It comes as no surprise that Guy Maddin’s latest film is a commission by an art gallery. KEYHOLE is equal parts startling images, incoherent moments, skewed camera angles with an oblique and barely comprehensible narrative. In other words, it’s another in a growing line of Maddin works, a contribution to his run of cinema-out-of-time oeuvres that entertain nearly as much as they confounds.
This time ’round we’re thrown into a strange melange of gothic (Maddin’s usual trope) and the gangster film. Gunshots ring out, quick cuts lead us into a house of refuge. Inside ghosts roam the halls, ghosts that if you touch them (in order to fuck them, as one errant Kid-in-the-Hall demonstrates) you are set for death. There’s a man, his son, a drowned woman, and an electric chair. Oh, and a bathtub.
From there the “story” gets even less coherent – throughout there are snatches of narrative, with a kind of conclusion that broadly has the more weird elements “make sense”, but of course that’s all beside the point. We’re treated to 90 minutes of a clautrophobic mood, one that after a while becomes almost comfortably normal. By the time an old chained man fellates a dusty phallus the audience has already committed to even more surreal moments without complaint.
For me, alas, it didn’t quite hold together the way some of his previous works has. Sure, the strange and insane, along with the genre collisions, is unique contrasted to his earlier work. However, I found that there lacked enough lightness and humour to really make the proceedings gel. This isn’t a dour piece by any means, and the normal wit does shine through, but it wasn’t enough to put this on par with something as tremendously effective as MY WINNIPEG or even BRAND UPON THE BRAIN.
Still, this is a Guy Maddin film, and that’s a cause for celebration whenever it screens at TIFF. Be comforted that you’ll see nothing even remotely like it this or any year, and enjoy the delightful images that this cinematic iconoclast has once again provided.