The For­bid­den Room

THE FOR­BID­DEN ROOM, fan­tasy, not rated, The Screen, 3.5 chiles

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - — Michael Abatemarco

The vis­ual in­ge­nu­ity of co-direc­tors Guy Maddin and Evan John­son’s trippy film starts with an in­struc­tion on how to take a bath be­fore plung­ing full-tilt into an un­for­get­table pro­fu­sion of sights that pay trib­ute to the movies. Maddin, John­son, and ed­i­tor John Gur­de­beke have crafted a labyrinthine tale told through a pas­tiche of frag­ments of by­gone films. It’s a con­ven­tion Maddin, a cel­e­brated Cana­dian di­rec­tor, has used in pre­vi­ous films such as 2003’s The Sad­dest Mu­sic in the World and the autobiographical My Win­nipeg (2007). He was ap­pointed to the Or­der of Canada, one of the na­tion’s high­est civil­ian hon­ors, in 2012.

Maddin recre­ates the tech­nol­ogy of vin­tage cin­ema and spe­cial ef­fects, in­clud­ing the two-strip Tech­ni­color of early talkies and grainy, faded black-and-white film. It’s as though a brain reared on noth­ing but movies ex­ploded, raining down old scenes. The dis­parate story lines — one in­volves vam­piric Aswang ba­nanas — flow dream­like into one an­other, start­ing with four men in a sub­ma­rine who are des­per­ately try­ing to stay alive while run­ning out of oxy­gen, suck­ing air from the bub­bles in their pan­cake break­fast. Then a woods­man named Ce­sare (Roy Dupuis) in­ex­pli­ca­bly ap­pears with a wild tale of es­cape from cave-dwellers, and the ad­ven­ture de­vel­ops, seem­ingly wo­ven to­gether from bits and pieces of movies long for­got­ten.

Ce­sare is search­ing for his love Mar­got (Clara Furey), who is be­ing kept prisoner in a cave by some­one called the Wolf (Noel Bur­ton). The nar­ra­tive branches into sev­eral threads: A man seeks a cure for his ob­ses­sion with der­ri­eres; an es­caped con­vict finds work at a wind­mill, man­ag­ing to con­ceal his hand­cuffs from his em­ployer for years; and a woman es­capes from be­ing sac­ri­ficed to an ac­tive vol­cano. De­spite the lu­di­crous plot, The For­bid­den Room re­minds us of the artistry with which old films, es­pe­cially from the 1920s and ’30s, were made. It fea­tures an in­ter­na­tional cast play­ing mul­ti­ple roles, in­clud­ing Char­lotte Ram­pling, the leg­endary Udo Kier, and Geral­dine Chap­lin.

Few cin­e­matic stones are left un­turned in The For­bid­den Room, which blends fan­tasy, noir, in­struc­tional films, hor­ror, silent movies, mu­si­cals, and dra­mas — and it’s all ab­surdly comic. The For­bid­den Room is a kalei­do­scopic med­ley, a mad vi­sion of stitched-to­gether mo­ments of cin­e­matic magic, and a love let­ter to the movies.

Down the rab­bit hole

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