Something hidden -- go and find it;
Go and look beyond the Ranges
Something lost behind the ranges:
Lost and waiting for you. Go!

-- from Guy Maddin's CAREFUL

Being a periodic meditation on some of the more obscure outlying regions of cinema;
regarding movies that are inadequately publicized and hence, easily overlooked --
and by cinema, it is meant in the larger sense of films/tv/DVD/internet --
that might be worthy of your interest, but perhaps has escaped your notice.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009


       It seems frighteningly appropriate that this first entry of ‘09 emerges upon April Fools’ Day. Even more so apropos that this premiere post of the year concerns itself with the film from which so much on this blog is derived. The heading, inscription -- even my own pen-name -- all taken from Guy Maddin’s Careful; now re-released on DVD, after being out-of-print for the better part of this decade. It’s a film that many (including yours truly) feel is his best feature; and I can unhesitatingly say that you’ll not see a better example of the German-Mountain-TraĆ¼merei/incestuous-romance genre this year... -- and most likely not in 2010 either; after that, all bets are off.

       Without wanting to reveal anything that would spoil the unworldly onlookers’ initial viewing of the film; Careful concerns the rather... -- convoluted..., let’s say -- love-lives of two brothers: Johann and Grigorss, as they muddle through butler-school training in the isolated alpine village of Tolzbad. It’s a settlement so precariously perched, that any stray upsurge of sound threatens to entomb the entire hamlet in a thick blanket of snow (hence, the title). The two brothers grapple with their respective amorous and familial misadventures; and with the looming presence of the mountains themselves. It all sounds oh-so melodramatic -- and it is! But the histrionics are largely played for laughter, if of the nervous variety; and like all of Maddin’s films, the seemingly campy is just a dainty cover for the emotionally raw. It’s a mode of filmmaking that seems like it must be disingenuous -- yet curiously, provokes exactly the opposite result (or does so, at least, in this viewer).

       Maddin’s an assiduously literary filmmaker. Influences upon the film include German Romanticism (in general), E.T.A. Hoffman, Thomas Mann, and most prominently, Robert Walser -- who also influenced the Brothers Quay in their adaptation of his novel, Jakob von Gunten, entitled Institute Benjamenta; which, for the record, is certainly the most impenetrably opaque film I’ve ever sat through in my life. Although that hasn’t stopped me from sitting through it a couple of more times, I might add. Much of the reason for this literary bent is the fact that every Maddin feature film (aside from his debut, Tales from the Gimli Hospital) is a collaboration with screenwriter, George Toles, a professor of Literature and Film Studies who teaches at the University of Manitoba; and who is as responsible as the man himself for the “Maddin style” (at least at the script level). And on an even more tangential note, Kyle McCulloch, who portrays “Grigorss” in the film, now makes his livelihood as a producer on South Park; and in addition, provides occasional vocal talent for the show -- including all the voices for “Canadian” characters.

       This DVD re-release of Careful includes some extras that were available on the previous edition -- like the fine documentary, Waiting for Twilight; about the making of another Maddin feature, Twilight of the Ice Nymphs. New to this edition include a commentary track by Maddin and George Toles. To those who’ve never listened to a director’s commentary on DVD -- if the prospect of hearing a director describe his film as “lensed in repress-o-vision” doesn’t compel you to give a listen, then let’s just assume it’s a practice has that zero appeal for you, now and forever. Also much improved is the video transfer itself; scenes that were impenetrably murky in the previous release are now merely foggily indistinct -- as they should be! All in all, “it’s must-see TV! (for the discerning cinephile)”.

Some links:
A brief scene from Careful.

Zeitgeist Films the releasing company that produced this fine release.

A brief scene from Archangel, an earlier Maddin feature.

Next post -- 04/06/09