Cowards Bend the Knee
Guy Maddin’s body of work is as beautiful as it is confounding and delirious. He incorporates the language of past cinema, with which he is most intimately familiar from his countless hours of film viewing, and combines this with a pre-cinematic sensibility learned from the books he voraciously devours. A man of prodigious intellectual appetites, Maddin’s many interests and obsessions can easily be discerned in his work.
His first film, produced through the Winnipeg Film Group, was the haunting family fable THE DEAD FATHER. This brought him the recognition he needed to embark on his second film, the cult hitTALES FROM THE GIMLI HOSPITAL. This film played for months as a midnight movie in New York City and paved the way to perhaps his most delirious and insensible picture, ARCHANGEL. Certainly the most Iyrical of war films, ARCHANGEL is the story of amnesiac lovers skirting the northern frontiers of World War 1, and its release brought Maddin the U.S. National Society of Film Critics’ prize for Best Experimental Film of the Year.
Following this triumph was Maddin’s first work in color, a story of repression and unnatural couplings entitled CAREFUL. The film opened Perspectives Canada at the 1993 Toronto Festival of Festivals and it went on to screen at the Tokyo and New York Film Festivals.
In 1995 Maddin created a short filmic prose-poem based on the work of Belgian charcoalier ODILON REDON. It was organised by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), who also invited such directors as Jonathan Demme, Jane Campion and Tim Burton. The resulting production won a Special Jury Citation at the Toronto Film Festival and played festivals from New York to London to Telluride, Colorado.
Also in 1995, Maddin was the recipient of the Telluride Medal for Life Time Achievement at the Telluride Film Festival. He is the youngest person ever to have been awarded this honor. Two years later he unveiled his biggest budget film to date, TWILIGHT OF THE ICE NYMPHS, the shooting of which is documented in the Noam Gonick’s film WAITING FOR TWILIGHT.
Maddin has also made many short films, few of which have been seen. These include: MAUVE DECADE (1989), INDIGO HIGH-HATTERS (1991), THE POMPS OF SATAN (1993), SEA BEGGARS (1994), SISSY BOY SLAP PARTY (1995), MALDOROR: TYGERS (1999), and THE COCK CREW (1999).
In 2000, along with other notable Canadian filmmakers, Maddin was commissioned to make a six-minute “prelude” for the Toronto International Film Festival in celebration of their 25th anniversary. The resulting short film, THE HEART OF THE WORLD, was proclaimed by many festival-goers and critics to be the best film of the entire festival and became the most acclaimed film to date of Maddin’s career. It won a special award from the National Society of Film Critics as the best experimental film of the year, won a Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco Film Festival for best narrative short, and was voted one of the ten best films of 2001 by both J. Hoberman of The Village Voice, and A.O.Scott of The New York Times, a highly unusual honor for a six-minute film. In 2002 Maddin filmed the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s performance of Mark Godden’s ballet “Dracula” for Canadian TV and the resulting film, DRACULA: PAGES FROM A VIRGINS DIARY won an International Emmy award and was released theatrically to great acclaim.
In 2003 Guy Maddin premiered the video peep-show installation COWARDS BEND THE KNEE in Toronto. COWARDS BEND THE KNEE was then released as a feature film in 2004.
Also in 2004 Maddin directed THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD, based on an original screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro (author of The Remains of the Day). Starring Isabella Rossellini and Kids in the Hall’s Mark McKinney, the film is set during the Depression in a Winnipeg brewery where a legless matriarch holds a contest to see who can create the world’s most melancholy music.
In 2006 Maddin premiered BRAND UPON THE BRAIN, a silent film that chronicles the mysterious happenings at a lighthouse orphanage run by an oppressive matriarch. The film screened at several international film festivals accompanied live with foley artists, an orchestral score, and a celebrity narrator. The same year he also made a short film with Isabella Rossellini in tribute to her father Roberto, entitled MY DAD IS 100 YEARS OLD.
His most recent feature is MY WINNIPEG (2007), a experimental documentary and semi-autobiographical account of Maddin's childhood and the history of his hometown. And at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2009 he premiered a new short film, SEND ME TO THE ’LECTRIC CHAIR starring Isabella Rossellini, which was projected on the side of an office building.
Maddin has been a regular contributor to Film Comment and The Village Voice. He has curated at the UCLA Film and Television Archive and has taught at the University of Manitoba.
Guy Darcy Fehr
Meta Melissa Dionisio
Veronica Amy Stewart
Liliom Tara Birtwhistle
Dr. Fusi Louis Negin
Mo Mott Mike Bell
Shaky David Stuart Evans
Chas Henry Mogatas
Maddin Sr Victor Cowie
Gramma Herdis Maddin
Mrs.Maddi Marion Martin
Baby Aurum McBride
Stickboy Bernard Lesk
Photographer, Writer & Director Guy Maddin
Producer Philip Monk for The Power Plant
Associate Director and Associate D.O.P. Ruben Guzman
Production Designer Shawna Conner
Art Director Craig Aftanas
Costume Designer Meg McMillan
Editor John Gurdebeke
Production Manager Tracy McBride
Stills Photographer Rebecca Sandulak