“Keyhole” Rated R. At the Brattle Theatre: B-
Tie me to the mast, boys. Guy Maddin is at it again.
Homer’s “Odyssey” meets George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” meets James Whale’s “The Old Dark House” in Maddin’s “Keyhole,” a retro, black-and-white, shaky-cam mashup of genres (cinema and epic poem, horror movie and film noir, haunted house thriller and dysfunctional family saga) that will have you either enchanted or lunging for the exits.
See Jason Patric, Isabella Rossellini and Udo Kier, the darling of filmmakers Andy Warhol and Lars von Trier, as you’ve never seen them before (you’ve never, I assure you). Winnepeg’s own vintage-cinema -auteur Maddin (“Archangel,” “The Saddest Music in the World,” “Brand Upon the Brain!”) is back with another journey to his very own cinematic dream world.
Patric is “wily” tough guy Ulysses Pick, a gangster on the lam and holed up in his house, which is full of howling ghosts and shifting lights and surrounded by police, while a storm rages outside.
Rossellini is Ulysses’ wife Hyacinth, who is locked behind her bedroom door. The truth is the whole Pick residence is full of ghosts of past inhabitants and of Hyacinth and Ulysses’ dead sons.
The only surviving son Manners (David Wontner) is tied up and being held captive by his father and his thugs and molls. The plot will further disgorge a wolverine named Crispy, a character named “milk-drinking Ned,” a Gloria Grahame look-alike, a French-speaking hussy, a “bike-powered electric chair,” a blind prophetess (Brooke Palsson), gratuitous nudity galore and -interior decoration.
The ghost of Hyacinth’s father (Louis Negin), who is naked and shackled to her bed, narrates the action and tells us about ghosts haunting the house. Kier is weird Dr. Lemke, who also has a dead son.
If movies are dreams, Maddin dreams about a lot of naked people.
Music by Jason Staczek adds to the film’s dreamy atmosphere. Love Maddin or hate him, no one makes films like this. If it’s narrative sense you’re looking for, abandon all hope.
(“Keyhole” contains more nudity than you’ve seen in a long time, sexually suggestive scenes and violence.)