December 14, 2010

It's a mad Maddin world

Also this week: Cannibal Girls, Mesrine Part 1: Killer Instinct

The Quintessential Guy Maddin (Zeitgeist) Only in the feverish filmography of Guy Maddin can a hand-less hockey player, incestuous psychopaths and the heart of the world blend in with such archaic aesthetics as German expressionism, Soviet montage and silent-era melodrama. 

This newly released quintet of the Winnipegian auteur’s lesser-known oeuvre gets off to a great start with the weird and wonderful Careful. Both homage and parody to Leni Riefenstahl’s early-20th century mountain films, it also features incest, gore and avalanches. Next up is Twilight of the Ice Nymphs, a formally divergent, generally unloved Maddin film that’s as much of a slog as you may have heard. Things are quickly redeemed by Archangel’s noir-inducing visuals and hyper-dramatic narrative about a one-legged WWI soldier yearning for his dead wife in the Russian Arctic. Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diaryis a dicey interpretation of Bram Stoker’s classic that uses the director’s signature style to evoke F.W. Murnau. As eye-catching as it periodically is, the upshot falls short of “Quintessential Guy Maddin.” Concluding as remarkably as it began, we end with Cowards Bend the Knee, a not-really-autobiographical film starring Guy Maddin as a hockey player named Guy Maddin, whose hands get transplanted for bluer, more homicidal ones.  

“Quintessential” might be a stretch, but with its friendly price tag and wealth of bonus content, it’s a steal. Excluding old gems like Tales From the Gimli Hospital and new faves The Saddest Music in the World and Brand Upon the Brain! (all available through other distributors) may result in an obscure and generally uneven selection, but it does capture Maddin’s wonky, definitely-not-for-everyone appeal.  

Each feature comes with its own commentary from Maddin, mostly accompanied by frequent writing collaborator George Toles. Extras also include interviews, behind-the-scenes glimpses, tangible postcards and an hour-long documentary narrated by Tom Waits that begins with Maddin’s childhood right up until he made Ice Nymphs in 1997. If you’re still not sold, six shorts are spread across four discs, including one of the director’s all-time greats, The Heart of the World.

Also Available
Before Meatballs, Ivan Reitman was way under the radar. His 1973 sophomore feature Cannibal Girls (Filmswelike) stars SCTV alums Andrea Martin and an afro-ed, mustachioed Eugene Levy as a bickering couple who fall prey to a trio of cannibalistic babes. As if things couldn’t be campier, there’s an audio option that summons a warning bell before and after a gruesome sequence. Also included is Reitman’s patchy, if endearing, debut short about a geeky college student who falls for a stone fox. Über-fans should visit the distributor’s website for a gift pack that contains a Cannibal Girls-branded meat cleaver and cooking apron. 

If you dug Vincent Cassel in Black Swan (even the haters must’ve), be sure to check out Mesrine Part 1: Killer Instinct (Alliance)the first half of his stylish and brutal portrayal of real-life French gangster Jacques Mesrine, who in the late-’60s and early-’70s broke many a law across Europe, the US and in and around Quebec’s Saint-Vincent-de-Paul prison. Part two arrives on DVD later this month.