'Keyhole': a mad Maddin adventure
Guy Maddin's surreal "Keyhole" is a gangster film/ghost story that places a can-do Jason Patric in the middle of an addled psychic realm.
Seattle Times arts writer
"Keyhole," with Jason Patric, Isabella Rossellini, Louis Negin, Udo Kier, Kevin McDonald. Directed by Guy Maddin, from a screenplay by Maddin and George Toles. 93 minutes. Rated R for mild violence, copious nudity. SIFF Cinema at the Film Center.
Half gangster film, half haunted-house story, "Keyhole" isn't quite top-tier Guy Maddin (try "Careful" or "My Winnipeg" for that). But with its wildly protean sense of time, space and character- presence, it's still unlike anything else in films today.
Jason Patric stars as Ulysses Pick, who has come home to a house inhabited by his wife (Isabella Rossellini); his frequently naked father-in-law (Louis Negin); assorted gun-
slingers, molls and ghosts; plus a taxidermied wolverine named Crispy.
The house he enters is an addled psychic realm as much as a physical space, and the normal rules of time, space and logic don't apply. Thunder and lightning hammer at its walls. Locks of hair are teased from the locks in its doors. Sights spied through its keyholes can't be reached.
The tone of the film is set early on with a line spoken in voice-over: "The happiness this house has known is free to go once its inhabitants have departed. But sadness — sadness lingers."
That sadness takes the form of ghosts, each with his own signature grunt or moan (one of Ulysses' dead sons, "milk-drinking Ned," moos his agony). Also on hand: a young drowned woman (Brooke Palsson) who tags around with Ulysses in fluctuating states of saltwater saturation, and a bound-and-gagged young man (David Wontner) with an unexpectedly close tie to Ulysses.
Patric's performance is a deadpan treat. His can-do, take-charge character is in continual zany contrast to his surreal surroundings. As a paragon of action in a situation where action has little or no meaning, he's the best element in a script that occasionally feels slapdash.
Composer Jason Staczek and cinematographer Ben Kasulke, both Seattle-based, add to Maddin's spooky absurdist antics. John Gurdebeke's editing makes the movie flicker and shudder like the shakiest of nightmares.
Michael Upchurch: firstname.lastname@example.org