Friday, January 17, 2014

820. ARCHANGEL (1990)


Running Time: 88 minutes
Directed By: Guy Maddin
Written By: Guy Maddin, George Toles
Main Cast: Kyle McCulloch, Kathy Marykuca, Ari Cohen, Michael Gottli, David Falkenburg

OTHERWORLDLY

Just so we're all on the same page, I am going to continue back tracking through the 80s, HOWEVER, I did move everything that was on any sort of a wait from Netflix, to the top of my Netflix queue. So if I can track down any of that stuff or if any of that stuff becomes available, it will get slipped in. I can tell you now that "The Great Escape", which was on a wait a few days ago, did become available and WAS shipped, so that one will be coming up very soon. Anyway - "Archangel".


I'd HEARD the name Guy Maddin before and somehow knew he was Canadian, but had never seen one of his movies. That ended last night as I sat down and took in my first Maddin film, not knowing at all what to expect. As it began, I realized that what "Archangel" was, was a modern silent film, without the silence (I'll explain more later). Anyway, the film is set in 1919 and takes place in Archangel, Russia, a small town in the Northern Russia, during the Bolshevik revolution. The film follows a Canadian, who belongs to a troop of Canadians, who intervene on the conflict. We learn that this particular Canadian, Lt. John Boles (McCulloch) has just lost his dear girlfriend, Iris and is still in mourning. Upon his arrival in Archangel, Boles becomes involved with a family, while trying to help cure their son of a seizure. He offers them some remedies and prepares to leave, but before doing so, runs into Veronkha (Marykuca), a beautiful woman who bears a striking resemblance to the late Iris. Boles faints and upon waking, seeks out Veronkha, because he's developed an immediate love for her, due to her looking like his beloved Iris. What Boles doesn't know is that Veronkha is already married, to Philbin (Cohen), an amnesiac who can't even remember that he is married.

Well, there's a little more to it than that, but that's the meat & potatoes of it. The thing about it being a silent film, without the silence - to those who may not know what the hell I'm talking about - is because that's exactly what it is. I talked in the "The Asthenic Syndrome" review that it was hard to tell that that was a film produced in the late 80s. Once again, we have the same problem with "Archangel" as it looks like something that came out in the 20s. Except in this case, that's actually a good thing. What Maddin does is take the concept of the silent film, uses the look, but chooses to add sound and even dialogue. Everything else is very much resembling a silent. A particular quote from J. Hoberman, cites Maddin as "redeploying forgotten cinematic conventions" and that's exactly what he's doing. He's taking ideas and styles that were once a dime a dozen and making them fresh again. It really is a beautiful film.


However, I can't go all fanboy on this one, as it did have it's down times too. The plot just wasn't up my alley, in the least and while I DID find the film to be quite otherworldly, it was something I'd rather marvel at, rather than actually kick back and enjoy. While Maddin impressed me with his ingenuity, I'm not so sure I'm chomping at the bit to go and take in the rest of his filmography. He's definitely going to be an acquired taste for most movie goers and while I hope the majority of you can appreciate what he pulled off, I also hope you'll understand that this is bordering on boring. It's the styles and look that set this film apart and make it a "must see", while everything else is a few notches below average.

RATING: 5/10  Let's slice it down the middle and call it a so-so day at the cinema. I've read a few comments that say this is far from Maddin's best, so maybe I do need to check out one or two more of his movies.

MOVIES WATCHED: 781
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 220

January 17, 2014  10:26pm

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