DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
KEYHOLE (director/writer: Guy Maddin; screenwriter: George Toles; cinematographer: Benjamin Kasulke; editor: John Gurdebeke; music: Jason Staczek; cast: Jason Patric (Ulysses Pick), Isabella Rossellini (Hyacinth), Udo Kier (Dr. Lemke), Brooke Palsson (Denny), David Wontner (Manners), Louis Negin (Calypso/Camille), Kevin McDonald (Ogilbe), Daniel Enright (Big Ed), Theodoros Zegeye-Gebrehiwot (Heatly), Olivia Rameau (Rochelle), Mike Bell (Milo), Johnny Chang (Chang); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Jody Shapiro/Jean du Toit/Lindsay Hamel/Guy Maddin; Monterey Media; 2011-Canada)

"Maddin bathes it in his usual weirdness."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin ("My Winnipeg"/"Brand Upon The Brain!"/"Careful") films in black and white a B-film psychological melodrama that blends into a 1930s gangster picture, a haunted-house picture, a ghost story picture and an updated picture on Homer's Ulysses. Maddin and his regular co-writer Georges Toles pack so much baggage, accessible and personal, into their screenplay, that it's hardly possible to follow the eccentric filmmaker down every trail except to note he seems to be mainly concerned about trying to say something about his usual themes of memory and loss. The atmospheric dream-scape picture focuses on a gangster returning home from a dark journey and trying to put things into order about what he's forgotten, but it also crosses over many other paths that are only articulated in a short-order before suddenly dropped for good.

For my money, it was basically a ghost story picture that's weird and nonsensical beyond what the genre calls for. Maddin bathes it in his usual weirdness, which should be attractive to his fans even though the film travels a slightly different path from his usual silent film one. Keyhole offers such strange treats as a French speaking gun moll (Olivia Rameau) with dirty writings on her panties, a wooden penis protruding from the wall of the creaky house, a homemade electric chair sitting in one of the rooms, a stuffed wolverine carried around to different rooms by the hero, a lunatic-like naked old man chained to the bed of his daughter, and a young woman who accidentally drowned only to be returned to life with gold dust in her pubic hairs. The picture is filled with many sad and amusing moments, but never seemingly comes together as a whole. It remains titillating or shocking in parts because of its rich imagination without ever coalescing as a finished feature film.

The unique story starts out on familiar horror story turf, of a stormy night and a creaky old house with restless spirits stirring in it. Inside is a young man named Manners (David Wontner), who is gagged and bound by a group of gangsters. It is later revealed Manners is the boss' only surviving son, who is not unrecognized by him. The gang greet their late arriving boss Ulysses Pick (Jason Patric), who returns to his old house after being away for a long time. He is carrying on his shoulders the wet body of a teenage girl named Denny (Brooke Palsson) he saved from drowning, and is nonplussed when he learns that three of the gang were killed in a shoot-out with the police to get into the house. We further learn Ulysses has returned to search for his wife Hyacinth (Isabella Rossellini). She has locked herself in the attic bedroom with the apparition of her father (Louis Negin) chained to her bed, and she is supposedly in mourning for her four dead children. For contact with the outside world, she peers through the keyhole of her room. Though the gang is antsy at the boss' strange behavior, Ulysses dismisses their challenges to his command by getting them to follow by force and concerns himself only with getting a grieving doctor (Udo Kier) to look after the girl he rescued from drowning and searching the entire house to find his wife in order to arrange things as they were before he left on his journey.

It was commissioned by the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University, and is the first film Maddin shot as digital.

REVIEWED ON 7/15/2012       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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