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The Saddest Music in the World

3.8 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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(Nov 16, 2004)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The dark days of the Depression set the stage for surreal black comedy in this "intoxicating" (Time) musical melodrama from acclaimed director Guy Maddin. When a legless beer baroness (Isabella Rossellini) in Winnipeg announces a contest to find the world's saddest tune, a pint of trouble brews among a fractured family competing for the $25,000 prize. As the disturbing depths of the linksbetween each other, the baroness and an amnesiac nymphomaniac are exposed, one thing becomes clear:It will take more than a pool of alcohol to drown their sorrows!

Only the mind of Guy Maddin could conjure up The Saddest Music in the World, in which a double-amputee beer baroness invites musicians of all nations to compete in a grand music competition... in Winnipeg. The only thing zanier than the plot is Maddin's style, which makes the film look like a lost artifact from the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari era, a jumble of Expressionist compositions and gauzy focus. It helps if you're already a fan of the director of Careful and Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary, for this is not Maddin's most cohesive picture. Kids in the Hall stalwart Mark McKinney is a little too arch as a sharpie returning to Manitoba, but Isabella Rossellini is delicious as the "Beer Queen of the Prairie." By the time she straps on a pair of hollow glass legs filled with bubbly lager, you're either delighted by this movie or you've given up. --Robert Horton

Special Features

  • Three short films from Guy Maddin: A Trip to the Orphange, Sissy Boy Slap Party, Sombra Dolorosa
  • "Teardrops in the Snow: The Making of The Saddest Music in the World" featurette
  • "The Saddest Characters in the World: The Cast of The Saddest Music in the World" featurette
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Teasers

Product Details

  • Actors: Isabella Rossellini, Mark McKinney, Maria de Medeiros, David Fox, Ross McMillan
  • Directors: Caelum Vatnsdal, Guy Maddin, Matt Holm
  • Writers: Caelum Vatnsdal, Guy Maddin, George Toles, John Barnard, Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • DVD Release Date: November 16, 2004
  • Run Time: 101 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00062IXJW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,711 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Saddest Music in the World" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Guy Maddin just gets better and better. In this, his latest film, he's outdone himself. The fusion of content and style is so brilliant, clever, and emotional, the film has to rank as one of the best of 2004 even with the year not yet over.

Set in 1933, "the depths of the Great Depression", the location is Winnipeg, Canada, home of Lady Port-Huntly (Isabella Rosselini), the astoundingly wealthy beer baroness of Canada, who decides to hold a contest to select the saddest music in the world--for business reasons, of course. Among the entrants are her former lover, Chester Kent (Mark McKinney), his current lover Narcissa (Maria de Medeiros), Chester's estranged brother Roderick (Ross McMillan)--separated from Narcissa, and the men's father, Duncan (Claude Dorge). Duncan represents Canada; Chester, America; and Roderick, Serbia (of all places).

The prize is $25,000, a fortune in those days, so naturally there are entrants from all over the world--among which are Mexico, Siam, and Africa. The music is inspired, but eventually converges on the lilting popular American tune The Song is You, for which there are diverse renditions in the course of the film. The show-stopper is the version by Chester near the end, a big band production that fuses influences, in typical American fashion, from all over the world.

Familial tensions converge with unrequited love, and with the most peculiar prostheses anyone has ever seen--either in real life or on film. Lady Port-Huntly is a double amputee, and he whose reckless mistake resulted in her unfortunate current condition fashions for her a pair of legs that must be seen to be believed.
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The premise: would-be minstrels gather in Winnipeg in 1933 for the "Port Huntley Lager Saddest Music in the World" contest, intended to bring levity to the "saddest city in the world" at the height of the great depression, and sell a few beers along the way. I think the braintrust behind this film had a few too many Port Huntley lagers when they were coming up with this one. A bizarre movie with a generally incomprehensible plot, made interesting by the 1930s era stylings of the visuals - part silent flic, part surrealism, part Movietone News reel. Goofy, entertaining performances abound, particularly by Rosselini as the legless beer magnate. I can't really say that I liked it, but I was certainly intrigued enough to keep watching.
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THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD is much more than just director Guy Maddin's exercising his talents. Though the story of a Winnipeg bilateral amputee beer hall baroness Lady Helen Port-Huntley (Isabella Rossellini) staging a world competition for the saddest music may sound a bit silly, watch this film for a competition to beat all competitions, a grand spectacle where a Thai flautist competes with a Mexican Ranchero band, Russians, Chinese, Serbians etc.

Add to this the personal tragedy of Lady Helen facing her lover Chester Kent (Mark McKinney) who watched while his father Dr. Fyodor Kent (David Fox) mistakenly and drunkenly amputated both of her legs after a car accident while Chester's brother Roderick (Ross McMillan) exiles himself to Serbia over the loss of his wife Narcissa (Maria de Medeiros) and child, constantly playing his sad music on his cello!

All this may sound a bit over the top, but it is actually WAY over the top and happily so. Maddin has shot the film primarily in black and white in the just-out-of-focus manner of the earliest of movies (the story, after all, takes place in the Great Depression).

But despite the emphasis on 'artiness', the story is not mere parody or wedge of surrealism: there are many cogent social comments here - enough to keep you thinking. This film may not be for everyone, but for those who enjoy something different, it is highly recommended! Grady Harp, November 2004
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I can't believe i waited so long to see it but i'd never heard of Guy Madden.

It's so good!

Of course,being fairly strange, a lot of people will dislike it but if you like David Lynch films you'll like this.

Isabella Rossellini is one of my favourites as well so her being in it was a bonus.

I laughed my ass off at the surreal situations the characters were in.

The scene with the old lady fortune teller and the block of ice was priceless.

Acting was excellent all around and the music was of course very delicious and sad.;-)
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If you know that Isabella Rossellini is married to David Lynch, you will have no problem understanding why she chose to star in this film. Director Guy Maddin tells a bizarre story, filmed through a snowy, distorted lens in black and white, making for a truly surreal vision. The story itself is simply about a Baroness in Canada who recrutes musicians from around the world to promote the worlds "saddest" music for a large sum of money. However, instead of gut wrenching sorrowful music, the audience is treated to a unique collage of `cold' characters seeming to come from the 19th century. The cinematography is fantastic, but the characters don't bring much life to the story. They are all stilted, bland inventions plucked straight from a silent film. At best the film is a study in film cinematography and style. There is love, tragedy and all the elements of true cinema, but it never fully evolves. However, the film is an advanced version of what David Lynch might have done if he chose this story, time and place. This film is for the real film buff who will not be disappointed.

The extra featurettes are truly amazing and spark enough interest in what a filmmaker will do to make his dream come true.
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