Saturday, 5 September 2015

THE FORBIDDEN ROOM - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Take a bath w/ Guy Maddin @TIFF2015 A Film Corner *****TIFF 2015 TOP-PICK*****

Marv (Louis Negin) teaches you how to take a bath in THE FORBIDDEN ROOM
The Forbidden Room (2015)
Dir. Guy Maddin
Co-Dir. Evan Johnson
Scr. Maddin, Johnson, Robert Kotyk
Addl. Writ. John Ashbery, Kim Morgan
Edit. John Gurdebeke
Prod.Design Galen Johnson
Cinematog. Stephanie Anne Weber Biron and Ben Kasulke
Prod. Co. PHI Films, The National Film Board of Canada, Buffalo Gal
Starring: Roy Dupuis, Clara Furey, Louis Negin, Céline Bonnier, Karine Vanasse, Caroline Dhavernas, Paul Ahmarani, Mathieu Amalric, Udo Kier, Maria de Medeiros, Charlotte Rampling, Géraldine Chaplin, Marie Brassard, Sophie Desmarais, Ariane Labed, Amira Casar, Luce Vigo, Gregory Hlady, Romano Orzari, Lewis Furey, Angela La Muse Senyshyn, Kimmi Melnychuk, Kim Morgan, Darcy Fehr, Jean-François Stévenin, Judith Baribeau, Graham Ashmore

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to take a bath with Guy Maddin in his closet of tantalizing shame, his forbidden room. God knows I have partaken on occasions too multitudinous to enumerate. So please, allow me to assure you, bathing with Maddin is a most gratifying and sensual treat for the mind, body and most of all, your very soul.

So then, my dear ones, do yourself a favour and hop into the stew with the Crown Prince of Prairie Post-Modernist Cinema and revel in the myriad of pleasures that motion pictures can offer: the fleshly, the ectoplasmic, the magically incorporeal, the visually and aurally celestial and, most assuredly, the cerebral complexities of all human existence in this world and the next, as filtered through the mind (within an enormous head of magma) of the great Icelandic Satyr who worships - nay, attends to all the needs of that Bacchus who rules over us all, the most holy and resplendent gift that IS the great silver-embossed photoplay, the magic bestowed upon our world by the immortal Brothers Lumière.

The Forbidden Room is 130 glorious minutes you'll want to experience over and over and over again. If, God Forbid, you find you're unable to experience it more than once, or worse, if you're compelled to not see it at all, you either don't care about cinema and/or have no taste and/or hold the unenviable dishonour of exhibiting little more than bone matter twixt thine wax-filled ears and behind eyes of cement.

I, for one, must confess to having seen the film five times now. My fifth helping occurred precisely at the scheduled time of the first public screening in Park City, Utah at the Sundance Film Festival, which I was sadly unable to attend.

I did, however, attempt to replicate the joy of said event, in an outdoor soft tub, located at the northernmost tip of the penetratingly puissant peninsula dividing the moist Great Lake of Huron and its clitoral Georgian Bay, surrounded by the glories of the natural world, the horses, ponies, donkeys, dogs, squirrels, beavers, hibernating bears, coyotes, wolves and chickens, puffing fine tobacco purchased from my Aboriginal Brothers on their cheap-smoke-shoppe and hunting lands down the road, with jets of hot water massaging my rolls of flesh and every so often, just now and then, mind you, the hand not gripping a stick of sacred, smouldering, oh-so natural leaves of First-Nations bliss, would plunge greedily into the bubbly water, seeking netherworlds of sheer exultation to grip, to manipulate, to squeeze and tug with abandon until finally, emitting an ejection, an eruption (if you will) of jubilant gratification, a cascade, a geyser, a blast of liquid force in honour of the grandiose cinematic pulchritude before me.

By a waterfall, bath-time with Guy Maddin is calling yoo-hoo-hoo-hoo!

As a matter of fact - pure and simple - I do not even wish to imagine how many more times I shall partake of this scintillatingly sudsy broth that celebrates the incalculable joys of life, shame, regret, sorrow, love, death and cinema, all those things which render our otherwise pathetic existence with meaning. Even one helping of The Forbidden Room can drain a feller (or lassie) more powerfully than several months of Sundays infused with gymnastics of resplendent amore. Yes, a drain in more ways than one:

Lo! This motion picture is most assuredly one drain we all must want to be slurped down, down, down into. Please, dear ones.

Let me try to explain why.


The Forbidden Room opens with an astounding credit sequence which stutters and sputters by like fragments of decaying film on nitrate stock (not unlike that of Peter Delpeut's 1991 found-footage documentary Lyrical Nitrate, unleashed upon North American audiences by Zeitgeist Films, who also gave us Maddin's Archangel and Careful as well as the similarly stylish work of the Brothers Quay). The imaginative way of placing gorgeous period title cards announcing key creative elements is an equally brilliant way to dispense with the ludicrous number of producers and the decidedly non-period acknowledgments to gouvernement du Canada et gouvernement du Manitoba agencies like Telefilm Canada and Manitoba Film and Sound, etc. (At least the National Film Board of Canada makes sense given the significance of Holy Father John Grierson's efforts during that historical period detailed in Pierre Berton's book "Hollywood's Canada".)

Once these are all dispensed with, the film opens proper with the John 6:12 passage:
When they were filled,
he said unto his disciples,
Gather up the fragments that remain,
that nothing be lost.

It's a powerful passage, to be sure, but its resonance, its weighty thematic substance and, in fact, the very Raison d'être for The Forbidden Room is clutched almost parsimoniously by John's recapitulation of Our Lord's words.

Though the film is comprised of several different stories, they represent fragments of cinema from days long-gone-by which, through the ravages of time and the lack of care ascribed to film preservation during the first half-decade-plus of its history saw so many pieces of time go missing without a trace, or indeed, pieces of time that never even existed, but should have. Maddin, not unlike Georges Melies is a magician of sorts. His film conjures up fragments of films lost, stolen or suppressed, brilliantly re-imagined (or rather, just plain imagined) by Maddin and his co-director Evan Johnson and the pair's co-writer Robert Kotyk. They have been gathered up, these fragments, these very ghosts of cinema, "so that nothing shall be lost".

The Forbidden Room is a structural marvel. Kudos to Maddin and team for creating it so solidly from what must have been reams of magnificent footage written, prepped, shot and cut during the over-four-years it took to make this grand epic that honours both cinema and the lives of ghosts. In fact, the movie astonishingly adheres to (an albeit slightly skewed) three-act structure in terms of story and tone. The first third establishes its series of problems and obstacles right off the bat. The middle act slides into a journey in which said obstacles must be encountered and hurtled over or deviated into delicious nap times of dreams and reveries which provide even more obstacles to be hurtled over or deviated into, well, nap time for sure, but in this middle section one will find some of the most heart-achingly beautiful and tear-squirtingly moving emotions and images. And then, there is the third act - more on this later, but suffice to say it's an insanely eye-popping affair.

Tonally, then, the first third is jaunty, fun and occasionally sinister.The middle act is supremely elegiac with dapples of madness, humour and absurdity.

The third act is a hurricane.

Many tales are interwoven throughout and our first story (the writing of which is additionally supplied by John Ashbery) is a garishly coloured industrial documentary featuring a flamboyantly bath-robed Marv (Louis Negin), our host on the journey to the joys inherent in taking a proper bath. Marv recounts the history of bathing, then narrates all the proper steps needed to take a bath. Twixt Marv's peacockish descriptions and asides, we're delighted with images of pretty young ladies (Angela La Muse Senyshyn, Kimmi Melnychuk) bathing each other, then followed by the buff fortitude of a male bather (Graham Ashmore) carefully applying Marv's instructions as he settles into a nice, steamy, frothy tub. The man is especially eager to get to Marv's most important instructions of all:
"Work down to the genitals. Work carefully in ever-widening circles."
The sensual digital manipulations within the steamily sopping froth give way to another tale, another film infused with the serous lifeblood (and yes, danger) of water itself. A submarine carrying dangerous explosives and rapidly depleting oxygen is stuck between a rock and a hard place as the pressures of the sea above will be enough to send the vessel into a massive eruption of its deadly cargo and though the necessary slow journey it undertakes to avoid disaster is the very thing that will guarantee another disaster, the lack of oxygen which could kill every man on board. Luckily, there is some solace taken in the constant serving up of flapjacks, which in spite of their culinary monotony, are found to be full of porous insides which offer added oxygen to extend the men's precious lives.

Roy Dupuis is a dreamy, hunky, handsome woodsman
searching, ever-searching for his lady fair.

When a dreamy, rugged and brave Woodsman (Roy Dupuis) appears in the sub, the narrative becomes even more tied into other films and as the movie progresses, its literary properties seem rooted in a kind of Romantic period use of concentric rings (albeit skewed in ways they never should be).

One story after another, either recounted by characters in one film and represented by another or told as stories within stories or, my favourite, as dreams within dreams, flash by us ever-so compellingly, taking us deeper into a liquid-like miasma, a ripe flatulence of wonder, a churning, roiling sea of volcanic lava - DEEPER, EVER-DEEPER INTO THE VERY CORE OF EXISTENCE AND CINEMA!!!!!

