Keyhole premieres in London
“So many locked doors – and they all have to be opened.”
Keyhole is a stylish, clattering and abstract study of memory, fusing nostalgic ghost and gangster movie genres and conventions while really being neither, in a puzzle typical of Canadian director Guy Maddin.
Jason Patric is utterly in control throughout as gangster Ulysses, who embarks on a journey through his murky past, accompanied by a collection of colourful gunmen and gals who collide with the tortured ghosts of his family, including his wife (Isabella Rossellini) who in true Gothic tradition is trapped in the attic. Ulysses is on the run with his criminal gang, and they barricade themselves into his childhood home, bracing for a police raid. When Ulysses himself arrives, he’s lugging a semi-conscious dripping wet girl over his shoulder. He feels his way backwards into the dark house, displaying in a snapshot that blind knowledge of one’s childhood home even after a prolonged absence. The film centres on this architecture of the home, those too familiar nooks and crannies stuffed with dusty emotions and regret.
At times darkly distasteful and with an overriding feeling of lingering sorrow, the film maintains fraught chaotic tension throughout, with some very welcome comic moments taking the pressure off. It is essentially a fragmented dream with the storyline in dream-logic, where everything makes perfect sense until you wake up and try to piece it together, and with persistent themes of drowning and nakedness (there’s a lot of nudity).
The UK premier at the BFI was a fundraiser for Maddin’s Spiritisms project, in which he is recreating the “sad spirits of lost films” including Hitchcock’s The Mountain Eagle as part of the BFI’s Hitchcock season. The screening was preceded by a video introduction by Maddin himself, where he spoke of his desire to make a “genre movie”. This desire seems to be overriding, while the gangster element works visually and the supporting characters are pleasing to watch, as they stylishly flirt and backstab in the background; it’s not as convincing as the exploration of the reconciliation of memories through the ghost genre.
Nevertheless, it’s beautifully crafted in monochrome, with a perfectly unsettling score by Jason Staczec. Feeling at once modern (it is Maddin’s first film to be shot digitally) but channelling the spirits of those spook stories and gangster tales of days past, Keyhole is a fittingly melodramatic and richly jumbled vision by a unique film-maker.
For more information about the BFI’s Hitchcock season click here.
Watch the trailer for Keyhole here: