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Cowards Bend the Knee (2003)

Cowards Bend the Knee or The Blue Hands (original title)
It's time for hockey! There's no telling what will happen when the Winnipeg Maroons' own star player Guy becomes embroiled in the twisted lives of Meta, a vengeful Chinoise, and her ... See full summary »



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1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Melissa Dionisio ...
Tara Birtwhistle ...
Mike Bell ...
Mo Mott
David Stuart Evans ...
Henry Mogatas ...
Victor Cowie ...
Herdis Maddin ...
Marion Martin ...
Mrs. Maddin
Aurum McBride ...
Bernard Lesk ...
Erin Hershberg ...
Customer / Stylist
Erika Rintoul ...


It's time for hockey! There's no telling what will happen when the Winnipeg Maroons' own star player Guy becomes embroiled in the twisted lives of Meta, a vengeful Chinoise, and her hairdresser/abortionist mother Liliom. Innocent Veronica, caught in the middle, is treated to both services! Meanwhile poor, dithering, cowardly Guy can only stand by and watch. Written by Anony-Moose

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance





Release Date:

29 December 2004 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Cowards Bend the Knee  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$7,030 (USA) (13 August 2004)


$22,940 (USA) (20 August 2004)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Originally presented as a gallery installation at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in January 2003, and then two months later at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, in which viewers watch the movie through ten peepholes lining a wall, each one revealing a different six-minute chapter of the film. See more »

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User Reviews

Simply brilliant – visually a feast, funny, weird, unsettling and, most important of all, actually has a narrative!
19 July 2004 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

In a version of his life, Maddin tells us the tragic story of how the young Guy was once a great ice hockey player with the Maroons, until his girlfriend got into 'trouble'. A visit to a hairdressers-come-bordello-come-abortion clinic leads Guy to fall for Meta, the daughter of the bordello owner Liliom. However Meta wants revenge on her mother and her lover (Shaky – Guy's friend) for the murder of her father (who's blue hands she still has in a jar). A sinister 'transplant' by Dr Fusi, sets Guy on the road to destruction – all for the 'joy, joy, joy of finding love'.

I saw this film at a film night recently dedicated to showing several of Maddin's short films and this semi-feature. Despite the event being a little amateurish in its organisation, with a late start and 20 minutes spent watching a band tidy up in front of the screen, I enjoyed the evening and was glad for the chance to see several of the films for the first time. This film was the one I had actually come to see, but I didn't know anything about it and I wondering if Maddin would do his usual selective-substance thing over the whole 60 minutes. This I consider to be a problem with his shorts – sometimes, unless you are really aware of his influences then you'll struggle to get the substance of the short (kind of like watching Shrek without any knowledge of popular culture – you just wouldn't know what it was trying to do). However, the visuals are always impressive and even someone with only a passing knowledge of the silent movie period should be able to enjoy the sheer imagination and flair that Maddin directs with.

With 'Cowards' I didn't have to worry long; after a first scene that seems to set the whole story within a drop of sperm the film manages to retain Maddin's usual flair of the weird as well as setting up a story that is an enjoyable narrative flow – in other words, you're not riding on influences and style for the whole hour. Far from the case; in fact this film is funny, weird, engaging and just plain great! This is not to say that the story takes place in the real world – it doesn't, it is still very weird and strangely comic/weird but it still hangs together. The stretch to an hour shows a little bit towards the end but I still really enjoyed it.

The cast do a great job acting considering they are never heard (it's silent of course!) and they emulate the silent era acting really well. Fehr's Guy is great and he delivers the comic lines (well – 'cards') as effectively as he does the darker stuff. Dionisio is great and conveys so much with her face and, it must be said, a fantastically gorgeous face it is too! Stewart has less of a presence in a smaller role but Birtwhistle is funny as the oversexed mother and support is good from Negin (sinister), Evans (all-American) as well as a few of Maddin's own family members.

Overall this is a great film but one that will put many viewers off by the nature of its content. It is dark, it features full male nudity and it is totally silent – with dialogue cards that have French subtitles. To understand what I'm saying you really need to see (experience) it for yourself but take it from me: I am the first to highlight the weaknesses in substance with Maddin's shorts but here he has a good narrative that sacrifices none of his visual style and feel of the weird, wonderful, dark and comic. A brilliant film that is worth hunting down.

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