Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Christopher Nolan Talks 'Interstellar' Twist And Enigmatic Ending Christopher Nolan Talks 'Interstellar' Twist And Enigmatic Ending Review: 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1' Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Philip Seymour Hoffman, And More Review: 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1' Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Philip Seymour Hoffman, And More Steve McQueen's Next Film Will Be About Paul Robeson Steve McQueen's Next Film Will Be About Paul Robeson Watch: First Trailer For 'The Age Of Adaline' Starring Blake Lively, Ellen Burstyn And Harrison Ford Watch: First Trailer For 'The Age Of Adaline' Starring Blake Lively, Ellen Burstyn And Harrison Ford Listen Up, Christopher Nolan Defends Sound Mix On 'Interstellar' Listen Up, Christopher Nolan Defends Sound Mix On 'Interstellar' Official Soundtrack Details For Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Inherent Vice' Revealed Official Soundtrack Details For Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Inherent Vice' Revealed Casting: Shailene Woodley Joins Oliver Stone's Edward Snowden Pic, 'True Detective' Adds Pair & More Casting: Shailene Woodley Joins Oliver Stone's Edward Snowden Pic, 'True Detective' Adds Pair & More Rare Pics Of James Remar In James Cameron's 'Aliens' Before He Was Fired Rare Pics Of James Remar In James Cameron's 'Aliens' Before He Was Fired Watch: 40-Minute Discovery Channel Special 'The Science Of Interstellar' Narrated By Matthew McConaughey Watch: 40-Minute Discovery Channel Special 'The Science Of Interstellar' Narrated By Matthew McConaughey 'X-Men: Apocalypse' To Focus On Romance Between Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique & Michael Fassbender's Magneto 'X-Men: Apocalypse' To Focus On Romance Between Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique & Michael Fassbender's Magneto 20 Comic Actors And Their Best Dramatic Roles 20 Comic Actors And Their Best Dramatic Roles Review: 'Dumb and Dumber To' Starring Jim Carrey And Jeff Daniels Review: 'Dumb and Dumber To' Starring Jim Carrey And Jeff Daniels Listen: 45-Minute Talk With Christopher Nolan, Plus The Big Twist From Steven Spielberg's 'Interstellar' Script And More Listen: 45-Minute Talk With Christopher Nolan, Plus The Big Twist From Steven Spielberg's 'Interstellar' Script And More Review: Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway & More Review: Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway & More 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' Will Conclude With A 45-Minute Battle Sequence 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' Will Conclude With A 45-Minute Battle Sequence Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes

TIFF '11 Review: Guy Maddin's 'Keyhole' Beautiful And Brassy...But Frustratingly Sealed

The Playlist By James Rocchi | The Playlist September 11, 2011 at 1:57AM

Let us pause, then, to contemplate the fate and fortunes of the director who does not have his or her eye set on the five-picture deal, the glossy franchise, the production wing in the bungalow offices of some major studio; what becomes of the director who only wants to make art and make it well? Canada's Guy Maddin clearly has no eye on commercial success -- rumor has it that his next feature might actually be in color -- and instead prefers to stand at the edge and peer into the abyss to look for what's next. This is a unique vantage point, to be sure, but it's also perilous if one should fall; "Keyhole" is both too much and too little, a crowded smorgasbord of genre picture tropes and haunted house tricks that leaves your eyes and brain distended with both far too much to absorb and far too little to sustain.
0


Let us pause, then, to contemplate the fate and fortunes of the director who does not have his or her eye set on the five-picture deal, the glossy franchise, the production wing in the bungalow offices of some major studio; what becomes of the director who only wants to make art and make it well? Canada's Guy Maddin clearly has no eye on commercial success -- rumor has it that his next feature might actually be in color -- and instead prefers to stand at the edge and peer into the abyss to look for what's next. This is a unique vantage point, to be sure, but it's also perilous if one should fall; "Keyhole" is both too much and too little, a crowded smorgasbord of genre picture tropes and haunted house tricks that leaves your eyes and brain distended with both far too much to absorb and far too little to sustain.

Maddin's usual fondness for the (soap) operatic and the melodramatic are both in play here, a gangland saga about crook Ulysses Pick (a mesmerizing Jason Patric, often the most stable thing on-screen to fix one's gaze on) dealing with a fight over power within the confines of a semi-haunted house containing both his estranged wife, Hyacinth (Isabella Rossellini) and her captive father (Louis Negin). Ulysses is moving through shadowy territory, with time and place both permeable; Ulysses also meets Manners (David Wotner), a teen who turns out to be his offspring, and the lovely Denny (Brooke Palson) who has drowned and is both alive and dead.


Lacking the narrative clarity of "The Saddest Music in the World" -- where a beer-sponsored search for depressing music from around the globe is a wicked mayor's plan for seizing control, which may not be your definition of 'narrative clarity' -- "Keyhole" instead works as pure atmospherics; a hallway full of genitalia and limbs sprouting from the wall ("This penis is dusty," a character notes matter-of-factly) is a R-rated riff on Cocteau's "Beauty and the Beast," while the gangland material is straight out of a '40s Warner Brothers gangster pic -- if '40s gangster pics had rough inspiration from Homer's Odyssey while taking place in a haunted house right out of a LSD-soaked episode of "Scooby Doo."

"Keyhole" was commissioned by the Wexner center for the arts at Ohio State University, with additional funding from the Canadian Government and other agencies; for those of you who have been inspired to muse on a film art without the ugly invisible hands of profit and business driving it, here is your answer, though you may not like it. The press notes for "Keyhole" describe it as Maddin's first attempt at "pure narrative filmmaking," a joke that, in itself, is funnier than anything in the script.

Maddin is in love with the techniques and tones of classic Hollywood -- not merely the epic but also the everyday, not just the masterful but also the merely moneymaking -- and his usual re-use of classic film technique is not just the centerpiece of the film but, perhaps the point of the film. Lightning flashes, thunder crashes, faces appear on billowing curtains, a man is put to death with an electric chair whose headpiece is a colander -- but there's not a character in it with the appeal of Mark McKinney's conniver in 'The Saddest Music in the World," or the lost teen detectives of "Brand Upon the Brain!" I've always respected Maddin as a unique and experimental artist; "Keyhole" was the first time I felt inspired to ask what, exactly, it was that the experiments were trying to prove.

But is it not better to have a misfire from Maddin than another middle-brow double-digit return-on-investment studio film? Yes, unequivocally -- but suggesting that every beautiful and bizarre film Maddin makes is a work of genius is just as patronizing as suggesting that every beautiful and bizarre film he makes is a uncommercial curiosity. Maddin is on the edge, and that perspective gives him visions and insights others never dare to attain -- but with the locked and puzzling "Keyhole," you get a sense of a filmmaker who's lost sight of how to take his audience along with him. [D+]

This article is related to: Review, Actresses, Actors, Films, Guy Maddin, Keyhole, Jason Patric, Isabella Rossellini


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates