A musical of sorts set in Winnipeg during the Great Depression, where a beer baroness organizes a contest to find the saddest music in the world. Musicians from around the world descend on the city to try and win the $25,000 prize.
Maria de Medeiros
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A hazy, fever dream of riverbank eroticism played out as a mirror ball recollection of turn of the century soft-core surrealism; with the whole thing further abstracted by the continual stylisations of the director, his absurd sense of postcard caricature and bawdy humour, and the exciting presentation of music and movement that recalls the energy and sensuality of the continually fascinating masterpiece, West Side Story (1961). You can attempt to read the film on a deeper level if you must, however, I think the intention of Maddin was simply to play around with the various iconography of early gay cinema as an exercise in ironic style and sly subversion, whilst also experimenting with the representation of movement and rhythm in a purely musical sense (something that he would eventually return to with a film like Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary, 2002). The emphasis is clearly on style and technique, as opposed to any kind of conventional narrative or accent on plot; with the director instead experimenting with elements of interpretive dance and his typically antiquated approach to cinema, as a parade of preening boy-toys in sailor suits indulge in fighting and frivolity as an extended metaphor for the nature of man and the continuing cycle of violence.
However, even with such suggestions in mind, the film is presented in such a way as to defy easy interpretation, with the spellbinding quality of Maddin's film-making approach and the sheer hypnotic quality of the rhythms of the music and the rhythms of the film transporting us in a way that the very best pictures often do. Even though many chose to accept this simply as an exercise in stylistic indulgence, you can still attempt to find some kind of sub-textual connection with the ideas, finding elements of metaphor or allegory perhaps in the way that Maddin juxtaposes an antique, anachronistic presentation of clearly defined sense of iconography, with an energy and excitement often lacking from many authentic films of the era that he is here making reference to. More fittingly however, the film can be approached as an infernal parody of the notions of machismo and male bravado, as ego and competition fuel the performance into more and more frenzied realms of dance-like violence that is 'acted' (both by the performers and the characters that they portray), as opposed to 'felt'. You could also see the film as an extended metaphor for sex, with the harsh foreplay giving in to a series of beautiful lines and movements before all participants lie back, exhausted and spent.
This interpretation is further suggested by the opening lines of dialog, in which the elder of the men announces that he's going into town to buy condoms, quickly reminding the boys that there will be "no slapping" - perhaps a pertinent allusion here to "no slapping / no sex". Again, these are just suggested interpretations on my part, with the film really working as a visual experience, no different from music video or performance art. It's all very silly and somewhat tongue-in-cheek as well, with the faux-kitsch implications of the title also going some lengths in suggesting the frivolous and amusing tone that the director seemed to be attempting. At the time of writing, I'm still a novice when it comes to the work of Guy Maddin, though I've seen most of his short films and find them all to be excellent in their own unique and compelling little way. Though it at first might seem like a ridiculous novelty, Sissy Boy Slap Party (1995) is actually a fascinating and highly entertaining six-minute film of captivating design, intelligent style and pure, unadulterated imagination.
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