A long doc, broken into chapters with Guy Maddin collage art in between. Begins in-depth on the unholy trilogy of Wicker Man, Witchfinder General and Blood on Satan’s Claw. Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale comes up, and I should really watch more of those, even though I disliked the first. Pendaâ€™s Fen looks cool, Rawhead Rex as cheesy as I remember it. The 1980’s films attacking heritage: The Company of Wolves, Lair of the White Worm. Paganism and witchcraft, sure. America gets a chapter, featuring Christian cults, and the “Indian burial ground” obsession (colonizers fearing being colonized, having their own homes taken away). Fear of poor people (Deliverance), racist voodoo movies, then positive shouts to Candyman and Ganja & Hess. The Fool Killer sounds cool, both as a movie and a profession. Into the global folk horror chapter, the doc started to feel long – I tuned out during Brazil and Germany, but should prioritize watching The Juniper Tree, maybe a double-feature when the next Robert Eggers film comes out. Also got my second Jacques Derrida reference this SHOCKtober.
Tag: guy maddin
There’s a Guy Maddin retrospective on Criterion so I rewatched the great Saddest Music in the World, where everyone is tormented and traumatized except for cheesehead Mark McKinney, so he has to die in the end. Since this came out, Mark has starred in Superstore, which I heard was very good. Amnesiac Maria de Medeiros was in Son of Joseph and Pasolini. Serbian Ross McMillan was in a Dave Franco zombie/cannibal horror called Bad Meat. Canadian dad David Fox was in Jessica Chastain horror Mama. And Isabella… half the actors I’ve looked up this week have led to Two Lovers, so maybe it’s time I watch that thing.
How to Take a Bath (2009)
In its original form, so the MPEGing transitions predate The Forbidden Room by a few years. Mmmm, that’s what bathing is all about.
Lines of the Hand (2015)
Wow – another Forbidden-adjacent short. This one takes a John Ashbery poem, a Jean Vigo script, Vigo’s daughter Luce, and Udo Kier, and smooshes them into a colorful impressionist blob.
A music video masquerading as installation art. Single take, mostly wide shot of an apartment building where a murder/investigation is happening along with much hanging-out.
The Rabbit Hunters (2020)
A sequel to My Dad Is 100 Years Old! This time Isabella plays Fellini, and the short is a dream fantasia with very funny dubbing. The rabbit hunters are discovered inside a bed, after searching in vain for the screening room of a movie premiere, and en route to a flight with Fellini’s ailing wife… it makes more sense while watching then written down.
World of Tomorrow Episode Three: The Absent Destinations of David Prime (2020, Don Hertzfeldt)
Hertzfeldt comes up with his biggest horror yet: embedded-HUD popup ads. A future Emily backup clone contacts a past David and sends him on a disfiguring journey to retrieve secret messages about the clandestine between-time assassinations of various Davids by other Davids. It’s twisty! And excellent, and full of more wonderful quotes, and I’ll be watching these forever.
Stump the Guesser (2020, Maddin/Johnson/Johnson)
The Odenkirk-looking Guesser (The Editor from The Editor) is renowned for his abilities, but when he runs out of guessing milk, things go bad and his guessing license is revoked. But during this time he falls in love with his long-lost sister, spends some time scientifically disproving theories of heredity in order to marry her, but things go badly at the end when he has to guess which door she’s behind. Some fun leaps of logic and distorted visuals here, but I wasn’t feeling it as much as other Maddin films.
Accounting for some other things watched recently… The Mads from MST3K have been doing monthly live shows. I checked out Glen or Glenda, a movie that’s so busy explaining itself that it never gets to the movie, and told Neil:
That was… really fun. That’s the most I’ve enjoyed a MST3K-related thing since the end of the sci-fi channel years. I don’t know if it’s because of their obvious affection for the material, or if I’m just in the right mood. I’d never seen the feature either – shame on me, after digging the Tim Burton version for 25 years now (oh you just tried to watch it, is it cringey now? Is it Johnny Depp’s fault?) and the Mads nailed it in their intro when they said this movie has everything, but it also has nothing.
