All the phan­tas­mago­ria you can han­dle and more

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

THE FOR­BID­DEN ROOM Di­rected by Guy Maddin and Evan John­son. Star­ring Roy Dupuis, Clara Furey, Louis Ne­gin, Udo Kier, Gre­gory Hlady, Mathieu Amal­ric, Noel Bur­ton. Club, IFI mem­bers, 119mins “Margo sings of the aswang, the jun­gle vam­pire.” Do go on. “The most um­braged of all” is­land sac­ri­fices in­clude fish, fowl, tyre and ta­pi­oca. But, of course.

If you’re a fan of the great Cana­dian au­teur Guy Maddin – and you should be, who­ever you are – such con­cepts will seem per­fectly pro­mu­lent.

For three decades, the writer-di­rec­tor be­hind such art­house and fes­ti­val hits as Drac­ula: Pages from a Vir­gin’s Diary, The Sad­dest Mu­sic in the World and My Win­nipeg, has en­riched the medium we call movie with psy­cho­sex­ual tales of Soviet su­per­men, glass legs, can­ni­bal­ism, vam­pires, arc­tic tun­dra, il­le­gal abor­tion, am­ne­sia and ice hockey, all fash­ioned to re­sem­ble the key­holed cin­ema of the early sound era: one par­tic­u­larly height­ened sec­tion of The For­bid­den Room could pass as te­len­ov­ela re­work­ing of Eyes With­out a Face.

Many of Maddin’s films are, or be­gin life as, in­stal­la­tion pieces, in­clud­ing the im­pe­ri­ous Cow­ards Bend the Knee.

Thus, The For­bid­den Room be­gan life as a wildly am­bi­tious and proudly cuckoo project at

Deliri­ously ab­surd: The For­bid­den Room

the Cen­tre Ge­orges Pom­pi­dou in Paris. Fol­low­ing a brief over­ture in which Maddin reg­u­lar Louis Ne­gin stars in the di­rec­tor’s imag­ined version of a lost 1937 in­struc­tional short ti­tled How to Take a Bath, we are in­tro­duced to the doomed crew of a sub­ma­rine.

The men can­not resur­face lest they det­o­nate their volatile ex­plo­sive jelly they are car­ry­ing.

And so they must sur­vive on the air be­tween the oats in flap­jacks. They don’t ex­pect com­pany yet a woods­man ap­pears through a hatch with an even taller tale to tell.

There fol­lows, in the man­ner of ma­tryoshka dolls, a de­fi­antly lu­di­crous, fre­quently laugh-out-loud funny se­quence of dreams within dreams. At 119min­utes, there is, per­haps, more phan­tas­magory than most view­ers can han­dle.

Still, there’s a strange com­fort in know­ing that Freud’s fas­ci­nat­ing to­pog­ra­phy of the mind will never be com­pletely dis­cred­ited while Maddin is making deliri­ously ab­surd movies.

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