Review of Keyhole

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Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin takes viewers on a surreal journey into the psyche of a desperate gangster backed into a dangerous corner in this surreal, psycho-sexual take on Homer's Odyssey.
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Movie Review: "Keyhole"

-- Rating: R
Length: 94 minutes
Release Date: February 22, 2012
Directed by: Guy Maddin
Genre: Drama/Thriller

A catastrophe of the worst sort has occurred. Everything has gone terribly wrong. Amidst the violence, death and chaos that ensue, do you have the courage to stop and take a moment to search yourself for the way out or the road home? That is the dilemma faced by the main character in Guy Maddin's film "Keyhole." The character is named Ulysses and played brilliantly by dramatic actor Jason Patric. He is the driving force for this horrific, dramatic and sometimes comedic look at memory and several other themes.

Well, it may not be quite that simple. True to form, Maddin creates a film that is as enigmatic as can be while giving the audience the events of the night in an ever-changing, dream-like cinematic quality. The movie's premise alone is creepy. A band of mobsters is chased into a huge and obviously haunted house that wraps around a courtyard. Bodies are dumped into the courtyard. The gang holes up in the lower levels of the house with hostages. The leader of the gang, Ulysses, appears. He has a limp body of a girl slung over one shoulder and a boy trussed up and gagged. The girl is Denny (Brooke Palsson), whom Ulysses rescued from a drowning death. The boy is Manner (David Wontner), the gangster's own son. Of course, it is a dark and dreary night when Ulysses arrives.

The home turns out to be full of Ulysses' own memories. The narrator is a naked man chained up in the attic near Ulysses' wife Hyacinth. He is quite possibly Ulysses' father-in-law. Ulysses must get through the immense and shifting house to save Hyacinth before the police raid the house. As he searches, the man finds that each room is a piece of his memory. He reveals the events of his life and the night at hand in both past and future events. However, these events are playing in the present, right in front of Ulysses' eyes. He has to get from one heart-wrenching thing to another, accompanied by the sometimes comedic narrator, to save his beloved wife.

Of course, in this cinematic journey, nothing is so simple. There are hints that everyone in the house is dead! They may actually be ghosts holding the present-day residents hostage in their own home. Another crazy layer to this story is the bound boy. He is actually Ulysses' son, but the man doesn't know it. These elements combine with the 1930s film noir shooting style to make an art film that will grab a hold of your every discussion, dream and thought for weeks after viewing.

Maddin is known for making films that are a bit off the beaten path, but with great entertainment. This film, however, takes that style to the extreme. It never allows the audience to get comfortable in trying to figure out the facts behind the thrills or in anticipating the horror. No, Maddin's "Keyhole" is like a crazy dream brought on by the flu-like symptoms fever and chills. The scenes are sometimes stilted but are always shifting and changing. The present, past and future merge to create a timeline that exists in no plane that we know of but makes sense only in this dream-like state.

In fact, Maddin uses symbolism and metaphor, well-known tools of the subconscious in dreaming. The characters have names modeled after the Greek myths. The journey that Ulysses undertakes is actually like the one taken by his literary namesake in search for a captive love. The narrator's name is Calypso, and Ulysses' wife is named Hyacinth (played by Isabella Rosselini), two prominent characters in Greek mythology. The mythology relationship can be interpreted several ways when analyzing "Keyhole." The same goes for the use of the 1930s gangster theme and the debate over whether the haunted house is memory or dream. Throw in the comments about ghosts tossed about by the narrator, and you have a piece that film theory students can salivate over for decades to come.

Memory, however, is definitely at the forefront of this film. The theme is carried from the beginning of the story to the end, when Ulysses must identify with his son before it is too late. "Keyhole" is an entertaining, thought-provoking piece of film that everyone in the audience will love. It has elements of horror, drama, comedy and plenty of thrills to keep you glued to the screen. There are also so many conversation points throughout the film that it would be impossible to walk away and forget the film immediately. "Keyhole" is essentially a film on the hazards of memory that will ultimately imprint on yours.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars