Haunted by the ghosts of dead directors, Winnipeg's favourite auteur spooks up the Platform gallery with an installation of 11 short films, all fevered re-imaginings of lost or forgotten masterworks.
Co-presented by Platform and the WNDX Festival of Film and Video Art, this new show is a homecoming for work that premiered at last year's Toronto International Film Festival. Maddin's pieces are projected onto floating layers of cheesecloth, giving the footage a wispy, ectoplasmic insubstantiality. The looped footage overlaps on several screens, so that as you wander through the exhibit you're troubled by the feeling that you might be missing something.
Maddin is in fact mourning all that has been missed, in a cinematic lament for film projects that have been lost, forgotten or abandoned midway. He is referencing specific films by F. W. Murnau, Josef von Sternberg, Fritz Lang, Kenji Mizoguchi and Alice Guy, as well as a many odd, wayward genres -- boxing movie, flyboy romance, vampire flick, Soviet revolutionary saga.
While these films function as ardent homage, they are also quintessentially Maddinesque, time-warpy and wonderfully weird, stuffed with overheated melodrama, high archaic style, sideways humour and a touch of kink. As usual, Maddin somehow finds faces that look 90 years out of date, digging up women who look like sloe-eyed silent film beauties Theda Bara or Louise Brooks. He's also working here with cultie German actor Udo Keir, with his ravaged Berlin-between-the-wars visage.
Perhaps the most unexpected short is titled Sinclair. The setting is a nondescript, institutional and contemporary room - not something you usually see in a Maddin work - and the camera pans around, showing a man who seems to be sleeping in a chair. Eventually, the chair is revealed as a wheelchair, making a clear the connection to Brian Sinclair, the homeless, disabled aboriginal man who died in 2008 while left to wait 34 hours for treatment at the Health Sciences Centre emergency room. As a brief silent protest, the work is arresting.
With layers of regret, compulsion and unrequited love, Hauntings references the films of the early 20th century, balancing the pain of loss with the consolations of creativity, and possibly exorcising a few of Maddin's own beautifully neurotic phantoms along the way.
Alison Gillmor, CBC Reviewer