Next was The Tingler, which I already just barely remember (also explainy, features Vincent Price)… then the truly baffling, tensionless version of The Most Dangerous Game called Walk The Dark Street. I think the guy from The Rifleman played the baddie. Then some shorts I should track and name, but am not gonna.
Hannah Gadsby’s Douglas is her stand-up comedy special to follow Nanette, which was the special to end stand-up comedy, and yet she pulls off the follow-up by creating another perfectly-constructed show and this time being breathtakingly funny. That sounds like a cliche, but I had to pause the show to catch my breath.
And Katy and I watched something called Australia: Land of Parrots, which is everything you’d dream it would be, and I should just play it on a loop.
I thought about watching this, then rewatching Vertigo, then rewatching this… but I’m not made of free time here, so I just wikipediaed Vertigo then watched this once. It’s 90+ percent footage from San Francisco movies and shows (credited at the end in a dizzying rush of title cards), with some added effects: manipulated TV and film screen images, dialogue chopped out leaving behind only pauses and breaths, and the titular fog. Everything is fit into 4:3, a few bits of dialogue or voiceover are left in, and the whole thing is accompanied by great string music by Jacob Garchik and the Kronos Quartet.
I probably would’ve enjoyed this just as much without knowing the story concept, but having the Vertigo storyline to follow makes it more memorable. Favorite sections: the “women looking at paintings” scene, the “Chuck Norris being pensive” footage, and especially the ending, a montage of bickering couples and earthquakes leading to the final death plummet. Good use of screens and tape recorders, and humor throughout – this isn’t as extreme as Tscherkassky or Martin Arnold in its found-footage manipulation, but just as enjoyable. David Cairns points out there’s a Bill Morrison equivalent, Spark of Being as a found-footage Frankenstein.
En levande sjÃ¤l (A Living Soul, 2014, Henry Moore Selder)
A living brain, with ear and eyeball, awakens in a fishtank and eventually succeeds in psychically communicating with its nurse Emma. Happy birthday to me – thanks, Trevor!
Based on a novel by a physician. Ypsilon and Emma and nearly everyone else in Sweden acted in the TV series The Bridge, and the briefly-appearing inkblot psychiatrist (the “ink” was on an ipad, nice touch) was in Fanny & Alexander.
Sarah Winchester, opÃ©ra fantÃ´me (2016, Bertrand Bonello)
“Dance but don’t move. Do the solo in your head.”
Symphony and dance, spooky old drawings and accusing ghosts, and the story of Sarah, inheritor of the Winchester rifle fortune, who became a crazy recluse after losing her family. I liked this even more than Nocturama. Similarities include doom music, seclusion in abandoned buildings, mannequins, guilt.
The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (1984, Quay Bros.)
A child visits Master Svankmajer, who removes the fluff and toys from the child’s head and teaches him stop-motion filmmaking. This makes a lot more sense than it did when I watched in the 1990’s, now that I know who Jan Svankmajer is. The cluster of mobile pins still reminds me of Edward Gorey (“Death and Distraction, said the Pins and Needles”)
Stille Nacht I, Dramolet (1988, Quay Bros.)
Extremely short and amazing, dollman watches as his spoon-world grows moldy with magnetized metal filings.
Stille Nacht II, Are We Still Married? (1992, Quay Bros.)
A motion-blur paddleball confounds a toe-stretching girl’s pet bunny
Stille Nacht III, Tales from Vienna Woods (1994, Quay Bros.)
Somebody died in 1892? Spinning smoke bullet, disembodied hand, hovering desk and extra-long spoon. I liked the His Name Is Alive song in the previous film – this one sounds like a buzzing TV from the next room.
