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My Dad Is 100 Years Old (short)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"The trippiest cinematic Father's Day card ever produced"
5 stars

Though it is only sixteen minutes in length, Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin’s mind-blowing short subject “My Dad is 100 Years Old” packs more visual style, emotional resonance and provocative thinking than any recent feature film you are likely to see this year.

Produced for cable television, the film is a collaboration between Maddin and Isabella Rossellini (who previous worked together on the great “The Saddest Music in the World”) meant to honor the latter’s father, acclaimed director Roberto Rossellini on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Instead of just another dry-as-dust, clip-heavy tribute, Maddin and Rossellini have cooked up a decidedly trippy affair in which Rossellini plays herself, the voice of her father (pictured only as a large belly that she describes as being his most distinctive feature) and a number of cinematic legends (including Chaplin, David O Selznick, Federico Fellini, Alfred Hitchcock and her mother, Ingrid Bergman) who discuss Roberto’s work (which included “Open City,” “Stromboli” and many others) and what importance, if any, his low-key and resoundingly undramatic style of filmmaking (which included a reliance on untrained actors and simple camera set-ups) has had in the history of the cinema.

As anyone who has seen Maddin’s astounding short “The Heart of the World” can probably guess, this is a film so densely packed with ideas and imagery that multiple viewings are practically required. Visually, it fits in with the retro style that Maddin has perfected throughout his career, even if his everything-but-the-kitchen-sink aesthetic couldn’t be more removed from Rossellini Sr’s sparer style. Narratively, his meeting of cinematic minds is less interested in simple platitudes and manages to offer up some provocative ideas of its own–no less of a crass businessman as David O. Selznick (who, in an odd performance choice by Rossellini, is made her to look and sound almost frighteningly like David Lynch) defends the director’s spare approach against the criticisms of Hitchcock with the observation that while Rossellini’s work never brought in huge audiences, he also took care never to spend much money on them in order to maintain his artistic freedom. It is bracing enough to see genuine film theory of any kind being discussed on the screen and the fact that Maddin goes about it in such an unexpected manner makes this short a real treat for anyone interested in the crazy notion that cinema can indeed be a legitimate art form.

I’m not entirely certain that Rossellini Sr. would have fully approved of this tribute from a cinematic perspective but he suspect that he would have approved of the sentiment behind it–both as a tribute from one filmmaker to another and from a child to a parent, this film is an extraordinary document that will enchant Rossellini buffs and neophytes alike. (Though “My Dad is 100 Years Old” is worth the ticket price all by itself, it is currently sharing the bill with Rossellini’s “The Flowers of St. Francis,” a typically austere look at the life of St. Francis of Assisi that may not be among his greatest works but which is perhaps the one most accessible for audiences unfamiliar with his work.)

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14727&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/23/06 01:15:31
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

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USA
  N/A (NR)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Guy Maddin

Written by
  Isabella Rossellini

Cast
  Isabella Rossellini



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