Thursday, March 22, 2012

103) Keyhole (2011)

103) Keyhole (2011) Dir: Guy Maddin Date Released: April 6, 2012 Date Seen: March 21, 2012 Rating: 2.75/5

I think I'm not being fair to this movie, which I also think will improve upon re-view. Still, I saw it for my interview with Guy Maddin at Vulture.

Editor's Note: the interview got killed. But I still want to run the piece as I filed it as I think it's good, damn it. So here, enjoy.

It’s rare that someone that can describe himself as a contemporary avant garde filmmaker can also be described as something of a celebrity, but Canadian multi-hyphenate Guy Maddin is that. Maddin (Brand Upon the Brain, My Winnipeg) is renowned amongst the international film community for his funny expressive and self-parodic silent melodramas, may of which contain supernatural, semi-autobiographical and hyper-sexual story elements. His new movie, Keyhole, follows a gangster (Jason Patric) named Ulysses as he navigates his childhood home, which turns out to be haunted by ghosts. I talked to Maddin about ghosts, sexual tuning forks, the devil in Udo Kier and the recent death of seminal avant garde filmmaker George Kuchar.

More after the jump.

Your new film project Spiritisme is now being shot around the world, including Paris, where you just shot. You seem to cover the market in where you shoot and present your movies. How different is the film culture in the various different countries you’ve visited?

I do have a weird position where I do enjoy a nice, comfortable but not ridiculous level of fame or recognition in certain marketplaces but I’m virtually unknown in others. Canada is a bit of a disaster; it’s got so few people spread out, though it’s a bit like Australia, basically. It’s too big a subject but Canada’s right next to America, so we’ll always prefer American product, and that’ll be that. I like what my French distributors have done. I’ve had the same French distributors for 15 years. They’ve really done a grassroots campaign to get me out there. It’s spreading to the point where I can just walk into the Centre Pompidou and ask for an installation—and they gave it to me! That’s pretty good. And now, thank God, I’ve had some similar luck in America. I was able to do the same thing with MoMA, where I’ll be having the Spiritisme show over here.

Many of your movies feature a character modeled after yourself. In Keyhole, it doesn’t seem like that character is Ulysses but rather his son, Manners [(David Wontner)].

Yeah, I decided to do a little protagonist cross-fade in the last few minutes of the movie. I thought it would be nice to do since the film is pretty dreamy and you don’t know who’s filming what as everyone’s dreaming each other. It’s just my belief that—I don’t believe in ghosts at all until I’m holding a camera. But ghosts to me are just memories. So people are just memories of a memory of a memory. It gets pretty jumbled. I see the film as Manners dreaming, or willing through wish fulfillment, his father back into existence.

One of the things about Keyhole and many of your movie is that many of the jokes are about sexual humiliation.


So it’s probably not surprising in that sense that, as usual, there’s probably more male nudity in the film than femalel nudity, though only just. It’s not really homophobia but it’s a fear of impotence and of being exposed.

I think it’s just me being honest, somehow. There’s something about the house I grew up in that was sexually stained. I came out of it feeling that way. You can feel it in certain authors. Like, Norman Mailer would probably just hold a woman down by the wrists and fuck her [both laugh]. But when you read Bruno Schulz or [Austrian poet Rainer Maria] Rilke, they wouldn’t. They probably never got laid. Or whatever, they did, but it probably was never Norman Mailer-style. I just felt each house has its own sexual tuning fork.

Like David Lynch, you’re very invested in the texture of objects in your film and in the sound qualities they have.

It just doesn’t feel like the movie’s done until it’s been color-coded. Especially shooting digitally, which I did for the first time from start to finish with Keyhole. With film, you kind of get where you can color-time it a little bit. But basically, shooting on film is kind of analogous to drawing or writing. But with HD color, you’re basically just starting out. What you’re shooting on HD color is like holding a blank sheet of paper in your hands, so you’ve got some serious work to do to make the images interesting. It really helped just to shoot in black-and-white. That immediately gives you a world that you don’t see with your naked eye. It also enables you to spend a lot less money in the art department [laughs]. You don’t have to color coordinate anything. It gives you shadows and shadows mean so much more in black-and-white than they do in color.

You recently séances in Paris for Spiritisme in memory of a lost Jean Vigo film with actors like Udo Kier. What’s it like having Udo Kier in a séance?!

He’s such a sweetheart but he’s also got a little bit…or a lot of Satan in him. You feel it. But actually, what dominated the séance that day was when I noticed that [Charlie Chaplin’s daughter] Geraldine [Chaplin and [Jean Vigo’s daughter] Luce were looking into each other’s eyes. And I looked at them and they were both weeping, which was kind of nice. Because I’m a big flake and I thought it was neat to have the daughters of two immortals clasping hands. I think something happened to them there that was pretty moving. And then Udo took over. But no, Udo was working with me for 12 straight days in Paris. He something. He’s a little bit something different each day out. You don’t know what you’re going to get with him.

How did you react to the death of George Kuchar? His films’ sense of humor and yours seem pretty similar.

Yeah, I love that guy. I had last seen him about a year before he died. He came to Winnipeg and I hosted him. He must have made four movies a day. He was super-important to me. My favorite thing of his is a film he made in 1975 called The Devil’s Cleavage. I love the over-ripe dialogue in there. It’s a parody of melodrama and I’m not sure it’s about anything but it just is something, as Beckett would say, and that’s good enough for me. I usually prefer my melodramas to be about something and I try to make my own about something but what a joy just to see something that just is something! And The Devil’s Cleavage is something, that’s for sure.

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