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Careful (1992) by Guy Maddin | Film Review

1 July 2009 by

"careful" (1992) by Guy Maddin (film still)

maddin-careful-surrealCareful(1992), Guy Maddin’s third feature film, draws inspiration from such films as The Cabinet of Dr. Calighara (1920) and A Trip to the Moon (1902).  Upon its release, some critics classified Careful as a neo-german-expressionist film — visually, this is true — however, Careful’s candy-eye visuals occasionally serve as artifice that sets the viewer up for an unexpected comdedic round-house kick.  Wild humor and sound considered, Canadian Expressionism is more suitable — it’s a wildly original film that sits next to The Saddest Music in the World (1996) and Sissy Boy Slap Party (1994) as Maddin’s best work to date.
Surrealism
Butler School and Humor
Maddin and George Toles teamwork

In Careful, Guy Maddin’s third feature film, Surrealist visuals run amok and the mise en scène recalls A Trip to the Moon (1902) or that of a German Expressionist film like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). There also is a heavy dose of Bunuel influence, too, for there are many moments that call to mind Un Chien Andalou (1929) and L’Age D’or (1930).

The film begins with a washed out sepia tint and fluctuates between black/white and hyper-stylized coloring throughout.  At times the pairing of red and green lighting gels resemble the set of a Dario Argento movie, specifically Suspiria (1977).  Maddin shot the film on super 16mm and blew it up to a 35mm print, therefore the picture is noticeably grainy, and Maddin probably did this deliberately (Maddin loves the grain).

Upon its release, some critics classified Careful as a neo-german-expressionist film — visually, this is true — however, Canadian Expressionism or Hyper-Expressionist Maddinism are suitable genres as well.  Ultimately unclassifiable, this is a film the sits next to Sissy Boy Slap Party (1995), The Heart of the World (2000), The Saddest Music in the World (2003), and My Winnipeg (2007) as Maddin’s best work to date.

In addition to Maddin’s distinctive aesthetics, Careful established recurring Maddinian themes: Complex maternal issues, also present in Brand Upon the Brain! (2006) and My Winnipeg ; dead animal corpses, also present in Winnipeg; hallucinatory mad-scientist experiments, akin to Saddest Music, Cowards Bend the Knee (2003), & Brand; supernatural encounters, bizarro morbidity, male shower scenes, and so forth.  By default, the odds are against a film with such characteristics; nevertheless, Maddin thrashed all odds and established himself internationally as an auteur.

By nature, film is a collaborative art, but the teamwork of Maddin and writer George Toles is all-star, much like the John Stockton and Karl Malone NBA duo. The story is well written and filled with artifices that trick the viewer into believing no comedy will occur, but this is not the case — the film is deceptively hilarious.  I really got a kick out of the scene where Grigoriss and Johann attend butler school.


You have to watch Sissy Boy Slap Party

More:

Careful on IMDB

Guy Maddin on Senses of Cinema

Criterion Collection Essay by Dennis Lim

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