The Saddest Music In The World

Another slice of bizarre, movie-mad brilliance from Winnipeg's Guy Maddin, this is his first feature since 1993's CAREFUL to play outside the festival/art-house circuit. It's 1933, and the Great Depression has hit Winnipeg so hard that the city has been voted the "world capital of sorrow." The only business that's booming is the Muskeg Brewery, owned and...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Another slice of bizarre, movie-mad brilliance from Winnipeg's Guy Maddin, this is his first feature since 1993's CAREFUL to play outside the festival/art-house circuit. It's 1933, and the Great Depression has hit Winnipeg so hard that the city has been voted the "world capital of sorrow." The only business that's booming is the Muskeg Brewery, owned and operated by haughty beer baroness Lady Port-Huntly (Isabella Rossellini), a glamorous double-amputee who knows that the sadder people are, the more beer they'll drink. Lady Port-Huntly has devised a worldwide radio contest to determine which country produces the saddest music in the world, and once she announces the $25,000 prize, miserable musicians everywhere pack up their sorrows and head for Canada. From the U.S. comes glass-hearted Chester Kent (Mark McKinney), a Winnipeg-born producer of musical spectaculars who was once Lady P.'s lover. Chester's father, Fyodor (David Fox), a WWI veteran whose unrequited love for the malt queen resulted in the loss of her legs, will be representing Canada. But neither father nor son anticipates the sudden of reappearance of Chester's truly miserable brother, world-renowned cellist Roderick (Ross McMillan), who left home 10 years earlier after Chester stole his music box and now bills himself as Gavrillo the Great. How sad is Roderick? So sad he lives in Belgrade and carries his dead son's heart in a jar, pickled in his own tears. Roderick also carries an Edison cylinder recording of what he claims is the saddest song ever, but he has sworn never to play it until he's reunited with his long-gone wife, scatterbrained nympho Narcissa (Maria de Medeiros). Coincidentally, Narcissa, who lives solely according to gut instinct (really — she takes orders from a tapeworm) has since moved to Winnipeg and has been dating Chester. Once Narcissa takes the stage as the star of Chester's splashy, Broadway-style bid for the saddest music in the world, Roderick will once again realize the depths of his brother's perfidy. This very odd but hugely enjoyable musical comedy sounds like typical Maddin — Oedipal drama, frantic editing, dizzy dissolves and homemade sets that would make Dr. Caligari dizzy, all rolled up and packaged like some forgotten Poverty Row programmer from the 1930s — but the original script was actually written by the famed Anglo-Japanese novelist Kazuo Ishiguro (Remains of the Day). Maddin, however, makes the material entirely his own, which is to say you won't see anything quite like it from any other filmmaker working today.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Another slice of bizarre, movie-mad brilliance from Winnipeg's Guy Maddin, this is his first feature since 1993's CAREFUL to play outside the festival/art-house circuit. It's 1933, and the Great Depression has hit Winnipeg so hard that the city has been vo… (more)

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