36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
A rare cinematic treat, visually and aurally,
This review is from: The Saddest Music in the World (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.
The entire film is shot using a blue-haze filter, with a faux stereopticon effect that narrows the viewing screen to that resembling what one would see from the early days of film, and with the faintest, subtlest and tiniest of lags in action-speech synchronization that makes this uncannily resonate as a work fusing a 30s setting, a pre-20s style, and a contemporary sensibility that knows how to combine these elements in the first place. This is a truly brilliant--I would even call it genius--approach to filmmaking that noone else in the known world even remotely approaches. Maddin is one of the contemporary masters of cinema and this is the proof.