Published Sep 09, 2011The latest offering from Canada's favourite oddball, Guy Maddin, Keyhole is bizarre, discomfiting, grotesque and perverse. In other words, it's another reliable Maddin product. Those expecting a straighter, more conventional film following the breakthrough of My Winnipeg will instead have to come to grips with something that fits well within his long-established weirder, claustrophobic tradition.
Keyhole is the loosely framed story of steely-eyed gangster Ulysses Pick (Jason Patric, brilliantly deadpan) who barricades himself in an ancient, creaky house filled with familial ghosts mingling with psychosexual imagery, accompanied by a mute girl in a wet dress named Denny (Brooke Palsson).
While it would do Maddin a disservice to say that the plot is inconsequential, it's certainly not paramount, and at least half the pleasure of opening one of Maddin's elaborately enigmatic creations is the visual interplay and hilarious verbal non-sequiturs interwoven throughout his work.
With Keyhole, Maddin finally embraces the '30s gangster melodrama that one suspects he's been dying to tackle his entire career, but in his own particular way. His endearingly obsessive-compulsive eye for arcane detail is fully intact and Keyhole is the kind of film that's impossible to digest in one sitting.
In a way, this is the design flaw of his work, and Maddin has always sacrificed coherence for expressionism, yet it's hard to fault such a self-assured filmmaker for steadfastly sticking to his uncompromising aesthetic at this stage in the game. Everything you could possibly want from a Guy Maddin endeavour is intact, and when it peaks, Keyhole is as wildly unique and enthralling as his best work.
If the film goes slightly awry it's in its convoluted third act (around the time the great Udo Kier shows up), when the tautly paced noir style gives way to a deeper dive into the subconscious, and the sharp one-liners give way to soupy semaphore.
Regardless, one is inclined to give our Guy the benefit of the doubt and prep for repeated viewings. (eOne)