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Archangel

Director: Guy Maddin

Canada| 1991. Black and white. 83 mins.


A tale of love lost, found, then lost again, this opaque half-talkie is a delirious yet touching noir melodrama featuring a group of amnesiacs who are plagued by obsession and mustard gas apoplexy. The circular narrative revolves around John Boles, a displaced soldier from the Great War who is steeped in an overwhelming sense of loss—for his country (Canada), his girl (Iris), and his leg (the right one). Arriving in Archangel, a Russian outpost still fighting the war, Boles falls madly in love with Iris’ double, Veronkha, who has forgotten she’s married to a brain-damaged war veteran. A feverish, dream-like film directed by an amnesiac who has forgotten he’s living in the early 1990s, Archangel fixates more on capturing moments of ritualistic behaviour than on narrative clarity. This early Maddin masterpiece is indebted to Mervyn LeRoy’s Random Harvest and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Still, Maddin can always be counted on to come up with innumerable original scenes only he could devise, which here include a strangulation involving the use of intestines and film history’s most memorable calm-before-the-storm scene featuring fluffy bunny rabbits.

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