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Ulysses Pick (Jason Patric) searches for his wife in Guy Maddin’s haunting noir, KEYHOLE (photo © 2011 Cinema Atelier Tovar Ltd.)

KEYHOLE (Guy Maddin, 2011)
IFC Center
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Opens Friday, April 6

Inspired by Homer’s Odyssey, Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, and the Bowery Boys’ Spooks Run Wild, Canadian experimental filmmaker Guy Maddin has made Keyhole, a 1930s-style psychological gangster/ghost story set in a haunted house in which each room offers different thrills and chills and it’s nearly impossible to tell who is alive and who is dead. Shot in his trademark black-and-white (except for one quick image in color) but digitally for the first time, Maddin relates the barely decipherable tale of Ulysses Pick (Jason Patric), who has returned home after being away for many years. As he makes his odyssey through the house on a mission to find his ill wife, Hyacinth (Isabella Rossellini), who has shackled her naked father, Calypso (Louis Negin), to her bed, Ulysses carries a drowned girl, Denny (Brooke Palsson), and drags a bound-and-gagged teenager, Manners (David Wontner), the son he does not recognize. A confident, determined man, Ulysses battles Big Ed (Daniel Enright) over control of the gang, including a tense scene with an electric chair at the center. Going door-to-door, Ulysses peers through keyholes as screams pierce through the night and clocks endlessly tick and tick and tick. “The happiness the house has known is free to vanish the moment its inhabitants leave,” Calypso intones in a voice-over, “but sorrow, sorrow must linger.” Maddin, who has previously made such gems as Tales from the Gimli Hospital, Careful, and My Winnipeg, has a unique cinematic style that veers away from linear, dialogue-laden narrative and instead concentrates on mood, offbeat characters, mysterious music, and captivating visuals that harken back to the silent-film era. In Keyhole, he has created an old-fashioned yet modern noir that, despite a meandering plot, is a captivating look at life, death, family, memory, and the human psyche.

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