Stille Nacht IV, Can’t Go Wrong Without You (1994, Quay Bros.)
The heroes of part two return, the tiptoe girl now quietly bleeding as the rabbit uses his antigravity powers to protect his eggs from a keyhole-peeping Death.
An Eastern Westerner (1920, Hal Roach)
At a hotel we saw this Harold Lloyd short on TCM, and since I watched it, I am duty-bound to put it on the blog somewhere, even though I was entirely focused on being aggravated about the picture being squished and don’t remember anything that happened in the movie itself. I guess it’s the one with the famous still of all the guns pointing at Harold’s head?
Three Monks (1982 Jingda Xu)
Short, flatheaded Red Monk, tall skinny Blue Monk, and fat Yellow Monk arrive separately at a mountaintop shrine and spend their days guzzling water and trying to make the other monk(s) bring up more water from the lake. Eventually they’re all angry, and are stealing water from the shrine’s flowerpot, when a mouse almost burns the place down and they have to cooperate to bring up plenty of water in a hurry. The catchy tunes and musical-instrument sound effects were the best part.
Feeling Good (2010, Pierre Etaix)
A 1965 outtake scene from As Long As You’ve Got Your Health. Etaix goes camping with a campfire and electric coffee pot. Confusion and bad coffee ensues. Then he’s in a military tent camp and I get lost as to what’s happening, because between bird songs and people whistling and blowing whistles, my birds got quite agitated.
Pas a Deux (1988 Renault & Van Dijk)
A couple is dancing, looks maybe like rotoscoped with colored pencil, then he transforms into Popeye the Sailor complete with voice clip, then they each transform (pretty seamlessly) into different famous characters. Cool effect, but feels like they’re just screwing around. Katy called it a precursor to Logorama.
Made by a couple of Dutch animators. Gerrit’s final film was based on a Burroughs story and featured the voice of Rutger Hauer. Monique has a whole bunch of films on vimeo
The Northleach Horror (2016, David Cairns)
Apocalyptic story of a mad scientist doing Frankenstein experiments in an underground bunker, the movie casually killing off characters (and resurrecting them) for laughs. I meant to watch this again and note character names, but my link has gone dead. Fun while it lasted. From the creator of the also-great Cry For Bobo.
Seances: The Disputed Honours (May 31, 2016)
Some familiar footage from The Forbidden Room, with changes. When Jacques Nolot is hired as a gardener, does he usually steal a magnifying glass? Whole new sequence with a man retrieving a key while two women (Camille and her sister?) cower in the night, only to be sucked into a vortex. Color and tinting changes mid-shot. All new intertitles! “O to quench the thirst of my wheat with the blood of slain mail coachmen.”
I wanted to watch When The Broken Toilets Cry but didn’t figure out the website in time. Can’t tell what to make of interruptions like the one below. It looked like typical streaming glitching at first until I realized the shots emerging through the glitch aren’t part of the scene I’m in.
And since I have nowhere else to mention these, I also watched and enjoyed a pile of Netflix’s comedy specials from this year… Joe Mande… Amy Schumer’s The Leather Special (all the fat jokes and poop stories get old, but I admit I laughed at ’em)… Sarah Silverman (more poop stories)… Louis CK “2017” (this has now replaced my memory of his Omaha show – I should’ve taken notes after each)… Dave Chappelle’s Spin and Texas specials (some bits set off my political-correctness alarm, but they’re perfectly constructed/paced hours)… Norm MacDonald’s Hitler’s Dog… three we burned for the drive to Atlanta: Trevor Noah (who we also saw in person a few weeks ago), Hari Kondabolu “Mainstream American Comic”, and the great Hasan Minhaj… and probably a couple I’m forgetting.
