I clearly do not learn. A day after lamenting that I chose such a complex film to start so late, and after commenting on how Zama exposed my personal film criticism deficiencies, I for some reason chose today to re-engage with the works of Guy Maddin. Like yesterday, time got away once more, and this post is being delayed again.
Careful (1992, Dir. Guy Maddin)
Before this film, my experiences with Guy Maddin had been exclusively his later work. I had seen nothing before My Winnipeg (2007). The context of his latter work, The Forbidden Room (2015) in particular, ended up being extremely beneficial for putting both in auteurial context with each other. While The Forbidden Room was more experimental in form and visuals, at its heart, the film was a love letter to the earliest years of cinema. While that film played with the concept of lost films by intertwining many faux recreations, Careful was an early example of Maddin creating his own version of pre-Hollywood cinema.
While Careful may have spoken dialogue, Maddin implements numerous other techniques in service of replicating they style. The plot of the film feels pulled straight from the bygone era. It is filled with extreme melodramas that ring hollow in current cinema but were common for the era. The filmmaking itself also resurrects specific techniques from the birth of cinema. Most obvious is Maddin’s use of tinted celluloid. Much of the film uses this tinting as the only color – as would be the case in the 1890s through 1920s – but even when Maddin implements color film, each scene is still tinted to replicate the look. Another technique used by Maddin to replicate this era is to shoot while seldom moving the camera. Each of these decisions combine to create an anachronistic viewing that is more enjoyable as a cinematic experiment than as a narrative. It is an extremely interesting watch as long as one goes into it with that in mind.