The Saddest Music in the World is Guy Maddin's latest cinematic romp. If you’re not familiar with Maddin, here’s a quick tutorial: he’s Canadian & he makes all his films appear as if they were made in the 1920s-1930s, but with a modern and literary sensibility. In one sense, Maddin’s kind of a one-trick pony. His kitschy 1930s filmic style looks cool, and is a fantastic ode to the fathers of cinema, but the challenge in any Maddin film is whether or not the plot is strong enough to support the film style. I think The Saddest Music works, for the most part--there are some slow or confusing parts in the film, but the bizarre plot line and the visual excess did keep my attention.
Here’s the basic plot outline: 1930s, Winnipeg--A legless beer heiress (Isabella Rossellini) devises a marketing ploy to increase America’s desire of beer to break prohibition in the US. She decides to hold a worldwide contest to find the saddest music in the world, since it is the Great Depression, and Winnipeg is the saddest place in the world. Musicians come from far and wide to face off on stage battle royale style, but the contest is merely a backdrop to a bizarre love pentagon between the heiress and a local family. As you can imagine, hijinks, confusion and love scenes ensue and culminate in a great finale.
There are plenty of Canadian jokes for those of us who think Canadians are funny. A must see if you have never seen a Maddin film before, for this is his most accessible film to date. Recommended.
P.S. If you click on the review title, you can watch some of Maddin's latest short films.