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Careful

Director: Guy Maddin

Canada| 1992. Colour. Ultra stereo. 100 mins.


Combining elements from Leni Riefenstahl’s mountain movies with the incest theme of Herman Melville’s Pierre, Careful dares to entertain. In the Alpine villa of Tolzbad—Maddin’s Oedipal Oz—one false move can start an avalanche. This site of fear and repression finds two families immersed in sibling rivalry and sexual shenanigans. Brothers Johann and Grigorss are butlersin-training who dream about ravaging their widowed mother. Their temptress, though, is Klara, Tolzbad’s very own Electra, who also lusts after her paterfamilias. Meanwhile, high above the villa, Count Knotkers (played by film director Paul Cox) plots to reclaim his true love. . . . Brushed with a tincture of John Ruskin, Maddin’s first colour film resembles the sweaty two-strip pastel Technicolor of the 1930 Paul Whiteman vehicle The King of Jazz, yet feels insanely modern. Along with implementing a dizzying array of Georges Melies-like in-camera effects—not one shot in this mountain movie is an exterior—Careful finds Maddin extra cautious to deliver a coherent Wagnerian narrative. There are only peaks in this over-the-top melodrama, where tragedy lurks behind the gestating hysteria like a child peeking out of the safety of the womb.

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