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If you’re sad, and like beer, I’m your lady.

So says beer baroness Lady Port-Huntley in Guy Maddin’s off-kilter masterpiece The Saddest Music in the World. Maddin’s 2003 film showcases his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba in the sad, strange, and funny story of a world-wide contest to find the saddest piece of music in existence. Lady Port-Huntley (played by Isabella Rosellini) launches the odd contest after Winnipeg is named the “Sorrow Capital of the World” for the fourth consecutive year. Musicians descend upon Winnipeg for their chance to win the $25,000 first prize. The event draws eccentric contestants from across the globe but ultimately boils down to competition within one family: a patriotic Canadian father and his two sons, one representing the United States, and the other representing Serbia.

Like many of Maddin’s films, this sort-of musical utilizes a lo-fi look and sound, reminiscent of the silent movies and early talkies of 1920 and 1930s, an aesthetic similar to this year’s runaway hit and Academy Award winner for Best Picture, The Artist (directed by Michel Hazanavicius). The Saddest Music in the World is filmed mostly in grainy black and white and with slightly out-of-sync sound. In an interview with hobo magazine, Maddin explains, “The 1920s have always seemed eternally modern to me, but they’re really the primitive days of cinema, technologically speaking…And there was something about the vocabulary of film in that decade, when it still could’ve gone off in any number of directions; that excited me. It reminded me of a child learning to talk.”

The Saddest Music in the World is presented in conjunction with Oh, Canada (MASS MoCA’s survey of contemporary Canadian art on view through April 2013). Maddin frequently collaborates with other film and performance artists. Most notably, Canadian artist Noam Gonick, whose video installation Wildflowers of Manitoba is on view in Oh Canada, directed the documentary Waiting for Twilight, which depicts the enigmatic Maddin’s daily life and work and is narrated by Tom Waits.

Whether you’re a long-time fan of Canadian cinema, an interested film lover, or this is your first time dipping your toes into the Canadian art pool, Guy Maddin’s work is sure to charm you. The Saddest Music in the World is a comedy that “can serve as an introduction to the work of Canada’s most original filmmaker or as a culmination of everything he’s done before,” cites Newsday.

If this weekend’s film forecast includes a few too many big budget Hollywood flicks for your taste (Taken 2, really?), catch The Saddest Music in the World  in MASS MoCA’s Club B-10 on Saturday, October 27 at 4 PM. Tickets are $5. Call the Box Office at 413.662.2111 or purchase online.

Posted October 25, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Film, Oh Canada
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