Kind of Maddin’s most difficult film and his most purely comic one at the same time. Behind the scenes on the filming of great Canadian war epic Hyena Road, Guy reflects on being an extra (dead body in the desert) and subverts his other job as EPK flunky, while the effects-minded Johnsons toy and screw with the footage. I happened to watch Cuadecuc Vampir a few days earlier, one of this film’s most obvious predecessors.
N. Rapold in Film Comment:
The closest these flagrantly uninformative digressions come to a standard featurette is a couple of outtakes of a producer doing a walk-and-talk TV-ad bumper. While earning Maddin some needed cash, this supposed promotional project burlesques the look of a seamless studio-grade war movie â€” and its very notion. Itâ€™s like any number of subversive reappropriations of mainstream genre cinema, except with the added nose-thumbing of having been done with full permission, during the production. But if Maddin expresses some frustration or resentment about Grossâ€™s comparatively big-budget illusionism, he also canâ€™t help but see the playful, bizarre, and beautiful possibilities in these expensive toys.
Stories don’t just lead into each other like in The Saragossa Manuscript – they melt and morph into each other, thanks to codirector Evan Johnson’s digital manipulations, which don’t replace Maddin’s usual bag of tricks, but join the choppy editing and texture fetish and everything else. Some of his early movies had somnambulist rhythms, but this one is ecstatic from start to finish.
Had to watch this a couple times before I could report in.
Second time through, I noted the order of stories:
How to Take a Bath, with Louis Negin
Submarine: Blasting Jelly and Flapjacks
Starring Negin again with Ukranian Greg Hlady, panicky Alex Bisping, Andre the Giant-reminiscent Kent McQuaid, and mysteriously-appearing woodsman Cesare (Roy Dupuis of Mesrine and Screamers).
Like the men in the submarine, The Forbidden Room has an overall mood of anxiety and despair, in the sense that we are asked to grapple with its heady delirium of character trajectories and stunted arcs, all the while searching in vain for some absent center, the organizing â€œcaptainâ€ who is supposed to pull it all together. In its endless ruptures and disconnections, The Forbidden Room brings us up short, placing us back in that capsule where the image is a form of confinement, a shortness of breath.
Cesare sets out to rescue the kidnapped Margo (Clara Furey)
Cave of the Red Wolves
with lead wolf Noel Burton, bladder slapping and boggling puzzlements!
Amnesiac Singing Flowergirl
Margo again, with mysterious necklace woman Marie Brassard (sinister Jackie from Vic + Flo Saw a Bear) and patient Pancho (Victor Andres Trelles Turgeon)
The Final Derriere
Red Wolves / Woodsmen / Submarine / Bath / Submarine
Squid Theft / Volcano Sacrifice
With Margo, squid thief Romano Orzari and Lost Generation attorney CÃ©line Bonnier (The Far Side of the Moon)
The Forbidden Room may (or may not) be inventing narratives from thin air, but whatever history these abandoned projects might have had is completely supplanted by the present Maddin (and co-director Evan Johnson) invents for them. These stories belong to him now. The Forbidden Room may forego the hypnotically autobiographical thrust of recent efforts like My Winnipeg and Brand Upon the Brain!, but it feels no less personal for it.
Mill Seeks Gardener
With shed-sleeper Slimane Dazi and unpredictable runaway Jacques Nolot
Injured Motorcyclist at Bone Hospital
Caroline Dhavernas and Paul Ahmarani
Doctor kidnapped by skeleton insurance defrauders
Lewis Furey (Margo’s father IRL) as The Skull-Faced Man, and Eric Robidoux as the bone doctor’s long-lost brother who is also a bone doctor.
Psychiatrist and madman aboard train
Gregory Hlady again, Romano Orzari again, and Karine Vanasse (Polytechnique) as Florence LaBadie
Florence’s Inner Child
Sienna Mazzone as young Florence with crazy mother Kathia Rock
Parental Neglect / Madness / Murder / Amnesia
Bone Hospital / Insurance Defrauders
Mill / Criminal / Doctor
Volcanic Island / Squid Theft / Submarine / Bath
“I haven’t finished telling you: the forest… the snow… the convict… the birthday”
Woodsman Gathers New Allies
Kyle Gatehouse as Man With Upturned Face, Neil Napier as Man With Stones On His Feet and Victor Turgeon again as Listening Man – these are the same actors who played the Saplingjacks earlier, and again they don’t enter the cave with Cesare.
