MARK PERANSON

THE MOUTHWASH OF THE PAST

A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF GUY MADDIN, A CANADIAN FILMMAKER WHO MAY BE THE LOVECHILD OF LENI RIEFENSTAHL AND DRACULA.

DISCUSSED: Winnipeg, Senior Hockey, Melodrama, Monkeys, Revenge, Abel Gance, Euripides, Vampire Ballet, Nostalgic Film-making, Mouthwash, A Violent Monkey, Freundian Psychosexuality, Films With Words, Films With Songs

I. WESTIN HARBOR CASTLE HOTEL,
TORONTO, ONTARIO, FEBRUARY 2002

Can you feel it? Genie buzz is in the air![1] Winnipeg’s own Guy Maddin is eligible for Best Short Film for The Heart of the World (2000), only his second-ever nomination for Canada’s top film awards; the first was for the screenplay of his debut feature, Tales from the Gimli Hospital (1988), the script of which was scribbled on a handful of Post-it notes. (The next day, to nobody’s surprise, he will win it.) A little more than a year later, as the token Canadian in the house, I will be on a stage in some Dutch seaport accepting an award on behalf of the director for his first installation, Cowards Bend the Knee, and alluding to a story about a monkey that may or may not be true. But back in the Canadian winter chill, Maddin and I were leaving the hotel after having conversed for an hour about his black-and-white filmed vampire ballet, Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary (2001), which aired on CBC the following week. This was the first time he had put his thoughts on his film-for-hire into words, and he was already apologizing for what he perceived to be a tirade at the incalcitrance of unionized craftsman, his producers, and the Canadian film industry as a whole—when he did no such thing. Maddin, though, had yet to amalgamate his experiences on the film into fabricated thoughts, tall tales, the stuff that myths are made of. He turned to me and added one final anecdote. “There was this certain point in the editing room where I said, much to my own surprise, ‘We’ve done it. We’ve made a watchable dance film.’” He paused. “Don’t print that.”

  1. The Genies are Canada’s corrupt version of the Oscars, given annually to films from Quebec nobody has ever seen.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Mark Peranson edits Cinema Scope magazine (www.cinema-scope.com), works for the Vancouver International Film Festival, contributes to various publications like The Village Voice, and is passively pursuing clothes sponsors. He has never been to Winnipeg.

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