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.
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It's the winter of 1933 in Winnipeg. In honor of Winnipeg being named the sorrow capital of the world for the Depression era for the fourth year running by the London Times, Lady Helen Port-Huntley, the legless owner of Winnipeg's Port-Huntley Beer, is hosting and judging a contest to see which nation has the saddest music in the world, the winner to take home a $25,000 prize. Seeing as to the current Prohibition in the United States, Lady Port-Huntley has ulterior motives for the contest. Father and son, streetcar conductor Fyodor Kent and New York based musical producer Chester Kent, who both have a past connection to Lady Port-Huntley (Fyodor, a WWI veteran and former doctor, has fashioned for her an unusual pair of artificial legs apropos to her business), want to represent Canada and the United States respectively in the contest. Despite Lady Port-Huntley's hatred for the Kent's, she does allow them to do so if only to advance her own priorities. As the contest takes place, the ... Written by
I just rented a warehouse. I got people lined up to build sets, make costumes. I got musicians, arrangers. But I gotta put out first, or they'll shut me down.
Maybe you should keep it simple.
America goes simple? That's a hot one. No, it's gotta be vulgar and obvious, full of gimmicks. You know, sadness, but with sass and pizzazz.
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I had always been told that director Guy Maddin did nothing conventionally, and so I approached The Saddest Music in the World with anticipation and hesitation. I am a great fan of Isabella Rossellini and Maria de Medeiros, both of whom do well in this picture. Maddin delivers a picture that is quite beautiful visually; all in black and white, and edited in such a way as to recall something resurrected from the 1930s. There are a few occasions when colour is allowed in, and those moments dazzle. One of the most striking images I have seen all year is Isabella Rossellini posing in Technicolour standing on glass legs filled with beer. It's something that has to be seen to be believed. However, once you get past the visuals, the film is rather empty and lacks heart. I do recommend it, though, because everyone should see something new and different (and for Isabella and Maria).
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