Sunday, August 12, 2018


I discovered Guy Maddin through MIFF when I went via a hooky program synopsis to a showcase of his short films. If I hadn't let the cinema going fever slacken in the early '90s I might have caught his feature Careful at the Carlton Movie House (may she rest in peace), the only feature film of Maddin's to have got a cinema run of any length in Melbourne. Nevertheless, Maddin's dizzy blend of early cinema and his own take on magical realism and a goofy comedy style that strangely never got in the way of the graver aspects won me. I even survived the serious but pointless ballet Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary and made it all the way to the winning and wonderful The Saddest Music in the World. Since then it's been hit and near miss with me and Maddin with wonders like My Winnipeg but lengthy absurdist things like Keyhole that allow no handholds.

With 2015's The Forbidden Room a return to form I was very ready to see The Green Fog and did so this morning at the Forum. It's an approximation of Vertigo done via a quilt work of  other movies and tv shows set in San Fransico, passing through motifs like falling, kissing, surveillance, wire tapping etc. with an extra element of the fog of the title creeping into scenes at crucial moments.

A technique which at first seems a gimmick, removing the dialogue from scenes so that the shot reverse shot facial expressions seem to respond to each other becomes a visual motif rather than a joke but retains its comedy because it's funny every single time. When dialogue is used it's little more than an extension of this and serves to stretch things out. A lot of expert editing and matching allows us to disregard screen shape (from 1:37 to 2.35:1) and colour vs black and white.

So, it's a clip show heightened by a serious attempt at commenting on a cinema classic that made so much of its setting. Well, yes, but it's also a constantly funny exercise in juxtaposition. It's no accident that Guy Maddin's recent delving into installation art should make its way to his screens. I'm happy to wait for the next one. Perhaps missing the narrative era is best left to nostalgia and I should heed my own lessons about wanting favourite artists to be new but traditional at the same time.

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