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(Dec 14, 2010)
THE QUINTESSENTIAL GUY MADDIN! Four-Disc Set boasts five of director Guy Maddin's most hallucinatory and hilarious fever-dreams. The beloved auteur of Winnipeg, Canada, Maddin has been lovingly spinning fantastic tales of obsessive love and grand guignol with the language of cinema's distant past for more than two decades. Wretched swan feeders, beauty-parlor noir, incestuous psychodramas, ghostly patriarchs, fascist butler academies, midnight-summer fantasia and hyperbolic Soviet montage are all part and parcel of the delirious cracked-glass, scratched-frame universe of this visionary filmmaker.
Disc One: Careful (1992, 100 min, Remastered and Repressed Edition)
Disc Two: Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (1997, 90 min) + Archangel (1990, 83 min)
Disc Three: Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary (2003, 75 min)
Disc Four: Cowards Bend the Knee (2004, 64 min)
* Five audio commentaries with Maddin + crew members
* A 60-minute documentary on Maddin's early career, narrated by Tom Waits
* Six shorts, including ODILON REDON (1995) and THE HEART OF THE WORLD (2000)
* Three behind-the-scenes featurettes
* Imagined audition reels
* Radio interviews
* Production design collages and storyboards
* Vintage photos from Maddin's personal collection
* Also includes a Limited Edition Peephole O-Card PLUS 5 collectible postcards of Original Poster Art.
While summaries of the five features included in this limited-edition boxed set are entertaining in themselves, what matters equally if not more about Guy Maddin's films are the literary, art, and music references packed into each and the editorial poetry implicit in his unique brand of high camp. This set includes his quintessential movies: Archangel (1990), Careful (1992), Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (1997), Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary (2003), and Cowards Bend the Knee (2004), the companion piece to Brand Upon the Brain (2006) that was released by Criterion Collection, but more importantly offers plentiful background information about Maddin's oeuvre. Organized as a four-disc set, each has its own set of information surrounding the feature. First there's Careful, a genre film inspired by German Mountain melodramas, serving as a gateway into the set by introducing themes of incest, bondage, and the ever-present references to Oedipal complexes and horrors surrounding motherhood. Like a Leni Riefenstahl film ripped open with colorful sexual innuendo, Careful, like Archangel and Dracula, establishes Maddin's m.o., which is to make fantastically faux "silent films," some of which are "talkies," as the director says, that mash-up fetish and melodrama into a mix that ends up looking antique and punk. Archangel, Maddin's "World War I Amnesia Melodrama," one finds out during the hilarious commentary between Maddin, screenwriter George Toles, and John Harvey, explores the silent film aesthetic with seemingly equal play given to Bill the Barber, Maddin's set hairdresser, during extended hair-modeling shots onscreen. Notably, the commentaries alone, what the men call their "Tracks of Atonement," are reason to re-watch these films Maddin fans know well.
While Twilight of the Ice Nymphs offers a burst of color after some major black-and-white moments, and stars Shelley Duvall as an ostrich farm girl, exciting extras pepper this disc, like the short film "Odilon Redon," a partially animated and surreal cut-and-paste film, starring Berenice, the woman who lives in a seashell underwater while trains chug by, inspired by the Symbolist artist. Other shorts, like "The Heart of the World," and the blueprint outtakes compiled for the "Love-Chaunt Workbooks," bear similarity to "Odilon Redon," with titles and dialogues plastered onscreen as if flipping through a moving zine about romantic, sexually charged imagery. There are behind-the-scenes featurettes, especially good for Dracula, which is a ballet packed with dance numbers and Cabinet of Dr. Caligari-like sets, audio tracks of radio interviews, set design collages and storyboards, and lots more revealing how Maddin generates his looking-glass features. With films ranging stylistically from the decadent and romantic to the most fetishistic, like Cowards Bend the Knee, which spends lengthy camera time showing vamps Meta and Marroon seducing men on piles of hockey gloves, there is a constant humorous undertow that makes it all refreshingly silly, like a good Kuchar Brothers or Jack Smith film. This boxed set offers an intimate glimpse into one of the more original minds working today, and even its packaging is praiseworthy. --Trinie DaltonSee all Editorial Reviews