Ladies and Gentlemen, I Give You: Canadian Culture

Well, I saw a hell of a movie last night: Guy Maddin’s The Forbidden Room (2015). If you’ve never heard of Guy Maddin, he’s been a fixture of the Canadian film scene for decades now. The story goes that he got a degree in economics way back when, but got tired of working at a bank and got a job painting houses. One day in the ’80s, he took some film classes, got introduced to silent film, and decided “eh, I wanna make movies like that!”

I’ve watched a few of his movies in the past, including his undisputed classic, the 2004 short Sissy Boy Slap Party, and I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun with them. The man just loves the silent era, and watching one of his movies is a window onto styles of filmmaking and storytelling that have simply been forgotten over the years. The Forbidden Room is the pinnacle of all his interests to date, and as such it’s both exhilarating and exhausting. From what I’ve been able to gather, the genesis for the film came from Maddin’s research into early film, with the discovery of countless fragments of lost and uncompleted films that had been stored and forgotten. Rather than building one of these fragments into a complete story, The Forbidden Room puts about a dozen-plus vignettes together in multiple recursive structures. If you go into the film accepting that nothing is going to make much sense, you’ll probably be good to go, but even for me there were times I felt like I was watching Guy Maddin’s version of Inland Empire. I mean, I enjoyed it, but it’s a draining experience.

Still, where else can you see a guy in a scramble suit croon about Udo Kier’s butt fetish? Nowhere, that’s where.

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