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Careful

Directed by Guy Maddin. Starring Kyle Mcculloch, Sarah Neville, Brent Neale, Gosia Dobrowoiska. (1992, NR, 100 min.)

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 15, 1993

Set in the mysterious European village of Tolzbad during the 19th century, this third feature from Canadian director Guy Maddin (Tales From the Gimli Hospital, Archangel) follows the surreally melodramatic lives of townsfolk who live in perpetual fear of the avalanches that can be caused by undue noise. Brothers Franz, Gregors, and Johann reside in their mother's house, two of them attending the nearby butler's school, while the third (Franz) remains pent-up in a moldering attic -- the victim of some terrible, unknown tragedy. Johann, meanwhile, is experiencing bizarrely Oedipal dreams in which he makes passionate love to his mother. As usual, Maddin's plotline seems single-handedly lifted from the old German silent films he obviously loves so much. From his use of ornate intertitles to his downright perverse sense of lighting and camera movement, Maddin's films are homages to a cinematic age long since passed, and despite Careful's exceptionally unique aspects, the film remains one long “look what I can do, Ma,” drawing attention to the director's conceits just when the viewer should be focusing on, oh, say, some sort of coherent plot. Like his two previous films, Careful ends up being far more fun to look at briefly than it is to actually sit through. Lead McCulloch (a Maddin regular), is satisfactory as the passionate Gregors, who eventually finds himself challenging his mother's suitor to a duel, but even so, the film has the hollow ring of “cult movie” stamped all over it. Too strange for its own good, Careful is less interesting as a film than it is as a Canadian cinematic anomaly.

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