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‘The Twentieth Century’ (review)

Produced by Gabrielle Tougas-Fréchette, Ménaïc Raoul
Written and Directed by Matthew Rankin
Starring Dan Beirne, Catherine St-Laurent,
Louis Negin, Brent Skagford

 

The story of W.L. Mackenzie King, a real-life public figure who longed to become Canada’s Prime Minister at the turn of the century.

What may read like a historical drama is in fact a berserk, hugely irreverent dark comedy cum social satire.

Dan Beirne plays King, who wants nothing more than to lead Canada alongside his dream woman, Ruby, who barely knows he exists.

Ruby is more accurately King’s mother’s dream woman for her son, almost literally: Mother dreamt that Ruby and her son would end up together and become Mr. and Mrs. Canadian Prime Minister.

This is just the beginning of a VERY odd film that will likely appeal most to adventurous viewers.

Writer/director Matthew Rankin clearly considers indie film darling and fellow Canadian Guy Maddin an influence.

The histrionic acting, rampant cross-dressing, sexual fetishes, out-of-nowhere violence and especially the deliberately artificial sets certainly bring to mind Maddin films such as Tales From The Gimli Hospital and Careful.

The production design, costumes and at-times charming animation are certainly an eyeful and are often quite clever and inspired.

While the humor is certainly all over the place, some of it lands nicely, such as a series of ridiculous tests during the competition for Prime Minister (my favorite being Baby Seal Clubbing).

I’ll freely admit a little bit of Maddin and The Twentieth Century goes a long way for my tastes, so while I enjoyed the first half, the film started to drag for me.

There were still bright spots: I particularly liked the impressionistic ocean effects, which were theatrical and rather beautiful, and the film does build to a genuinely exciting climax.

While The Twentieth Century isn’t particularly my surreal cup of tea, it will likely play far better for Maddin fans and lovers of truly bizarre cinema, and Rankin and company do deserve credit as the film is in many ways truly impressive.

And while certainly evoking Maddin, The Twentieth Century still stands on its own as a wild, if flawed, cinematic ride.

The Twentieth Century is now playing in virtual cinemas.

 

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