Wednesday, 13 February 2013



While it's sadly established that generic, anonymous, homogeneous slop is where the money is where it comes to movies, it's nice that there's room for the individual, the one-off and the batshit loon to make their own artistic endeavours. Cinema would be nothing if it was run entirely by the wacko side of the industry, just as if it were run exclusively by the Michael Bays of this world. Theoretically, the wackos and the eccentrics should be where we get the more interesting, challenging and memorable films, if only because they're not adhering like duct tape to a ludicrous studio formula that makes 90% of all movies look the same. Theoretically.

Guy Maddin is one of those eccentrics who does his own highly stylised thing, and never mind what the focus groups and preview audiences might say. Maddin's films are tough to get into; for some they're worth the effort but I've rarely managed it. I remember struggling mightily but unsuccessfully with a double-bill of his silent melodramas Archangel and Tales From The Gimli Hospital twenty years ago, and enjoying the hand-tinted Alpine love story Careful only a little more. But in the event his Dracula: Pages From A Virgin's Diary, a lo-def retelling of the Stoker story through the medium of contemporary ballet with a Mahler score, ends up as his most accessible film.

The fairest and most open-minded thing I can possibly say about Keyhole is that, like those other films of his, it's just is not to my personal taste and I don't respond to his work as he intended. It's a dark, very harshly shot black and white film which starts off as a 30s gangster movie with goons trapped in a house awaiting the arrival of their boss, Ulysses Pick (Jason Patric). But then it becomes a sort of ghost story in which he might be a ghost, his wife Hyacinth (Isabella Rossellini) and/or some of his children (one of whom he's forgotten) might be ghosts, and none of it seems to be real....

On the other hand, the unfairest thing I can say is that it's dull and completely incomprehensible bunk, and it isn't even enlivened by the "strong sexual images" that earned it an 18 certificate. Visually it's very dark with a heavy, suffocating atmosphere, a lack of narrative cause and effect that makes the whole film play like some kind of inescapable dream, and it's impossible to fathom exactly what's going on. But presumably that's the point. It's an exercise in art and style, not a plot-centred film; that style is certainly well conjured but completely impenetrable and the film emerges from the gloom as the least accessible and most difficult of Maddin's films that I've seen so far. I'm all for cinema that doesn't blindly follow the studio doctrines, but Keyhole swings way too far the other way into the arty abstract.



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