Guy Maddin's films are gritty, gorgeous, darkly daffy, and ultimately surreal, and THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD may be the finest example of this Canadian director's unique artistry. He takes a macabre storyline, blends it with brilliant performances, edits to perfection, and creates pure celluloid magic. Dots, bumps, fuzzy static, imperfections, blurring, or shading literally fill the screen with texture--making every frame a cinematic painting.
In 1933 Winnipeg, a contest sponsored by a local beer company has attracted visitors from around the world. Competing for a $25,000 prize, the contestants are all trying to procure The Saddest Music in the World. The host and judge of the competition is the legless owner of the beer company, Lady Port-Huntly (Isabella Rossellini), a former beauty who suffered a grotesque surgical accident, and who hides her own sadness under a platinum-blond wig. Meanwhile, her former lover, the American Chester Kent (Mark McKinney), has arrived with his nymphomaniac girlfriend, Narcissa (Maria de Medeiros), who suffers from amnesia. Chester's brother, a pale and tortured man with a strange skin condition, and his neurotic father, also enter the competition. They are joined by musicians from Africa, Siam, Mexico, and Scotland, all of whom offer phenomenal performances of nationalistic tunes. This is really only the tip of the iceberg, as Maddin's film--its story and its visual thrills--includes details and subtleties that can only be understood by watching it. A masterful work of entirely original art, THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD is simply a must-see.