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Posted By Art Baxter


Guy Maddin - February 28, 1956

The films of Canadian director, Guy Maddin, are about delirious swooning emotions worn on the cuff and seething repression gone to the point of madness. His films are insane dreamlike melodramas that go up to the line of the barest acceptability and then leap over it into gleeful morosity. They are the kind of films a young David Lynch might have made if he had been apprentice to James Whale at Universal in 1932 and his home town was Winnipeg Manitoba and he had a depressive Nordic temperament. His films aren't for everybody. If fact they appeal to almost no one. When I recently screened his latest film Brand Upon the Brain! here in Philadelphia on a Sunday night there were six people in the audience. My wife and I were the only couple. Two thirds of the way into the picture, a woman got up and left never to return. That woman missed what turned out to be one of my absolute favorites of Maddin's films.

The first of Maddin's film I saw was his first feature Tales of the Gimli Hospital. I was intrigued when I read about the film in one of the local free weeklies. It was playing that weekend at a midnight show. It was just the sort of thing I was itching to see. Gimli is a resort town outside of Winnipeg where the young Maddin spent his summers at the family's cottage on a lake. The story concerns itself with two young men who are in the hospital's care for various ailments. Naturally, a romance is at the center of the story which includes many odd local customs like slicking down ones hair with goose grease and combing it with a fishbone. The film was the grainiest black and white and looked like it was made in 1928. The film was a very modest critical and financial success which sent the young filmmaker on his way.

You can imagine my excitement when his next film Archangel appeared two years later. The central theme of the film is forgetfulness as most of the cast has amnesia of one form or another. It takes place in a small Russian village after World War One. A town so remote they haven't yet learned the war is long over so fighting continues. It bombed even by art house standards. Perhaps it was it's long meandering pace that turned people off. Or perhaps it was a scene where a disemboweled man strangled the Huns who invaded his house with his own intestines before dying. It certainly couldn't have been the scene where the Russian townspeople were invaded by an army of rabbits as they waited in their snow filled foxholes. Could it? Well, I liked it!

Ironically, Maddin's next film Careful is the one that cemented his reputation as a filmmaker. Ironic, since the film takes place in the Alps and is pro-incest. It's in color but the colors are over vivid and wrong. The mountains were created by draping cloth over wood. The film received praise in the form a fan letter from none other than legendary female film director and unrepentant nazi, Leni Riefenstahl, director of Triumph of the Will and Olympiad, who cut her own film making teeth on "mountain climbing" pictures. Of course what's not to like when you have a main character who, out of guilt, sears his own lips with a hot poker then cuts off his hand after lustfully watching his mother bathing in a bathtub, through a mirror while being suspended upside down.

I was fortunate enough to see his highly praised short film The Heart of the World at a local theater in 2000. It is in black and white, filmed in 8mm and blown up to 35mm and is silent. It's an amazing six minutes.

Posted By Art Baxter

It wouldn't be until 2002 when Maddin came roaring back with another feature, Dracula, Pages From a Virgin's Diary. A retelling of the Dracula story as a filmed ballet performance by the Winnipeg Ballet Company. Maddin returns to grainy black and white and takes a further evolutionary regression. The film is silent save an orchestral soundtrack. The film is also the first feature to use the quick cutting techniques he first employed in his short, The Heart of the World. Leave it to Maddin to find something fresh in a story that has been done to death. It's perhaps the only version of Dracula to burnish in relief the theme of xenophobia at the heart of Stoker's novel. With Heart and Dracula, Maddin got his second wind and was on a roll.

Maddin soon followed Dracula with The Saddest Music in the World and Cowards Bend the Knee. The former a big budget (for him) color production featuring Isabella Rossellini and a silent black & white, ten part gallery installation. Although Saddest Music features Rossellini as a double amputee who wears prosthetic glass legs filled with beer it's tone is a tad too glib thanks to the mugging of Mark McKinny and the look is oddly too slick for a Maddin production. It does, however, have it's moments. Cowards fares much better as a fictional autobiography with requisite hand transplant/ice hockey/incest/beauty salon plot machinations in ten thrilling chapters. Cowards was originally presented in a gallery as a peep show where viewers would have to get on there knees to view each chapter from holes close to the ground.

