The curator of ACMI's Focus on Guy Maddin gives us an exclusive insight into the Canadian auteur's inspirations.
13 Jul 2012 - 1:45 PM  UPDATED 27 Feb 2014 - 12:38 PM

As Film Programmer for The Australian Centre of the Moving Image (ACMI), Kristy Matheson has led a film connoisseur's dream life during her tenure at the national H.Q. for film culture. One of her main perks is curating of the 'Focus on...' series, the semi-regular retrospective screenings that honour key international auteurs as well as inviting them to program their personal favourites. Matheson has overseen past seasons spotlighting Jim Jarmusch and Francois Ozon; her colleague, Roberta Ciabarra, programmed the Guillermo del Toro screenings.

The subject of ACMI's latest Focus is Guy Maddin, the Canadian individualist whose darkly funny surrealism and avant-garde take on the 'Canadian psyche' has led to a compelling, infinitely hard-to-pigeon-hole body of work. So intrinsic is his output to Canadian culture, he was recently endowed with The Order of Canada for his contributions to the growth and development of the film industry in his home province of Manitoba and across Canada.

Matheson says she was delighted when Maddin supplied an extensive list of films that have helped him form his own unique perspective. “When I read the list of films he chose I was so excited because it offered whole other insights into the films he had already made,” Matheson says, who was in constant contact with the director. “For us, the idea really works where you have a director that is a total cinema fan themselves. Obviously all filmmakers love the medium but some just talk more about it, reference it more openly or have a brilliant film programmer living inside them. It's fun for us to tease that out!”

Exclusive to SBS, Matheson has offered up the full list of films that the 56 year-old artist cited as references, alongside those movies of his that they helped create. The eclectic mix of genres, languages and aesthetics are as challenging and unpredictable as the filmmaker himself.

“I wish I could have screened a lot more of them but alas, this job is all about making choices,” says Matheson. “It has been a real treat working on a season where the filmmaker can make time to correspond and be involved.”



Obviously all filmmakers love the medium but some just talk more about it, reference it more openly or have a brilliant film programmer living inside them.

“A nearly wordless '20s pastiche, the film obeys no logic except the impulse to fling in as many campy, incongruous images as possible. There are moments of jaw-dropping inspiration, and many that are just impenetrably odd. But this is immensely winning for the rawness alone.” – Time Out


MADDIN'S INSPIRATION FOR TALES FROM THE GIMLI HOSPITAL: Carl Theodor Dreyer's Vampyr (1931); Alf Sjöberg's Torment (1944); Frank Borzage's Man's Castle (1933); William A. Wellman's Night Nurse (1931); Luis Buñuel's L'age d'or (1930).

Vampyr scene clip:



ARCHANGEL (Guy Maddin, 1991)
“From its flickering, inky cinematography to its wavering late 1920's-style sound track, to Veronkha's kohl-eyed vampish look, the movie is an expert parody of a period movie style.” – New York Times

MADDIN'S INSPIRATION FOR ARCHANGEL: Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958); John Brahm's The Locket (1946); William Dieterle's Love Letters (1945); Curtis Bernhardt's Possessed (1947); Max Ophüls' Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948); Abel Gance's J'accuse (1938).

Letter from an Unknown Woman trailer:



CAREFUL (Guy Maddin, 1992): “Perhaps the strangest aspect of all is that somehow Maddin manages to make all this outrageous inventiveness hang together. It's of a piece, though a piece of what I'm still not quite sure.” – The Washington Post

MADDIN'S INSPIRATION FOR CAREFUL:: Leos Carax's Pola X (1999); Claire Denis' Beau Travail (1999); Leni Riefenstahl's Tiefland (1954); James Bidgood's Pink Narcissus (1971).

Pola X trailer:



TWILIGHT OF THE ICE NYMPHS (Guy Maddin, 1997): “The line between romance and sex is blurred in this enthralling 1997 feature by Guy Maddin, whose overwhelming stylization unexpectedly produces an emotional and psychological authenticity.” – Chicago Reader

MADDIN'S INSPIRATION FOR TWILIGHT OF THE ICE NYMPHS: Byron Haskin's The Naked Jungle (1954); John M. Stahl's Leave Her to Heaven (1945).

Leave Her to Heaven trailer:



DRACULA: PAGES FROM A VIRGIN'S DIARY (Guy Maddin, 2002): “Much of it is dazzling and erotic, a postmodern variation on a theme of German expressionism and Gothic horror.” – Boston Herald.

MADDIN'S INSPIRATION FOR DRACULA: PAGES FROM A VIRGIN'S DIARY: Nobuhiko Ohbayashi's Hausu (1977); William Beaudine's Dracula vs Billy the Kid (1966); Edgar G. Ulmer's Strange Illusion (1945); José Mojica Marins' This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse (1967).

This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse 'tarantula' scene:



COWARDS BEND THE KNEE (Guy Maddin, 2003: “What's truly extraordinary about this movie -- which strikes me on two viewings as Maddin's masterpiece -- is that it not only plays like a dream but feels like one.” – Village Voice


The Furies trailer:



THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD (Guy Maddin, 2003): “To see this film, to enter the world of Guy Maddin, is to understand how a film can be created entirely by its style, and how its style can create a world that never existed before, and lure us, at first bemused and then astonished, into it.” - Chicago Sun-Times.

MADDIN'S INSPIRATION FOR THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD: Erle C. Kenton's Search for Beauty (1934); John Brahm's Hangover Square (1945); Howard Bretherton's and William Keighley's Match King (1932); Edgar Selwyn's Skyscraper Souls (1932).

Hangover Square trailer:



BRAND UPON THE BRAIN(Guy Maddin, 2006): “Seeing is believing, and the clever Maddin understands a dimension of his medium that many of his contemporaries won't dare approach: with the right compelling images, anything is possible.” – Film Threat

MADDIN'S INSPIRATION FOR BRAND UPON THE BRAIN: Henri Diamant-Berger's La Maternelle (1949); René Clément's Forbidden Games (1952); Vittorio De Sica's Children are Watching Us (1944); Luis Buñuel's Los Olvidados (1950); Jean-Claude Lauzon's Leolo (1992); Frank Borzage's No Greater Glory (1934); Mervyn LeRoy's The Bad Seed (1956).

The Bad Seed



MY WINNIPEG (Guy Maddin, 2007): “Maddin's exploration of his dysfunctional family life mirrors the crumbling facade of this major city. The symbolism is potent; the skill with which Maddin applies it, masterful.” – SBS Movies

MADDIN'S INSPIRATION FOR MY WINNIPEG: Victor Halperin's White Zombie (1932); Jules Dassin's The Naked City (1948).

White Zombie trailer (as features in Trailers From Hell):



KEYHOLE (Guy Maddin, 2011): “Foregoing his usual mix of cheeky self-portrait and silent-movie pastiche, the one-of-a-kind Canadian filmmaker offers a hallucinatory romp through eerie new corridors of his imagination, teeming with Homeric allusions, spirits of cinema past and a creaky closetful of sexual kinks.” – Variety


MADDIN'S INSPIRATION FOR KEYHOLE: Phil Rosen's Spooks Run Wild (1941); Hirokazu Koreeda's After Life (1998); Arthur Ripley's The Chase (1946); Sidney Lumet's The Fugitive Kind (1959); Felix E. Feist's The Threat (1949); George Cukor's A Woman's Face (1941); Nobuhiko Ohbayashi's Hausu (1977).

Hausu trailer:



ACMI Focus on Guy maddin is currently underway in Melbourne. Full details: