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Best described as a combination of "The Wizard of Oz" and "Eraserhead," "Careful" is a wacked-out tale of repression and unnatural desires, set in an alpine village where no one can speak too loudly for fear of starting an avalanche. Hilarious and sinister, "Careful" is also one of the most visually arresting films I've ever seen, with impossibly rosy-cheeked characters inhabiting a hallucinatory dream world of intentionally fake sets and intense easter-egg pastels. Watching it you will feel like you've stepped into the middle of a Ricola ad gone horribly, horribly wrong.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Bizarre and highly imaginative film with a distinctive style. It reminds me a little bit of "Quintet" (the snowy background, and parts of the soundtrack) and "Institute Benjamenta" (the low-key weirdness and the butler-school sub-theme). The humour is subtle; there are no laugh-out-loud moments, but some of the ideas are hilarious. For example, Sarah Neville deciding to work in a mine(!), in which we later find more women. Or the almost pythonesque conversation between Neville and McCulloch, in which they both yawn(!) while the former tells the latter about having been molested by her father. But Madden probably didn't intend to go for the big laughs otherwise he wouldn't have made this whole thing so moody.
Hilariously demented: Take camera work and set design inspired by "The
Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari" and the early talkie "Svengali", scenario and
dialogue that might have been written by Ibsen (under the influence of
peyote), then put a creature from Alpha Centauri doing his first
English-language film in the director's chair and you get some idea of
this movie is like.
If there's not something wrong with you, you won't like this movie at all, but there's much here that twisted sensibilities will find appealing. Consider yourself warned.
This is the fourth Guy Maddin film I've seen--the others are The Dead Father, Tales From the Gimli Hospital, and Twilight of the Ice Nymphs--and I have yet to be impressed. Maddin's obsessive need to reproduce the conventions of old film styles isn't the problem, it's his utter inability to tell a compelling story. And while Careful looks quite good--though the tinting is at times oversaturated--his insistence on having his cast read the script in an arch deadpan style is simply annoying and frankly an insult to the films to which he is supposedly paying tribute. Maddin is the arthouse equivalent of Quentin Tarantino--reasonably well versed in film history, in awe of his cinema predecessors, and woefully unable to turn his love and knowledge into anything more than a game of spot the influence.
This movie was a real mixed bag to me. On the one hand you have an
original movie, that taking an unique vintage approach but on the other
hand it's something that just doesn't always work out too well.
First of all, I can really appreciated Guy Maddin and his style of unique film-making, that is often a throwback to the classic early movie's era. With this movie Guy Maddin went back to the early days of German expressionism, which in the past had provided us with many great classic and very memorable and beautiful looking movies, mostly during the early 1920's. The movie begins very well and promising enough but overall, is this movie really being German expressionistic? It tries alright but in my opinion it really isn't. It's really lacking the right looks and techniques.
Despite some hard efforts, the movie is really too modern looking. Why not use consistently an one color filtering throughout the entire movie? A look that was very distinctive and recognizable for an 1920's movie but gets only sporadically used in this actual movie. They applied some filters during and after filming but what it mostly does is making the colors look a bit dim. It doesn't really give the movie an old vintage feeling. Besides, if this was supposed to be like a German expressionistic movie, then where are all the great looking sets and backgrounds that made expressionistic movies what they were. Instead this movie is looking like a modern but also cheap movie, that does absolutely nothing with its environments or sets.
One thing that also doesn't seem very consistent with its style and approach is the fact that this is a talkie. The movie would had probably worked out better if it was more being like a silent movie, using title cards and perhaps a narrator, like Maddin for instance did previously with "Tales from the Gimli Hospital", a movie that did a far better job with its silent movie elements and more modern film-making elements and approach.
The story would had probably worked out far better as well that way. Silent movies can simply get away with a lot more. Now instead the movie works out needlessly confusing and weird. Yes, it obviously is already a bit of a weird movie in the first place but all of its dialog and story lines make the movie even more odd to watch. It's just not very compelling and the characters are far too (intentionaly) flat to care about. The story besides gets told in a bit of a messy way and doesn't tell one main story but instead about two different ones. It really doesn't make the movie a very consistent one.
So all in all, I can appreciate Guy Maddin's approach and the weirdness he brings to this movie but it ultimately doesn't always works out too well for this particular movie, which makes it a bit of a mixed bad to watch. Nice try but no cigar.
I thought this movie was near perfect, although certainly it will not appeal to a mainstream audience. Guy Maddin has created an atmosphere that evokes both the glowingly wholesome and the grotesque at once. The use of sound, the characters, and the pacing combine to give this film a uniquely mesmerizing feel. I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys the absurd and unconventional. This said, far from being esoteric or overly symbolic, I found this film extremely accessible and easy to watch, and was quickly drawn into the dark and offbeat storyline.
I really like Maddin. I like the way he thinks visually first.
Narrative is not only woven into and communicated by cinematic means,
but his characters live in a similar world. They experience the world,
the same way we experience the film: by what some call a surrealistic
dream world. It is not. Rather it is a world wholly driven by laws,
laws we understand because they are rooted in film worlds we have
I have two of his films on my "must experience before you die" list. This one is narratively less subtle and powerful than those. He makes a trade-off by investing in what is often - including here - called "German Expressionism." Actually, the model is German mountain films, a quite different beast: one that is more genuinely pre-noir.
The world behind those films has a people in tune with a nature that limits their lives, often controlling. American noir would later merge this collection of laws with the narrative conventions built into the act of viewing. What this film does is insert itself before that development. It is pre-noir tragedy with noir-like conventions, cast using those German pre- noir images.
It is a stretch to merge German notions of superior harmony with the mountain homeland with the Nazi comfort with the cruelty of nature. But heck, others do; there is the tradition of Riefenstahl's mountain films and then her similarly inspired Nazi propaganda; and after all, films like this encourage such stretches. And a similar stretch goes in the "White Ribbon" direction, with nature and its German bond with sexual repression behind what happened. Herzog continues this even today.But all that is predicable and easy to read, compared to Maddin's deeper stuff.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
I saw this at the Sundance Film Festival in 1993 and have been telling all my friends to see this unique film ever since. I'm happy to hear that it is on DVD (my probing into every video store was fruitless)and I can't wait to purchase my very own copy of this brilliant film.
Madden makes skillful use of wacky surrealism and absurdity and then mixes them with an undeniably Bergmanesque preoccupation with secrets and taboos to create something very akin to a Grimm Fairy Tale - albeit, the original, non-sanitized versions. What's really remarkable about Madden isn't his stylization, but the fact that amidst all the design lies tight and absorbing screenwriting, wrought with emotion.
This film I have seen today on the International Film Festival Of Rotterdam. This film is really the worst film I have ever seen. I've seen a lot movies but this no move is so worse as this one. For a fan of films. This is really a nightmare!!!
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