Private: Sad Music

A Fresh Air interview with Guy Maddin, director of The Saddest Music in the World. Kazuo Ishiguro co-wrote the screenplay. Props for the link go to Elizabeth Ellen who wrote to say that Maddin is one of the most “charming, intelligent, and darkly humorous” people she’s ever heard on the show.

Here’s a review of the film from The Christian Science Monitor.

The movie’s subject is exactly what the title says. Rossellini plays a wealthy Winnipeg woman in 1933 who decides to sponsor an international contest: Which nation can come up with the most melancholy melodies she’s ever heard?

Every country you can imagine (and some nobody can) scrambles to get into the act, hoping to jerk enough tears for the $25,000 prize to come its way. Among the competitors are three Canadian relatives who haven’t seen one another for ages. One is returning from a disastrous foray into American showbiz. The second is his brother, a man so mournful he wears a black veil as big as a birdcage. The third is their father, a former physician who hopes to win with a heartrending rendition of “Red Maple Leaves.”

What makes this crazy, tragicomic stuff so brilliant is Mr. Maddin’s unique style. In the vein of earlier Maddin pictures like “Archangel” and “Careful,” he carries old-movie nostalgia past the breaking point, making the picture look and sound like a long-ago production that’s been stored under somebody’s bed for the past few decades, and now reaches the screen replete with often-spliced frames and a fuzz-filled sound track.

You can view snippets of the film if you scroll down on this page.