Movie Review by Anita Kasonkomona
Starring: Mark Mckinney, Isabella Rosellini, Maria de Medeiros, David Fox, Ross McMillan
Director: Guy Maddin
THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD is very deceiving. You assume because of the title, the film is going to be depressing, but far from it. It is one of the funniest and comical films I have seen in a while. What makes the movie so remarkable are the unremitting disasters encapsulated in the black humour.
It begins when we’re introduced to failed Broadway impresario Chester Kent, who arrives in Winnipeg, voted “Town of Sorrow” by the London Times, with amnesiac girlfriend, Narcissa. They visit a very unenthusiastic fortune teller who has little hope for Kent’s future. It is revealed that at the age of ten, he saw his mother meet her death, attempting to reach a high note while he played the saxophone by her side. The fortune teller urges Kent to grieve for his mother’s death, or else he will not live for much longer.
Kent takes this all in his stride and continues his journey into Winnipeg where we meet none other than Kent’s alcoholic ex-surgeon father, Fyodor. Fyodor confirms that Kent is in fact an expatriate Canadian, just as the streetcar pulls up at Lady Port-Huntly’s (Isabella Rosellini) Muskeg Brewery. The grand and imperious lady, also known as Beer Queen on the Prairies, is just announcing her latest contest – to find the saddest music in the world – and the prize money is $25000.
The film has many comical elements to it. There’s one very funny scene when Fyodor reveals that he has made a new pair of glass legs filled with beer for Lady Port-Huntly, to assuage his guilt for the violent act of amputating her legs during a drunken encounter whereupon Lady Port-Huntly, who exudes sexuality, becomes fanatically besotted with her new legs.
The actors appear more in tune with their characters and time period because the film, set in 1933, is shot in black and white. The director also emulates the cinematography of the early movies, which adds to the film’s comic elements, through the blurred, jerky imagery.