I’m so wary of Guy Maddin. I think it was because I never heard his name until I got to grad school (probably my fault) and so I immediately associated his films with snobbery. However, after I saw his short Sissy Boy Slap Party at a student screening I started to get excited about Maddin.
Not excited enough to worship the ground he walks on like some people I know, but excited enough to rent The Saddest Music in the World and know I want to see more.
Maddin reverts to a silent film style (though still shooting in widescreen, which I think is kind of odd) using grainy black and white photography, out-of-sync sound and occassionally a two color process. While this style was annoying at first (I resented the fact that he was attempting to make his films look old, whereas viewing these silent films in the 20s would have been much cleaner) I think I’m starting to get it. The antique style makes the more modern twists in the stories so funny.
In 1920 a film about young men in underpants slapping each other wouldn’t be so available. Likewise a movie about a woman whose legs are cut off accidentally by a drunken doctor. Maddin borrows elements from old Lon Chaney movies (The Unknown, for example, which he presented at this year’s San Francisco Silent Film Festival) but makes them more explicit. This produces a shocking effect as the form and content are incongruent.
Plus, Isabella Rosselini wears glass legs filled with beer. What can be better than that?