Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Saddest Music in the World

Guy Maddin is as much of an film archeologist as he is a director. Digging up and reconstructing film styles which have been dead for 80 years is his forte. The Saddest Music in the World is an ode to a bygone era of melodrama, scored very oddly with 5.1 channel sound.
The story is of the tragedy of Lady Port-Huntly, a rich baroness who runs the beer industry in the Canadian Prairies during the Great Depression while prohibition is in full effect in the United States. As a promotional tool, she decides to run a contest to find out which country has the saddest music in the world. This brings a cocky American huckster and his girlfriend, as well as a Serbian recluse who is recovering from the loss of his child as well as his wife leaving him. The local Canadian entry, the man who is responsible for the loss of Lady Port-Huntly's Legs and who has constructed for her new legs made entirely of glass (which of course, are full of Port-Huntly Brew).
To add to the crazed hilarity of the proceedings, the music contests are like a battle of the bands with the musicians literally trying to overwhelm their opponents with their tones. The songs go back and forth as indicated by a hockey buzzer. The lady gives a thumbs up or thumbs down, Roman-Coliseum style as two inane commentators broadcast it live over the radio.
Surprise connections are revealed (and believe me that everyone is closer related than the Star Wars characters) between contestants and it sets up an Eisenstein level montage climax that is antiquated and brilliant simultaneously.
Somehow during all the craziness of the whole affair and the grimy black and white (for some scenes prehistoric colour techniques are used) stylings, there is a sense that Maddin does in fact love these characters. It gives the movie an odd type of beating heart with the occasional piece of glass stuck in it.
Highly recommended for when you are in the mood for something truly different


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