Is There a Ghost? 


Directed by Guy Maddin

Towards the end of his director's commentary for the Cowards Bend the Knee DVD, Maddin confessed: "I've always feared that my father never died, but that he just went into hiding somewhere," a richly suggestive fantasy which ties together several of the fearfully rivalrous threads running through his filmography. In Keyhole, Jason Patric, all manly grimace, plays a tommygun gangster called Ulysses, surrounded by suits and molls from the Warner Brothers 30s, on an amnesiac odyssey through the rooms of his own home, where ghosts mingle with the living.

In the attic of the mansion is Isabella Rossellini, a far more taunting Penelope, and the narrator, a naked old man chained to the bed. Bondage, sex-shame and mythic father-son tension (and a child's fascination with mature genitalia) play out amid movie rain and ticking clocks, wildly swinging lamps and extreme angles, and silent-montage close-ups and superimpositions (along with a Kenneth Anger color-burst).

In his reliance on institutional commissions and state support, and his kaleidoscopic approach to narrative, Maddin sometimes seems closer to the gallery than the cinematheque. But though Keyhole pastiches attractive genres and familiar obsessions, it hardly feels a response to art-market pressures: few filmmakers so frequently risk the ridiculous.

Opens April 6


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