Sunday, 10 November 2013


Keyhole – Guy Maddin –In an article in The Guardian [] I encountered the pleasingly bizarre revelation that, in preparation for Keyhole, Maddin staged ‘collage parties’ to help generate script ideas: "I invited the best young up-and-coming scene-grabbing artists, in various cities. I would prime their pumps with a few words – 'electric chair', things like that – and supplied a stack of old melodrama magazines, a stack of porn, and a few kegs of bourbon. We embarked on a very peaceful and therapeutic and yet disruptive process of snipping paper into blizzards of nipples." As far as cinematic foreplay goes, a surrealist ‘blizzard of nipples’ - snipped so judiciously in flurries of glossy flange and snowing scraps of forgotten…well, I could get carried away with the imagery (delving unecessaryily into scatalogical digressions and misguided anlogy). Anyway, once the phrase ‘blizzards of nipples’ has been given time to comprehensively settle, this unorthadox practice makes a lot of sense. I would go into further detail, but I plan to burrow excitably into this particular direction for a different project of research-and so shall restrain from mapping many a tangled association…another time, another time…

The film, taking place in a haunted house, begins as a pastiche of gangster noir wih the house surrounded by cops and their streaming flashlights…and then slowly twists into a more ghostly and bewildering meditation on the space of memory. Near the beginning of the film one of the gangsters orders ‘everyone who’s dead to face the wall’ (or words close to that) to discern between the living and dead. Not dissimiliar to children reluctantly conceding defeat in an imaginary game, the ‘ghosts’ confess to their spectral nature and slope out of the house. It is a brilliantly simple and humourous moment, in which both genre expectations and existentialist musings are shrugged off in the joy of a well-timed joke. Maddin consistently punctuates the dense, busy and haunting film with absurdist humour. The dead are just as eccentric as the living; a spectral acquaintance wanders corridors slurping from a glass of milk, the sprinting nude formless form of a woman dragged by a careering poltergeist poodle; an old man, the ghostly patriarch, kneels to fellate a cock-that just happens to be perpetually poked in eternal erection through a dusty wall…the ghost of an old man fellating a disembodied cock…yup, it’s fair to say that Maddin has excercised a gleefuly liberal imagination with commendable talent!

Following the tale of Ulysses, the film takes the hazy shape of a father’s journey. Ulysses makes his labarynth-like pilgrimage through the old house, a repetitive, uncanny and odd enactment of visiting and revisiting the past. The various rooms of the house hold memories, vividly imagined as naked, demented, debauched and disturbed ghosts, all wandering in restless tribute to lives left unresolved…or simply animated by the curiousity of reflection. Who is living and who is dead, what is real and imagined, occupying the present or presented in remembering, all become spirallingly confused in the film’s flexible subversion of the early comedic distinction. At the start of the journey ghosts were told to put their hands up and admit their ghostliness, by the end of the film the mesmeric circulation of memory haunts the living with the dead and vica versa, until such a distinction seems immaterial.
An unreal communion with family members manages to lend the film both an intimate tone of introspection (as Maddin has often cited seeing his father in his dreams-and the influence this holds on his approach to memory) and a more expansive, ambitious and textural essay on the past within the present. 

The psychology of architecture, repressed rooms and imagined passageways all become churned up in an oneiric rhythm, one that becomes wholly immersive. From the beautifully theatrical opening, an octagenarian man (wearing noubt but Y-fronts-looking unnervingly like the escaped flesh embodyment of a Lucien Freud painting) plodding a lace curtain across a mysterious stage, to the final thunder crash and whisper of melodrama, the film maintains a compelling momentm. Significantly memory, like dream, reacts to and communicates the unknown depths of the unconscious, and so the film is populated by eroticised flesh, sex, hysteria, sadness, pain and the inexplicably unexpected. Tuned constantly between two stations, Keyhole soaks its haunted noir palette in Maddin’s own beguiling, home- brewed static. A shifting portrait that begs repeated viewings! 9/10

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