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by Peter Sobczynski

"Take A Peek"
4 stars

There are plenty of filmmakers out there whose work I greatly admire but there are only a few who are so original and unique that whenever I sit down to see their latest effort, I can almost guarantee that they will be supplying me with what a desire to experience the most from a film, both as a critic and as a simple audience member--the chance to see things that I have never seen--or even contemplated seeing, for that manner--unfolding on the big screen. One of those people is Guy Maddin, the Canadian creator of such jaw-dropping surrealist instant classics as "The Saddest Music in the World" (featuring Isabella Rossellini as a double-amputee beer baroness whose glass legs are filled with her product), "My Winnipeg" and the mesmerizing short "The Heart of the World" (a stunning work that somehow covers the history and the eventual end of both cinema and the world, all in six silent minutes)--here is a person who you will never catch doing an ordinary studio project for the big bucks (though the mind boggles at what he might accomplish with a "Battleship"-sized budget). His latest work is "Keyhole," a bizarre little item that, while perhaps not entirely successful even by its own somewhat singular parameters, it still contains more originality in any individual frame than the sum total of nearly every other film that we have seen so far this year

Based on a cursory description of the plot--a Thirties-era gangster, with his mob and a couple of hostages in tow, holes up at his family home as the police surround the place--one might expect "Keyhole" to be nothing more than a standard crime movie melodrama. However, in the hands of the likes of Maddin, the only thing that one can guarantee about the film is that nothing about what is to unfold could possibly be considered "standard," starting with the fact that at least one of the hostages--though up and about and looking only slightly worse for wear--may in fact be dead. Set in a rambling old mansion of inexplicably vast expanse, the film shows us what happens as criminal mastermind Ulysses (Jason Patric) roams the house looking for his estranged wife (Isabella Rossellini) and his aging father (currently chained to his bed) while encountering ghosts of his past around every single one of the joint's countless corners.

I could describe the sights that Ulysses glimpses throughout his odyssey but I wouldn't know where to begin and more importantly, to do so would be to do a great disservice to what Maddin has in store for you. For those who have yet to experience one of Maddin's cheerfully demented pastiches of dark humor, bizarre imagery, formal daring and the literally indescribable (imagine David Lynch without the accessibility), this film may not be the best introduction to his unique cinematic style. For everyone else, the film is not quite up to his usual high quality--as his first foray into digital filmmaking, it looks as beautifully decrepit as his previous works but the narrative, such as it is, tends to meander even by his standards in this regard. That said, even second-tier Maddin makes for a richer and more rewarding cinematic experience than the finest works of most filmmakers that you or I could mention and like the rest of his filmography, I assure you that once you see it, you will never forget it.

That said, I am a realist and I know that since "Keyhole" is getting only a limited art-house release, many of you will not have an opportunity to see it on the big screen and even if you do live in a benighted burg where it is actually unspooling, there is an excellent chance that you may be rushing out to catch "The Avengers" instead. (No crime there because "The Avengers" is perfectly good as well.) That said, I would like to point out that "Keyhole" is currently scheduled for release on DVD and Blu-Ray on June 19th and that is you are one whose taste in film is willing to accept the strange, the unique and the just plain odd, you should mark the date and give it a look some night when you have a mad posh to take a cinematic walk on the extremely wild side. Trust me, it is worth a peek.

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originally posted: 05/06/12 08:51:54
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2012 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Independent Film Festival Boston 2012 For more in the Independent Film Festival Boston 2012 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Seattle International Film Festival For more in the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival series, click here.

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  DVD: 19-Jun-2012


  DVD: 19-Jun-2012

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