Guy Maddin's movies exist on a bizarre dreamscape, but they also retain a certain disarming familiarity. Everything original about Maddin's surreal black-and-white excursions come with a simultaneous reference to the movies that inspired him, particularly silent cinema and sultry film noirs. His latest effort, "Keyhole," culls not only from those same influences but from Maddin's existing filmography, from "Tales from the Gimli Hospital" to "The Saddest Music in the World." Even by those standards, "Keyhole" never comes together, but that's part of Maddin's creed. He makes movies about movies to express his love for movies, which is to say he makes movies about himself.
The free-associative "Keyhole" follows a 1940's gangster cliché with family issues named Ulysses Pick (Jason Patric) literally battling through the memories locked within his old home. Arriving in a hail of gunfire, he journeys to his estranged wife (Isabella Rossellini), a fierce woman hiding in the shadows of the top floor with Ulysses' tortured father; meanwhile, his late son has seemingly risen from the grave. That's enough to keep "Keyhole" moving forward with spooky pastiche galore, flash cuts and ghostly fades, Freudian symbolism and a playful B-movie mentality meshed with excessive melodrama apparently gushing straight from the filmmaker's psyche--and the movies that inspired him to explore it.
While Maddin's craftsmanship and use of playful metaphor in "Keyhole" lack the same coherence of his earlier films, not to mention the deeply involving first-person voice of his quasi-documentary "My Winnipeg," the new movie still demonstrates how cinema informs Maddin's view of the world. Every moving image in "Keyhole" is simultaneously Maddinean and, for that same reason, a savvy quotation device.
However, while consistent in his unique manner of culling from the past, Maddin's movies also demonstrate a larger tendency among filmmakers to tell new stories based on the ones they have seen before. I mean that differently from the protocol of the proverbial "movie brats" (Spielberg, et al) whose love for childhood spectacles led them to make their own. Maddin and his ilk don't try to replace their memories with fresh product; their movies are like shrines.
"Keyhole" isn't the only new release hailing from the amorphous genre best described as "nostalgia cinema"; another marginalized release uses a very different set of reference points to tell a similarly tense family drama, with a narrative logic that makes "Keyhole" look like a wholesome version of the genres it references.