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Fiercely Primitive: Guy Maddin

October 8, 2004 - October 31, 2004

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Twilight of the Ice Nymphs
October 16

Artist in Person, October 8–10

In his newest film, the autobiographical Cowards Bend the Knee, Canadian director Guy Maddin condemns himself for being weak of heart. Ironic words from an artist who has made a half-dozen extraordinary films—The Saddest Music in the World being only the most familiar—known for their fearless invention. Maddin's delirious films tremble with stylistic excess, giddy artificiality, and an absolute adoration of cinemas past. Though filled with silent-era conceits like gauzy iris effects, extended superimpositions, and distorted perspective, films such as Tales from the Gimli Hospital, Archangel, and Careful present a troubled nostalgia. They are not stories one would wish to inhabit, nor are they wistful paeans to a treacly past. Rather, Maddin scours the image vault of yesteryear, recognizing it as a conduit to psychic agitation—his, most certainly, and ours as well. From these reconnoitered relics, he fashions sardonic, perversely confessional fables of love overwhelmed, of desire's resilient return—all with a fiercely primitive intensity. Join us for a Guy Maddin retrospective, featuring the Bay Area premiere of Cowards Bend the Knee, as well as many rarely seen short films. For our Director's Choice, Maddin has selected nine classic and forgotten films to be screened alongside his own, spectral stand-ins from the past that haunts his creative world.

Steve Seid

Friday, October 8, 2004
7:00 p.m. Tales from the Gimli Hospital
Guy Maddin in Person. Set during a smallpox epidemic in turn-of-the-century Manitoba, Maddin's first feature is a stew of sexual jealousy, Icelandic sagas, visual poetry, and Buñuelian oddity. "Irresistible."—Film Comment. With short The Dead Father.

Friday, October 8, 2004
9:20 p.m. West of Zanzibar
Introduced by Guy Maddin. A paralyzed vaudevillean rules a sleazy African ivory-poaching operation. "An orgy of revenge and retribution from Tod Browning and Lon Chaney—this may be the meanest of films from those two meanies."—Guy Maddin

Saturday, October 9, 2004
7:00 p.m. Cowards Bend the Knee
Guy Maddin in Person. The Bay Area premiere of Maddin's latest, an autobiographical phantasmagoria involving ice hockey, beauty salons, femmes fatales, and severed hands. With celebrated short The Heart of the World.

Saturday, October 9, 2004
8:45 p.m. The Face Behind the Mask
Introduced by Guy Maddin. "Peter Lorre has never exploited his sensitive face to more heartbreaking ends than in this tragic noir about an immigrant watchmaker who turns to a life of crime."—Guy Maddin

Sunday, October 10, 2004
5:30 p.m. The Saddest Music in the World
Guy Maddin in Person. In 1933 Winnipeg, beer baroness Isabella Rossellini sponsors a contest to discover which nation has the most sorrowful song. "Unfailingly outlandish, hilarious, odd, wistful and genuinely, unappeasably disturbed."—The Nation

Sunday, October 10, 2004
7:50 p.m. La Ronde
Introduced by Guy Maddin. An all-star French cast in Max Ophuls's elegant romantic roundelay, "a wistful tribute to syphilis."—Guy Maddin

Wednesday, October 13, 2004
7:30 p.m. Leave Her to Heaven
"Veteran proto-Sirkian melodramatist extraordinaire John Stahl...creates this most propulsive tale of daddy-complex jealousy with the help of flawless snow-queen pulchra Gene Tierney and Academy Award–winning Technicolor cinematography by lens god Leon Shamroy (available for gawking in a newly minted print)."—Guy Maddin

Friday, October 15, 2004
7:30 p.m. Archangel
An ambient amnesia seems to have settled over a village in northern Russia at the end of WWI. "Stylized, convoluted, visionary, Archangel is a deadpan whatzit of the highest order....At once tacky and accomplished, dynamic and fusty, willfully off-putting and bizarrely romantic."—Village Voice

Friday, October 15, 2004
9:20 p.m. The Road to Glory
Directed by Howard Hawks from a Faulkner script, "a gorgeously mudded-and-mustard-gassed and outright oneiric war melodrama."—Guy Maddin

Saturday, October 16, 2004
7:00 p.m. Twilight of the Ice Nymphs
"Maddin steps out of film history altogether with [this] luridly gold and lavender confection. Set in a wholly imagined NordiKitsch Arcadia, Twilight is something of a pastoral—the midnight sun frying the brains and libidos of a tormented sextet, including Shelley Duvall as a lovelorn ostrich farmer."—Village Voice

Saturday, October 16, 2004
8:50 p.m. Cowards Bend the Knee
Maddin's latest is an autobiographical phantasmagoria involving ice hockey, beauty salons, femmes fatales, and severed hands. With short Odilon Redon.

Sunday, October 17, 2004
5:30 p.m. Seventh Heaven
Judith Rosenberg on Piano. Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell as impoverished lovers who create their own heaven in Frank Borzage's exquisite melodrama. "The final staircase sequence should be as famous as any climax in film."—Guy Maddin

Wednesday, October 20, 2004
7:30 p.m. Nightmare Alley
"Wildly unpredictable circus and penthouse noir with gorgeous scumbag Tyrone Power, at the height of his doomed charms....After viewing this picaresque and cathartic film, you will never again misuse the word 'geek.'"—Guy Maddin

Wednesday, October 27, 2004
7:30 p.m. The Sign of the Cross
Cecil B. DeMille's fabulously decadent spectacle features Fredric March, Claudette Colbert, and Charles Laughton as "the most debauched Nero ever essayed on film....A must-see for anyone who's ever felt special in a toga."—Guy Maddin

Saturday, October 30, 2004
7:00 p.m. Careful
Maddin's deadpan, demented pastiche of German mountain films and Wagnerian bombast is set in an imaginary Alpine village where repression rules—until an incestuous act unleashes a Freudian maelstrom. "Laugh-out-loud funny from beginning to end."—Village Voice

Saturday, October 30, 2004
9:00 p.m. The Naked Jungle
Charlton Heston is a pathologically jealous South American plantation owner plagued by armies of red ants. "I feel like [director Byron] Haskin has been reading my mail."—Guy Maddin

Sunday, October 31, 2004
7:00 p.m. Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary
Yes, you heard right, it's a ballet—but you've never seen a dance film like this before. Both deliriously silly and earnestly beautiful, steeped in the aesthetics of silent cinema, this Dracula is thoroughly, deliciously Maddin. With shorts It's a Wonderful Life and Sissy-Boy Slap-Party.

Archival and restored prints and musicians for silent films are presented with support from the Packard Humanities Institute.