan. There aren’t a lot of those still around, so cool. Did you see them live? I did a couple of times. They would press down on the keyboard and hold these chords for what felt like a half an hour. At the time I thought that was shit, but now, post-drone, etc., I wish I could relive those shows just to check. The Music Machine, agreed, really love them and their style. The one black glove thing was awesome. ** _Black_Acrylic, As you probably know, Cromagnon made little sense back in the day and caused almost no ripple, but their stuff sounds right and still ahead now. Great stuff. ** Misanthrope, Hi. As I think you, I never go into haunted houses looking to be scared. I think that would be impossible for me. I’m just interested in how they’re constructed and how their makers stick to the formula or try to reinvent it and stuff. I don’t think I’ve literally ever watched a single episode of any of the American star-making reality shows. I think I could tolerate the French show because the standard French songs the contestants sang were totally foreign and new to me. The American ones seem like they’re all about technically accurate and solid singing with a decent range, and I can’t stand that kind of singing. Listening to it is like the musical equivalent of watching ‘Friends’ reruns or something deadening like that. How was Annapolis, buddy? ** M stephens, Mark! Holy moly, man, it’s been way, way, way too long. How are you? How’s LA and just everything? Miss you a bunch. Love, me. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Cool. I have a theory that the reason Autosalvage couldn’t break through was mostly because their name was a little too square. Spirit remain one of my all-time favorite ever bands. ** Sypha, Hi. HP Lovecraft aren’t such a good band, unfortunately. The Blues Magoos are very cool, though. Excellent about the value pack thing re: Best’s press. I’ll go take advantage in a minute and hope they ship to Europe. Thanks! ** MANCY, Hey! Me too, man, for sure. Especially The Seeds. I love The Seeds. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi, Dóra! Glad you liked the gig. Yeah, I’m very excited about finishing the film. Making the short version will be hellish, I’m sure, because basically it will turn the film into something more normalized and digestible, which I hate, but we have to. Ultimately, it sounds like the ‘games’ meeting went quite well. 2 out of 3 is a pretty good ratio. So, do you think you’ll keep doing that as part of the meetings? My weekend was very quiet, which was nice. Finishing the film really burned me out, so I just hung out and dabbled in stuff and caught up on emails, or started to. I think my arm/shoulder is slightly better, or I’m wishing it is. How did Monday work out for you? ** Jamie, Hey, hey, Jamie! Thanks, man, about the film. Well, there’s a thing you have to do with films, apparently, which is spend a fairly long time submitting it to film festivals and only really showing it in those contexts until/if it gets picked up for distribution. Zac and I want to arrange screenings too like we did with ‘LCTG’, but the producer is in charge of all of that. We’ll have a big meeting to see how that’s going to work this week. First thing will be a screening for the cast and crew here in Paris because they should see it first. Thanks for being thorough with my psychedelic gig. I’m a big psychedelic rock fan from early teenaged years onwards. Friendsound is a very cool fave. Super obscure band and really good. Awesome! Well, I don’t know, I listened to a giant amount of psychedelic rock while on LSD back in the day, and it sure did the trick if memory serves. By January?! No way. Man, that’s awfully lengthy. What is the health issue, if you want to say? You don’t have to say, very of course. Either my neck/shoulder is slightly improving or I’m just pretending it is, I can’t tell yet. I love the sound/story of your novella! That’s the kind of novella I would jump all over if someone told me what it was about. Will you try to publish it or get it out in public at some point? Obviously, I hope so. My weekend was super nothing and quiet, which was fine and probably needed. I hope your Monday is like what the inventor of LSD wanted the drug to be. Huge chocolate cake love, Dennis. ** Chris dankland, Hi, Chris! Cool, I’m so happy the gig helped fill out your weekend. Yeah, the Cromagnon album is a serious keeper. Oh, yeah, the medieval was very big with psychedelic bands. Just adding those references to a song was considered a golden way to make the rock turn trippy. I love The Incredible String Band so much. I was obsessed with them back in the day and saw them play a lot. One of the two bands I was in during my high school years was called Changing Horses after their album of the same name. They’re great. Especially ‘The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter’ and ‘Wee Tam and the Big Huge’, but I even really love their mid-late 70s work that people aren’t as into. Thanks again, pal. Happiest Monday! ** Jeff J, Hi. Man, that sinus thing is a nasty one. So sorry. I hope it’s frittering away. Among the Inland bands? The Golden Dawn’s ‘Power Plant’ album is very good. A case could certainly be made for the self-titled album by The Collectors. The rest of those bands’ albums are spottier. I’m very fond of The Chocolate Watch Band’s album ‘The Inner Mystique’, but I’ve been listening to it occasionally since I was a teen, so I’m not sure how objective I am. Good band. No, The Strawberry Alarm Clock albums have a lot of dreck on them. Joe Byrd’s ‘The American Metaphysical Circus’ is a very interesting album. It’s kind of dated, but it’s quite good. He was a great arranger. He did stellar work with Phil Ochs, and his soundtrack to Agnes Varda’s film ‘Lion’s Love’ is excellent. I wish there were undiscovered psychedelic masterpiece albums out there on a level with ‘After Bathing at Baxters’ or ‘The Family That Plays Together’, but not so much. I think Mad River’s self-titled album is singular and pretty amazing and really ahead of its time. Thanks about the film. Yeah, I’m really psyched! Feel better, buddy. ** Paul Curran, Thanks a lot, Paul! I can’t wait until people can actually see it, and I hope that’ll be soon. Take care! ** Armando, Hi, man. I’m glad you sound like you’re hanging in there. Yeah, you know, I’m not as fatalistic as you are about humanity and goodness. You’ll be probably be among the few people who see the obvious Benning influence on our film, and I really look forward to you getting to see it. I love all of Benning, but my very favorite is an early one, ’11 x 14′. Good day to you! ** Right. Today I give the blog over the wonderful, singular filmmaker Guy Maddin. Proceed re: it as you will. See you tomorrow.