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By Ron Wells | May 3, 1999

You can take the director out of his surreal isolation but you can’t always take the surreal isolation out of the director. Cult director Guy Maddin made this feature in 1997 but theatrical screenings have been limited to mostly festivals until Maddin’s current retrospective. Maddin got an expanded budget of around a million and a cast of actors with experience outside of his beloved Winnipeg, but even 35 mm color and some lighting won’t make him into Joel Schumacher. We open with Peter Glahn (Nigel Whitney) on his way home to the island of Mandragora after years in prison. On the ship, he meets and falls for Juliana (Pascale Bussieres), radiant, mysterious, and also bound for the island where the sun never sets. Peter arrives to find his sister Amelia (Shelley Duvall) at war with farmhand Cain Ball (Frank Gorshin) on the family ostrich farm. Amelia is enamored of the newly arrived Dr. Solti (R.H. Thomson) whose assistant/lover happens to be Juliana. Complicating the issue more, is Zephyr (Alice Krige), the pregnant wife of a fisherman who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. She falls for Peter. Hilarity ensues.
While bearing many similarities to Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” in look and theme, the film covers Maddin’s traditional themes of failed romance. While much brighter than his other films, if you like Maddin’s other works, you’ll probably dig this. If you don’t, this film will not convert you to the cause. The filmmaker still seems more clever than obsessed, and his cult following doesn’t look to grow any larger than it is now.

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