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Sunday, April 20, 2014
Guy Maddin | Keyhole
As looney as it sometimes seems, Maddin’s tale is a kind of Proustian story in which Ulysses orders in interior decorators to return the haunted house into the beautiful home it had once been, at that same time he, room by room, attempts to remember the whole of his past life. With the help of the drowned Denny, his son Manners, who once loved Denny, and the jolt of electricity, he gradually reclaims time, and with Manners’ help puts everything back in its precise spot, freeing Calypso (whose bonds Hyacinth has already severed) and Hyacinth at the same moment he destroys Chang. And, if at first, the film may have seemed dense and incomprehensible, it gradually, scene by scene, begins to make narrative sense. If, in his lifetime, Ulysses has ignored, squandered, and destroyed his near perfect home life, by Keyhole’s end, most of his gangster friends have been eliminated, and he and his family returned to their former lives. Time past has not only restored but reclaimed.
But, of course, we know it’s only in fiction and film—expressions of the imagination—that such things actually happen, and, in that sense, Maddin’s movie becomes a sort of rumination of the restorative power of film itself. If gangster and horror films dole out the bloody dead, so too can cinema retake its past, unrolling that pattern, like the Penelope of Homer’s myth, weaving and unweaving a pattern of life and death until it again becomes a blank space on which to reinvent history. Through the keyhole a Ulysses may only be able to glimpse fragments of the life once lived, but by opening the doors to every room he can finally cleanse the haunted house of its ghosts.
Los Angeles, April 19, 2014