So it seems to me that there is a sharp dichotomy in modern cinema between those who shoot beautiful images and those who tell stories (this is all outside of Hollywood, obviously). Why the two can’t be combined, I’m not sure. But the descendants of Stan Brakhage and avant-garde cinema reign supreme in the beautiful image school and none has a more high position than Guy Maddin. The Canadian can certainly shoot a luscious image. But can he shoot a film that combines that image with meaningful human emotion? The extent evidence suggests no. This film takes place in a theoretical 1930s with Jason Patric coming to support his gang during a shootout with police (how he breaks police lines is both unexplainable and evidently irrelevant). His wife is played by Isabella Rosselini who mumbles some lines for the kind of avant-garde project that defines her in the dictionary. They have a son who is tied up when they capture a blind girl who has somehow hooked up with him. Oh never mind. Maddin doesn’t care about actual dialogue or plot. Rosselini’s father is also chained up and naked for this or that reason. Whatever. Beautiful images! Black and white! Brakhage-influence!
I know this is ultimately a minor point, but for a historian this stuff really bugs me. For a film that nominally takes place in the 1930s and has a tremendous amount of nudity for a theoretically commercial film, the amount of female body hair removal makes absolutely no sense. I recognize that I am moving toward the ridiculous ground of my outrage about the 20th century cob size of the corn eaten by the Indians in Malick’s The New World, but there’s really no good reason to ignore these kind of historical details. Except that these details are irrelevant to Maddin because he just doesn’t care about this kind of thing. And I guess that’s alright. But this is very much image for image sake. If that’s your thing, you’ll like this. Me, I’d like to see his beautiful images combined with a real script.