Maddin's latest feature Brand Upon the Brain! is one of my personal favorites, is another fictional autobiography. In this film, an adult Maddin rows back to his childhood home, a lighthouse on a remote island, to carry out his mother's final wish and to give the lighthouse a fresh coat of paint. With every brushstroke he relives the horror of his childhood when his parents ran an orphanage there. His father used the children for his mysterious experiments while a famous girl detective disguised as as her twin brother investigates. It's black and white and silent again this time with a narration by Isabella Rossellini. Don't miss it!

Check out a Guy Maddin film today for his 52nd birthday!

Feature Films:

• Tales from the Gimli Hospital (1988)   
• Archangel (1990)
• Careful (1992)
• Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (1997)
• Dracula, Pages From a Virgin's Diary (2002)
• Cowards Bend the Knee (2003)
• The Saddest Music in the World (2003)   
• Brand Upon the Brain! (2006) - Trailer
• My Winnipeg (2007)

Select Short Films:
Odilon Redon or The Eye Like a Strange Balloon Mounts Toward Infinity (1995)
• The Heart of the World (2000)



Cowards Bend the Knee (2003) - Boy, do they BEND!

Posted By Art Baxter

Avery portrait

Tex Avery - February 26, 1908 – August 26, 1980

Frederick "Tex" Avery was the Anti-Disney. Avery took the homespun sweetness of Disney and not only turned it upside down but pulled it inside out. He was unsentimental and he was a smartass. A classic American smartass. His cartoons were rude and vulgar. His characters exhibited unapologetic lecherous, gluttonous  and violent behavior. He warped reality and was ironic before anyone knew what that was. His cartoons are among the finest ever made. He was an alcoholic who alienated himself from his family. He was blind in one eye.

The cartoons are uproariously hilarious and are just as funny today as they were in the 40s. They've aged well. Made for world weary adults who liked to laugh at the wrong things, they were ultimately spoon fed to a generation of children every afternoon on television.

Avery was a perfectionist and worried about every single cartoon he made. The gag was paramount and the story just a framework for them to hang. He created "Bugs Bunny" and had a hand in many of the other Warner characters. "What's up Doc?" was an expression from his high school days. Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones were his apprentices. He left Warner Bros. after his cartoons were censored and eventually went to MGM where he produced his finest work. His characters at MGM were generally nameless except for "Droopy" the dog and "Screwy Squirrel". The lascivious antics of his "wolf" and "girl" characters at MGM made the glands swell.

After he left MGM, he went to the Walter Lance studio and created "Chilly Willy" but he felt burt out. He went to work in advertising doing TV commercials where his best bits were removed by ad execs. Often he held court to the new generation of animators who were raised on his cartoons. He died just as people were beginning to know just who the hell he was and appreciate his genius.

Check out a Tex Avery cartoon today for his 100th birthday!

Warner Bros.
• Thugs with Dirty Mugs (1939)
• A Gander at Mother Goose (1940)
• A Wild Hare (1940)
• The Heckling Hare (1941)
• All This and Rabbit Stew (1941)

• Red Hot Riding Hood (1943)
• What's Buzzin' Buzzard? (1943)
• Screwball Squirrel (1944)
• Happy-Go-Nutty (1944)
• Swing Shift Cinderella (1945)
• The Shooting of Dan McGoo (1945)
• Wild and Woolfy (1945)
• Uncle Tom's Cabaña (1947)
• King-Size Canary (1947)
• Bad Luck Blackie (1949)
• Little Rural Riding Hood (1949)
• Daredevil Droopy (1951)
• Drag-a-Long Droopy (1954)

TEX AVERY: KING OF CARTOONS by Joe Adamson.1975.
TEX AVERY: THE MGM YEARS 1942-1955 by John Canemaker,1998.
PORTRAIT OF TEX AVERY documentary, 1988.

Wolf & Girl

Posted By Art Baxter

HENRY Monday - 04

This HENRY cartoon was drawn by his creator Carl Anderson between 1932 and 1934 for the SATURDAY EVENING POST. Look for a new HENRY cartoon every Monday.

Find out more about HENRY here.

Posted By Art Baxter
HENRY Monday - 02

This HENRY cartoon was drawn by his creator Carl Anderson between 1932 and 1934 for the SATURDAY EVENING POST. Look for a new HENRY cartoon every Monday.

Find out more about HENRY here.

Posted By Art Baxter

Posted By Art Baxter

HENRY - 01

This HENRY cartoon was drawn by his creator Carl Anderson between 1932 and 1934 for the SATURDAY EVENING POST. Look for a new HENRY cartoon every Monday.

Find out more about HENRY here.

Posted By Art Baxter




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