We follow Roy Dupuis's Woodsman into a cave of scarlet-furred-lupine-worshipping barbarians who have kidnapped his lady love. We see his infiltration into this den of murderers, kidnappers and thieves as he successfully proves his worth during several challenges including:

- finger snapping;
- stone weighing;
- offal piling and, my personal favourite;


Le Dominatrix
des adorateurs derriere
When we meet the Woodsman's lady love, the film takes us into her mad dreamworld wherein she acquires amnesia and we're assailed with glorious images of native dancers, sexy crooners, and a delicious pitstop involving a sexy anal dominatrix, The Master Passion (Geraldine Chaplin) and then, an even more delectable pitstop involving a madman (Udo "Who the fuck else?" Kier) obsessed with bottoms who is then worked upon by an equally mad doctor who performs open brain surgery to slice out viscous portions of cerebellum afflicted with buttock obsession and climaxing with the ultimate fist-fucking as the doctor plunges his whole hand into the buttock-like brain of Udo Kier to attack the deep core, or prostate, if you will of the man's anal intrusions upon his very mind, his very soul.

There's the tale of a kindly bone specialist who operates upon a sexy motorcyclist who has 47 broken bones after a horrific accident in which she swerves to avoid a family of ducks in her path. Of course, the doctor must take special care to lay his hands upon her prodigiously in order to heal her broken breast bones and, in so doing, falls madly in love with her before being seduced and kidnapped by a bevy of sexy skeleton women who are under the control of a skull-headed medical insurance fraudster.

In DreamLand, Crooners Croon of Derriere Worship.

One yarn after another assails us and as they emit their fantastical glories, constantly astounding us as to how they dovetail in and out of each other - a tale of a mill keeper and his gardener, a tale of a train psychiatrist and his screaming patient and seductive ways, a tale of volcano worshippers always on the lookout for living sacrifices, a tale of a forgetful husband (Mathiu Almaric, that great French actor whom one can watch for an eternity) who ends up murdering his loyal manservant (Udo Kier - AGAIN!!!) to cover-up his gift-giving incompetence, a tale of the manservant in death as his moustache hairs dream about taking him for a final visit (or several) to his little boy and blind wife (Maria de Medeiros), a tale of a consular official and his gorgeous fiancé (Sophie Desmarais) and the man's obsession with a cursed bust of Janus which turns him into an evil Mr. Hyde-like defiler-of-women and the tale of . . .

Have I mentioned the vampires yet?

Oops. Sorry. My bad!

They're called ASWANG (pronounced ASS-WANG).

You will not want to take a bath with any of them - except maybe the ultra-sexy Aswangs.

Will the submarine blow up? Will the woodsman be reunited with his lady love? Will she be cured of her amnesia?

Will we be able to count how many times Louis Negin appears, Franklin Pangborn-like, in different roles?

Will we be able to count how many times Udo Kier appears, Eric Blore-like, in different roles?

Will we ever meet the mysteriously missing Captain of the submarine?

Will we meet his MOTHER!!!!!

Will we survive the mad, fever pitch of a climax, that flings us into the most mind-blowing trip of visual splendour since Stanley Kubrick's stargate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey (replete with . . . colliding zeppelins)?

What HAVE I missed?

Have I missed mentioning that the editing of John Gurdebeke and the production design of Galen Johnson are both as inspired and brilliant as Guy Maddin's most-assured hand? Have I missed mentioning that the exquisite lighting and camera work from cinematographers Stephanie Anne Weber Biron and Ben Kasulke provides the eyes to reflect Maddin's soul? Have I missed mentioning how astonishing the work that all of Mr. Maddin's creative collaborators proves to be in this, his greatest achievement?

I hope not.

I, for one, will take yet another bath with Guy Maddin.

We've taken so many together over the past 30+ years.

What's one (or a few) more.

The Film Corner Rating: ***** 5-Stars

The Forbidden Room is enjoying it's Canadian Premiere in the TIFF Wavelengths Program during TIFF 2015. For tix, dates, times and venues, visit the TIFF website HERE. The film is being distributed in Canada and sold internationally by Mongrel Media. In the USA, it's distributed by Kino-Lorber.

Oh, and for fuck's sake, lest someone point a boneheaded accusatory finger, I present to you the full disclosure that Maddin's late father Chas was business manager of the Winnipeg Maroons, and my own father Julian, who will, by virtue of his stubborn, curmudgeonly qualities, live-forever, played goal for the same team. Both fathers accompanied the team to various European bouts as the Maroons were, indeed, Canada's national hockey team during the early-to-mid-sixties. Maddin and I have been friends for over thirty years, we were flat-mates for many years, we have shared many strange adventures together and I produced his first three feature films (Tales from the Gimli Hospital, Archangel and Careful). I am, however, a true fan of his films. Always have been. I'm perfectly able to assess his work critically and the day I ever hate one of his films (which I have, in fact), I'll goddamn well say so (which I have, in fact, and done so with constructive viciousness).