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Winnipeg, 1939: Bosnian immigrant Nihad Ademi conceives of a way to harness the power of the Aurora Borealis in order to broadcast imagery of his vast and beloved adopted land from coast to coast to coast.
In a house haunted with memories, gangster and father Ulysses Pick (Jason Patric) arrives home after a long absence towing the body of a teenaged girl and a bound and gagged young man. His gang waits inside his house, having shot their way past police. There is friction in the ranks. Ulysses, however, is focused on one thing: journeying through the house, room by room, and reaching his wife Hyacinth (Isabella Rossellini) in her bedroom upstairs. His odyssey eventually becomes an emotional tour, as the strange nooks and crannies of the house reveal more about the mysterious Pick family. Written by
Offers much in the concept but in the delivery is closed off and unhelpful
I won't say I "like" Guy Maddin in the sense that I am a fan, but for sure his name makes me consider watching a film because while I normally find them difficult to follow or fully appreciate, they usually offer so much that is of interest that they are worth a look. His style is something quite unique to him and sometimes he is so unique that his target audience can appear to be only himself and if the rest of us like it too then so be it. I say this because this is sort of the case here and I hope he really likes Keyhole but I would struggle to think of too many people who would really understand it or enjoy it as he would.
There are lots of ideas here and lots of style to deliver them. A gangster and his gang hold up in an old house while the police wait outside; the gang want to know the plan but Ulysses Pick is more concerned with working his way through this house full of ghosts one room at a time. As an idea it is a good one a man on a journey through himself by virtue of literally confronting the ghosts in his house. It appealed to me as an idea because it offered so much of interest in the hands of Maddin (who is known for his surreal imagery and films constructed around real or imagined or perceived pasts). Sadly it doesn't come off and it ends up feeling like an idea that was probably fully fleshed out in Maddin's head but not in a way that he was able to translate to film.
The result is a film that feels clever but all too often does it in a remote "art student" manner where it is happy doing what it wants because it is your fault if you are not smart enough to understand and appreciate all the hidden meaning in the symbolism. It is a shame because there is a good cast here in Patric, Rossellini and Kier but I wonder do even they really understand what it going on I hope not, because if they did then they didn't do much to share it with the viewer.
A disappointing film then; it offers much in the concept but in the delivery it seems far too closed off and full of randomness with no threads or cues to really help the viewer keep up or go along. Maddin is usually worth a look but here it isn't the case.
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