by Elaine Perrone
SCREENED AT SEATTLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2004: Originally commissioned as an installation at a Toronto art gallery, to be viewed through peepholes, Cowards Bend the Knee is described by its creator, Guy Maddin, as "a lovingly self-loathing peek at myself, but only as I would have enough courage to look -- through a cracked glass made foggy by hairspray."In truth, his "autobiography" is a meticulously recreated 1920s silent peepshow depicting, among other things, a Winnipeg hockey team and some hockey-playing sperm, a beauty salon that doubles as an abortion clinic, a blind Grandma, ice breasts and lots of penises, murderous severed blue hands, and an assortment of jaw-dropping sexual encounters --a few of the "normal" heterosexual variety (but with socks on, of course!), plus some same-sex antics in a locker-room and at adjoining urinals.
"Deliriously inventive, or jaw-droppingly rude? You betcha, to both."
Filmed on Super-8 and transferred to 35mm, Cowards is a visual whirlwind, frenetically paced and filled with rapid jump cuts and zooms; scenes shot through fish-eyes, kaleidoscopic lenses, and telescopes; grainy, scratchy black-and-white film; and footage shot deliberately out of focus through jittery hand-held cameras.
Darcy Fehr plays "Guy Maddin," the commitment-phobic Coward of the title, who is embroiled in an overheated little melodrama involving incest, betrayal and revenge, murder, illegal abortion, amputated hands, miscegenation, homoerotic abasement, and ice hockey. (The title is also derived from the early 20th century practice of crouching down to view the pornographic shows through the peepholes of hand-cranked nickelodeons.)Fans of Guy Maddin and/or John Waters, and anyone with a taste for the outrageously absurd, should have a ball with this wickedly naughty, often flagrantly rude, little morsel. (I loved it!) For others, mileage will vary.
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originally posted: 07/19/04 20:31:00