Movie Poster
The Saddest Music in the World
Guy Maddin
Mark McKinney, Isabella Rossellini, Maria de Medeiros, David Fox, Ross McMillan
99 min.


Half of the time Guy Maddin seems like the most pretentious art-house poseur in the world: full of himself and full of shit. The other half he seems like a genius. Or at least, like he's not so bad after all.

The usual formula goes something like this: first half - hack; second half - genius. This is largely due to his problematic penchant for employing the film styles of yesteryear. Since The Saddest Music is set during the Great Depression, the film apes '30s era pseudo-expressionist style. For the first ten minutes or so it seems almost unbearably contrived. After the acclimation period (unusually short for a Guy Maddin picture) you become immersed in the film's world, it all fits to its own internal logic, and the only problem is Mark McKinney.

The story details the eventrs following Isabella Rosellini's beer baroness' anouncement of a $15,000 contest to determine which country has the titular music. Canada, America, Serbia and numerous others are put into amusing head-to-head music bouts, until, by single elimination, only America and Serbia are left. The film goes out with a bang and some of its best lines.

The Saddest Music in the World lacks Careful's twisted undercurrents, and endearingly sincere amateur cast. It makes up for the shortcomings with an astonishingly funny script. Really, it's fucking hilarious. And the rest of the cast, besides Mark McKinney. Mostly Isabella Rosellini and her legs made of beer. And even Mark McKinney is good in parts, he certainly has the best role, the best jokes, he's just a little too smug in his performance.

The America jokes (Maddin's a Canuck) are spot-on, trenchant cultural satire in lieu of the usual tired political posturing: like when McKinney pays a group of Hindi girls to play Eskimos in his finale.

Guy Maddin may be a tricky proposition, but I couldn't agree more with The Saddest Music in the World.

Pat Jackson