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The Saddest Music In The World

  The Saddest Music in the World
"My God. Michael Bolton really does create the saddest music in the world."

© 2004, IFC Films
All Rights Reserved

Director Guy Maddin reckons he may be going mad, and frankly, who am I to disagree? And not just because, by his own admission, he paid a scenic painter on the mayhem set of "The Saddest Music In The World" (IMDb listing) some $2,000 not to sleep with a Polish soprano extra who practiced in the lunchroom for three days straight.

The man who started out as a banker of all things and went on to make a legion of shorts, television dance-horror movies, rock videos, opera videos, something called full-bodied cinematic experiments (your guess is as good as mine) and feature films such as last year's Emmy-winning television ballet "Dracula: Tales From A Virgin's Diary," effortlessly breaks any previous records in the weirdness category with his latest feature, which drags on for some 89 minutes before unexpectedly and beautifully falling into place in the last 10.

Returning home to Winnipeg with his amnesiac girlfriend Narcissa (Maria de Medeiros) after failing to make it on Broadway, Chester Kent (Mark McKinney) finds himself at the height of the Great Depression, in the middle of an awkward family reunion and at the center of an odd-ball contest held by the local brewery, which is determined to find the saddest music in the world. The famed Muskeg Brewery, coincidentally, is run by one Lady Port-Huntly (Isabella Rosselini), former lover of Chester's father Fyodor (David Fox), subsequent lover of Chester, and now an embittered double-amputee. Also in town is Chester's brother Roderick (Ross McMillan), who mysteriously lost his wife after the death of their son, whose vinegar-pickled heart he carries with him in a jar while traveling the world as Gavrilo the Great, Europe's greatest cellist. The three Kent men enter the fierce competition for Lady Prot-Huntly's $25,000 prize, and inevitably a drama unfolds.

It's a stellar and indubitably deeply committed cast that answered Maddin's casting call and ventured into the freezing February temperatures of Winnipeg's largest building, the Dominion Bridge factory, drawn by the director's renowned new approach to old filmmaking ways.

In "Saddest Music" Maddin again elaborately and deeply explores his favorite themes of love, hate and everything in between, captured in all the awkwardness of human interaction. Yet fascinating as that promises to be, the film progresses ever so slowly, failing to get the audience involved, until the resounding, overwhelming end. If you can make it through until then (as Maddin devotees undoubtedly will), it works a retrospective treat.

Filmfodder Grade: C

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