directed by Guy Maddin
Canada 2003


“If you’re sad, and like beer, I’m your lady,” so quips Lady Helen Port-Huntley (Isabella Rossellini) as she announces a $25,000 contest for the saddest
music in the world. The setting is Winnipeg, smack in the middle of the Great Depression, where when Prohibition was taking place in America, apparently Canadians were literally swimming in beer. This is what you might call a classic Guy Maddin storyline. A hodgepodge of early cinematic styles and storylines all filtered through the genius of one of the world’s most refreshing filmmaking minds. It might be fair to describe this as Maddin’s first backstage musical, however the musical numbers take backseat to the film’s imagery, which is literally drunk with cinematic nostalgia. Maddin once again has crafted a gorgeous, visionary world of highly artificial sets evoking early Soviet Constructivism and German Expressionism, and rendered using an array of handheld photography ranging from grainy black and white to a primitive two-strip Technicolor.

The cast is composed of numerous oddities including, an amnesiac nymphomaniac (Maria de Medeiros), a cynical dollar minded American (Mark McKinney), and his brother--the representative of Serbia--a depressed musician who carries around his deceased child’s heart preserved in a jar of his own tears. If this wasn’t enough, there is also Isabella Rossellini’s character of the legless beer baroness, no doubt an homage to the great Lon Chaney and his numerous “legless” roles, who sports a pair of glass legs filled with the shimmering glow of cold beer. Don’t be fooled and think that this film might be “too weird” for the casual viewer. The Saddest Music in the World is a dazzling and magical film that contains more imagination in a single frame than you are likely to come across in the whole of the current musicals that Hollywood has been churning out.  
out of     

Adam Lemke


Theatrical Release: August 31, 2003 - Venice Film Festival

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DVD Review: MGM DVD - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Adam Lemke for the Review!

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Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:41:29

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

Audio English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles English, Spanish, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: MGM DVD

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• Guy Maddin Short Films:
• A Trip to the Orphanage
• Sissy Boy Slap Party
• Sombra Delorosa
• 'Teardrops in the Snow: The Making of the Saddest Music in the World' - 26 min.
• 'The Saddest Characters in the World: The Cast' - 20 min.
• Teasers from IFC
• Original Theatrical Trailer

DVD Release Date: 11/16/04
Keep Case

Chapters: 20

Comments Given the tragedy that was the TVA release, MGM had an opportunity to make a lot of Guy Maddin fans happy with a proper release of this film, and I think they’ve done the trick. The image quality is pretty good, with some strong black levels and lot of the “grainy pixilation” that Maddin is so fond of. The audio at times feels muted and a bit quiet, however this might have been intended by the filmmaker—I’m unsure. It is nice to have the three Maddin shorts, previously only available on the net, in a nice DVD transfer. The rest of the extras consist of some fairly lame behind the scenes footage that I would have traded in a heartbeat for an informative commentary from Maddin (who himself is quite the film historian). Overall, I can’t complain about this one bit, a decent release of a terrific film.out of   

 - Adam Lemke


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