Crying Time

The Saddest Music in the Worlds surreally funny sob story

Although Maddin has long been saddled with the off-putting adjective postmodern (I may have even applied it myself), he has, in fact, always sided with older worlds, be it the "primitive" style of silent pictures, the uncanny arcana of fantastical 19th-century German short stories or the scratchy classical recordings that give his work its emotional ballast. For all his irony-laced dialogue, his title isn't facetious. Maddin genuinely believes in the emotional power of music, be it a vintage recording of Beethoven's Seventh or a rendition of Jerome Kern's "The Song Is You," whose corniness here achieves a kind of melancholy eloquence—even as you know the thing is damn silly.

Although The Saddest Music in the World is not Maddin's most original film—that's probably the opaque Archangel—it pulls off a tricky feat. It manages to preserve the astonishing fecundity of Maddin's imagination while telling a (nearly) comprehensible story. This isn't merely his most accessible movie to date, but another highlight in a four-year run of world-class work: The dazzling short The Heart of the World, a history of movies, love, science and history, all in six minutes; the astonishing dance film Dracula: Pages From a Virgin's Diary, the best version of this story since Carl Dreyer's Vampyr; and, upcoming at this June's Los Angeles Film Festival, the quasi-autobiographical Cowards Bend the Knee, a $10,000 tale of sex, guilt—and ice hockey.

Having declared this Maddin's most accessible movie, I must follow that up with a warning: The Saddest Music in the World is still the weirdest, freest-wheeling, most obsessively inventive motion picture you'll see this year. Parts are confusing, parts are berserk, parts are exasperatingly slow. But in a world of cookie-cutter movies, Maddin's movies are like nobody else's—funny, Romantic, as deliriously overwrought as a drug lord's wedding. Who else gives you Isabella Rossellini dancing around on hollow glass legs filled with beer? Who makes sure we hear the sloshing of the suds?

The Saddest Music in the World was directed by Guy Maddin; written by Maddin, Kazuo Ishigiro and George Toles; produced by Niv Fichman, Daniel Iron and Jody Shapiro; and Stars Isabella Rossellini, David Fox, Mark McKinney, Ross Mcmillan and Maria De Medeiros. Now Playing at Edwards South

Coast Village, Santa Ana.

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