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 »
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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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
Simply brilliant visually a feast, funny, weird, unsettling and, most important of all, actually has a narrative!
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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