Monday, October 5, 2015

Dreams, desires, naughty taboos: Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson's THE FORBIDDEN ROOM

Who else but Guy Maddin would hand us a Jesus quote to begin his film then follow this with enough degradation, deprivation and bizarre behavior to send a fundamentalist crazy. And crazy is the operative word for Mr. Maddin's latest lulu, THE FORBIDDEN ROOM, which, beginning with the opening credits -- that use the title backgrounds of several different, old-fashioned movie genres to introduce each new set of names -- proves as funny, fun, probing and as Maddining (to add a much-needed word to your movie lexicon) as his work always is.

Except that this time (the filmmaker is pictured at left), he's aglow with two-strip Technicolor, rather than his ususal black-and-white, and he seems to have abdicated altogether any hint of central theme or story and instead, Scheherazade-like, spun out tale after tale after tale until they seem to wrap around and turn in and on each other like wily, sometime deadly serpents.

This may be the movie-meister's funniest and most appealing work to date. It certainly boasts his starriest cast -- from
Canada's Roy Dupuis (below) to England's Charlotte Rampling to France's Mathieu Amalric and many more. Maddin has also, this time 'round, taken on a co-director, Evan Johnson (shown at right: the pair co-wrote, as well, along with a few others), who appears to have been responsible for the special effects, which are pretty much non-stop, though nothing like what Hollywood consistently gives us. There is not one car chase nor explosion to be seen, though a valcano -- the movie, in its use of silent-film titles and old-fashioned writen narration, uses intentional misspelling now and again -- does errupt a couple of times.

Subjects along the way include everything from bathing and bottoms to lobotomies and flapjacks, and we meet everyone from mad doctors (of course, just about everyone else is nutty, too) to doppelgangers and Janus-like Jekyll & Hydes.

There's the quest, 'natch, this time to save a beautiful young woman from... well, a number of differing fates worse than death, a mustache (worn first by Udo Kier, below) that manages to span three generations, and perhaps the most unusual kind of vampire you will have ever encountered.

There is a lot of fun to be had (my favorites include the aviatrix/lawyer and what particular objects are sacrificed to that valcano) and, as always with Maddin, there is the sensation that we are in the middle of this guy's own special and really bizarre dreams -- sexually, psychologically, emo-tionally and especially family-wise. The filmmaker, like Hitchcock but in such a different manner, is a voyeur who makes willing voyeurs of us all.

How inventive and imaginative can Maddin be? Very. However, can the guy keep all this up for a full two hours and eleven minutes? (The movie is now said to be be two hours flat, but the screener I viewed proved a tad longer.) I think this will depend on just how Maddin-crazy you are. I didn't flag, although I thought the movie occasionally did -- before quickly bouncing back with some new/old oddity and delight.

The Forbidden Room (every one of Maddin's movies is full of the forbidden) is one long fever dream of nostalgia, silliness, buried (as well as overt) sexuality and film references. If you've never seen a Maddin movie, this one should be a fine starting point -- and perhaps ending point if you're not impressed. That's Jacques Nolot, below, who has a ratther meaty role in the festivities.)

From Kino Lorber (and, I expect, unrated), the film opens this Wednesday, October 7, at New York City's Film Forum, and then in the weeks to come in a number of other cities. Click here then scroll way down to see all currently scheduled playdates.

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