While The Artist is clearly a more commercially viable work, as it was based on the most innocuous silent film tendencies, Maddin's films reflect the more avant-garde aspects of the medium. They are an extension of the work of filmmakers like Luis Bunuel (Un chien andalou), Germaine Dulac (The Seashell and the Clergyman), Man Ray (Emak-Bakia), and other early surrealist and dadaist filmmakers who challenged the medium of film, pushing it to its boundaries and beyond. Like the surrealists, Maddin's films follow a kind of dream logic, as if the audience is somehow trapped inside the characters' subconscious, their darkest secrets and sexual fantasies tumbling to the forefront.
|Isabella Rossellini in Guy Maddin's "Keyhole."|
He is accompanied by his right hand man, the boy who killed his son before being adopted by Ulysses to take his place, a girl who seems trapped between the real world and the spirit world (Brooke Palsson), and a hostage, his youngest son, Manners (David Wontner), whom he no longer remembers. As he attempts to reach his wife, he encounters the spirits of the past trapped within the walls of his home, some vengeful, others benign. Along the way, all of them will make discoveries about themselves as they become increasingly lost in their own phantasmagorical world of shadows and desires.
|Brooke Palsson and David Wontner in Guy Maddin's "Keyhole."|
The original surrealists purposely resisted any kind of interpretation, so referring to Maddin simply as a surrealist isn't completely accurate. While he does create the feeling of being inside a dream, which is one of the key tenets of surrealism, Maddin does not adhere to any kind of aesthetic dogma. He is in a class by himself. Keyhole may not represent his very best work, but it is certainly fascinating to explore and contemplate. It is a richly layered ghostly funhouse that, while not as profound or as powerfully rendered as his masterpieces The Heart of the World and Cowards Bend the Knee, is a singularly bizarre experience all its own. Maddin continually pushes the boundaries of cinema in consistently striking directions, and in the case of Keyhole, he has created something as disturbing as it is hilarious, as serious as it is absurd, showing us what so few filmmakers ever really do - something we have truly never seen before.
GRADE - ★★★ (out of four)
KEYHOLE | Directed by Guy Maddin | Stars Jason Patric, Isabella Rossellini, Udo Kier, Brooke Palsson, David Wontner | Rated R for graphic nudity, sexuality, violent content and some language | Now playing in select cities.