Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Saddest Music in the World

(Canada, 2003)

This will be one of the odder reviews I’ve ever written, which is good, because it’s one of the oddest films I’ve ever seen! First, I don’t recommend it. Second, I’m very glad I saw it. Third, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen! This is one of the most visually stunning films ever made. The director, a Canadian cult figure named Guy Maddin, has made it look like some strange artifact from an alternate 1930s world excavated from a film vault where it wasn’t particularly well cared for. Images are overexposed and grainy, there are dazzles, haloes, irises, an entire panoply of outdated techniques. Montages galore. The set design reminds me of The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, and M, and The Last Laugh, and other UFA masterpieces from Germany. The sensibility is like David Lynch in his Eraserhead days. Forbidden Zone is also called to mind. I take it back, I do recommend it, but only for its visual style, it’s that good. But I warn you, the absurdist plot is impossible to care about.