Josh Bell

Guy Maddin's odd, willfully anachronistic The Saddest Music in the World might just win this year's title for strangest movie in the world. The Canadian filmmaker has been putting out his homages to old-time cinema in relative obscurity for years now, but he's managed to get a bigger budget and thus a higher profile for Saddest Music.

Set in Winnipeg in 1933 and filmed, for the most part, in a style suggesting it also was made in '33, the movie follows a bizarre contest conjured up by beer magnate Lady Port-Huntly (Isabella Rossellini). She offers a $25,000 prize (a fortune in "Depression-era dollars," as she calls them) to the country that can prove it has the saddest music in the world. The idea is that all the sadness will drive people to drink more beer.

The story is full of ridiculous soap-opera twists, and shot almost entirely in grainy black and white, with post-production tricks making it look like it was dug out of the vaults of some long-lost Depression-era studio. Maddin's self-conscious artiness and arch stylization are good for a few ironic laughs, but the effect is so distancing that all but the most adventurous filmgoer will have trouble sitting through all 100 minutes of it.

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