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Guy Maddin
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Archangel
dir. Guy Maddin / Canada 1990 / 90’
subtitles: Polish and English
retrospective: Guy Maddin

Cast

Michel Gottli, David Falkenburg, Michel O'Sullivan, Margaret Anne MacLeod, Ari Cohen, Sarah Neville, Kathy Marykuca, Kyle McCulloch, Victor Cowie, Ihor Procak, Robert Lougheed, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Stephen Snyder, Michael Powell, Sam Toles, Lloyd Weinberg

Film description

Archangel is a stylistic study of the Soviet propaganda films, very far from a simple parody. There is a smile in this story, but it's not a sneering smile, but a kind and ironic one. Maddin's film expresses a longing for absolutely serious narration, and also the joy of playing absurd, and the incurable love for silent cinema. Contrary to what might seem, the plot of Archangel is not just a simple pretext for the spectacle of style.

There are plenty of artificial limbs there - such as the prosthetic leg of the main character, lieutenant John Boles - and other artificial elements which are not so obvious. Even the narration is somehow "prosthetic" - amnesia, uncertainty about what is happening, where and when, and re-celebrating same events, serve as a prosthesis of coherent, orderly memory the film's characters lack.

The plot is set in 1919, right after WWI in a title town in Russia. Archangel suffers from an epidemic of amnesia. People are still fighting, although the war has been over for three months. Even the place is an odd prosthesis, attached awkwardly to the "real world" beside the snowy horizon. It is pathetic, strange, but necessary. There are rabbit avalanches here, the darkness is so thick that it can be cut with a knife, and Germans and Bolsheviks are steadfast tin soldiers. Archangel is a Goya painting etched upon a child's windowpane in frost - the director said.

Agata Rosochacka

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