Margo and Aswang The Vampire
The Forbidden Room was shot mostly at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, piecemeal, in front of a live audience, following which Maddin and Johnson artfully distressed the digital footage and added priceless intertitles. The project took advantage of whichever actors were available to it on a given day.
Elevator Man Unprepared For Wife’s Birthday Kills His Butler
All-star segment with Mathieu Amalric, Udo Kier and Amira Casar (Anatomy of Hell, Piano Tuner of Earthquakes).
[Amalric] gleefully indulges in Maddinâ€™s pure and peerlessly florid sense of melodrama, which here becomes a mechanism for foolhardy and paranoid men to ruin their lives as they attempt to rescue, love, or murder the beautiful women who didnâ€™t ask for their help.
Dead Butler Oedipal Mustache Flashback
Maybe my favorite segment, with Maria de Medeiros (Saddest Music in the World) as the Blind Mother and more mentions of flapjacks.
Ukranian Radio War Drama
With Stranger by the Lake star Christophe Paou as the prisoner
Mustache / Return of the Dead Father
Diplomat Memoirs of Cursed Janus-Head
Together, Maddin and Johnson have crafted a formal masterwork jolted by digital after effects, recreating the look of decaying nitrate stock, shape-shifting the image with multiple superimpositions and variegated colour fields (the general look resembling decayed two-strip Technicolor), and compositing swirling transitions that connect (or bury) one film within the other (and the other, and the other). To try and describe â€œwhat happensâ€ in The Forbidden Room is both forbidding and beside the point, for the 130-minute film stands more as an interminable, (in)completed object on its own, like the work of one of its main influences, the French poet, novelist and playwright Raymond Roussel (from whom Maddin and Johnson borrow their technique of parenthetical asides); one comes to understand this object, and what itâ€™s trying to accomplish, only while watching it.
Peranson’s writeup is from the Toronto Film Festival, after which nine minutes got removed from the movie. Since nobody at the festivals was able to exhaustively account for all the stories within stories, it’s impossible to track down what got lost. It seems, though, that any lost footage (and more) can be seen in the Seances.
Andreas Apergis and his fiancee Sophia Desmarais (Curling)
Night Auction Doppelganger
featuring LUG-LUG, hideous impulse incarnate!
Stealing Mother’s Laudanum
Maddin (in an essential Cinema Scope interview) on the film’s 2+ hour length:
We could have easily had a 75-minute version … but viewers that like it, we wanted to feel like weâ€™d broken their brains, really left a physical impression on them, left them exhausted. Hopefully exhilarated and exhausted, in a good way. We wanted â€œtoo muchâ€ to still be insufficient … it would be nice if it came out in one endless ribbon, that, like John Ashberyâ€™s poetry, you just snip off for a beginning and an end, and just ask the audience how much they want.
Dead Father / Elevator Birthday Murder Plot / Margo and Aswang / Woodsmen
Red Wolves are Dead, Rescue is Cancelled
Submarine / The Forbidden Room / Book of Climaxes
April 2022: watched the blu-ray – the ambient-morphy extras and the commentary. This included Once a Chicken, which I didn’t realize at the time is considered a short film, I thought it was more motion-posters… all overlapping images and no Louis Negin.
Guy: “I’ve long been … making movies about things I don’t know anything about and refuse to do research on.” This wasn’t shot on stage in front of an audience like I imagined, was shot “in public” in foyers and such. Each morning the actors were all put into a trance, I think I knew this. Maddin wants to go on a self-loathing party, as usual. “I think Udo is a real-life Bond villain.” Sparks wrote, recorded and delivered “The Final Derriere” in five hours. The lost movies they’re adapting-in-spirit include Allan Dwan’s 1915 The Forbidden Room, Greek musical The Fist of a Cripple, Chinese film Women Skeletons, a Blue Mountains Mystery from Australia, Murnau’s version of the Jekyll & Hyde story, and Alice Guy’s Dream Woman.
I rewatched My Winnipeg in glorious (glorious!) high definition. Great extras on the blu-ray: shorts and an hour-long interview with Maddin. “I liked the idea of leaping from one subject to another with that paranoiac certainty that the two are connected.”
Spanky to the Pier and Back (2008)
Camera slowly spins around a plain white room with wide angle lens, Sinclair passed out in a wheelchair to one side, tuneless doom music on the soundtrack. The second half (at least) is a single take, unusual for fast-cut freak Maddin. Guy says it’s a protest film about the death of a native paraplegic in an emergency room, shot in the style of La Region Centrale.
Only Dream Things (2012)
Mesmerising. Low-framerate, Begotten-processed home movie footage overlaid with dream images, pop songs and swimmy sound effects. The home movies were shot by his older brothers, from “the summers of our lives before anything went wrong.”
The Hall Runner (2014)
“When you’re gone I have no memory.”
Extension on the My Winnipeg bit about rugs that can never be adequately straightened.
Louis Riel for Dinner (2014, Drew Christie)
A girl is alarmed that the duck her dad has cooked for dinner has the head of Winnipeg hero Louis Riel. Animated!
Winnipegiana (2014, Evan Johnson)
“The city blighted by these sickly trees is a city that dreams too much and lives too little.”
A series of wonderful “educational” shorts with a verbose narrator whose scripts only barely make sense. Johnson is Maddin’s codirector of The Forbidden Room.
Since that still wasn’t enough Maddin-on-Winnipeg, I also read the book of the film, with the script, another interview, deleted scenes, rough drafts, photos, scans, collaborator essays and more.
Now, back to worrying over the eleven minutes supposedly cut from The Forbidden Room since its Sundance premiere, and whether they’ll be on the Kino blu-ray out in March.
I just found out!
Bing & Bela (2010)
Bing Crosby and Bela Lugosi.
Red lips. White wolf.
She is film critic Kim Morgan, who married Maddin after filming.
Lilith & Ly (2010)
A one-minute vampire short.
Udo Kier aims to steal a vampire woman’s necklace.
Is it supposed to be silent or is my browser messed up?
These last two were part of a shorts series called Hauntings.
It’s a Wonderful Life (2001)
Music video for Sparklehorse.
Silent actors on rotating sets.
Shot in peep-hole-vision!
Footage from Berlin, Ontario in 1916.
Remixed to doom-music.
Sighs & Bosoms (2014?)
Literally that, in a single sepia-toned shot, with strings.
One Minute Louis Negin (2014?)
Single shot of Negin close-up
Perhaps from the rushes of something Keyhole-related?
Spanky, to the Pier and Back (2008)
Spanky is a small dog.
He walks to the pier and back, the camera frantically recording the experience.
Lullaby (or Funerailles) (2013?)
Takes exciting or upsetting moments from films and tracks back and forth over them obsessively, almost Martin Arnold-style. Intense and wonderful. Includes Santo, Tales of Hoffmann, a zeppelin disaster, Dracula, gladiator battles, more.
Sissy Boy Slap Party!!! (2004)
Louis Negin goes off to the store to buy condoms and the sleepy heap of sissy boys he leaves behind immediately commence with some major slapping, while drummers drum and women stand aside unimpressed.
Also on there:
– a trailer for Archangel with the most edits per second of any Maddin work (yes!)
– a bog in Victoria shot on lo-fi color camera
– a bunch of silent 8mm reels I didn’t watch