The Saddest Music in the World - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Saddest Music in the World Reviews

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May 28, 2014
Gorgeous and surreal, this is Guy Maddin's masterpiece.
October 7, 2013
Ten years after its (very) limited theatrical release, this remains as one of the most purely imaginative and intriguingly bizarre cinematic experiences I have EVER watched and/or witnessed. 'The Saddest Music in the World' is set in 1933 and stars Isabella Rossellini (Death Becomes Her) as the legless beer baroness, Lady Helen Port-Huntley, whose sad-ish life in the lonely and (Great) Depression-ravaged city of Winnipeg, Canada, announces a singing competition to be hosted in her city to find "The Saddest Music in the World". Contestants from the far-reaches of the globe pour into Winnipeg and sing/perform one sad song after another. Port-Huntley is unaware that some of the entrants have past (tragic) connections to her from years earlier but she does make the connection with the singer representing the Land of the Maple Leaf, Fyodor Kent (David Fox - Mama) -- who gifts Lady Port-Huntley two glass legs filled to the brim with liquid gold (beer). Fyodor has two sons also competing for the top prize (representing the US and Serbia) -- which becomes something other than the $25K -- when more of the past is remembered and tears begin to flow freely. Director Guy Maddin has created an unusual experience here with heavy use of authentic-looking grainy, black-and-white images -- with bits of color toyed around with onscreen from time to time. The film and storyline are both absurd but it is all about spectacle ... Lady Port-Huntley walks around in glass, beer-filled legs while people sing sad songs. We are supposed to enjoy the absurdity here ... and I did.
May 23, 2013
I always think of Maddin's films as answering a "what if" question ... What if the technology of movie making had never advanced even though our sensibilities did? His stylistic homages to silent film steel feel strikingly modern. While not his best film (an honour I'd probably give to "Careful"), this is probably the nest entry point to his filmography. Very familiar actors ... Isabella Rosselini, Mark McKinney, Maria de Madeiros ... share the screen with Maddin regulars like Ross McMillan. Kazuo Ishiguro's screenplay is a much more conventional narrative than earlier Maddin films.
½ February 12, 2013
Totally absurd story meets The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari brand black and white expressionism. Interesting, but bizarre.
½ February 1, 2013
A satyre about the power of the U.S. in terms of the bellic issue that reach out of the normal till today's life
January 22, 2013
Such a strange unique film. Both good and captivating. I force people to watch it, but I can usually let go of them after five minutes.
January 13, 2013
I had earlier seen Maddin's 'Careful' and was bewildered but mesmerized by it. This is another example of his creating a universe with an alternate reality. The characters follow an emotional logic through a dream-like landscape. I don't know if I "got" any message, but I intend to see more of his work simply because it is so hallucinatory, humorous and melancholic. It is so uncool it is cool.
December 21, 2012
I don't understand how 78% of viewers say they liked it...it is a weird unwatchable movie. I could not watch the whole thing it was too bad, too weird, too sick yes SICK...I wonder what kind of misfit dysfunctional mentally deranged person can relate to that movie
November 25, 2012
Typical Guy Maddin weirdness.
November 6, 2012
It's not so much the what Maddin says, but how he says it. I this hit-or-miss story would fall apart in anyone's hands, but somehow Maddin makes it work. It's darkly comic and if you can appreciate the absurd, you'll have fun watching The Saddest Music
October 18, 2012
Brilliantly original and often times hilarious. Very weird, of course, but it's a film that is drunk on the possibilities of film. Some of the sequences even remind me of Man with a Movie Camera, and that's always a great thing to be reminded of.
September 25, 2012
Deeply disturbing, I will never, ever be able to hear "California here I come" the same way again. Love it!
Super Reviewer
September 19, 2012
The best Guy Maddin film..which isn't saying much given how much Guy Maddin films give me a headache. This one at least has a unique plot and interesting concepts. If only someone else had directed it.
July 26, 2012
It had an old movie feel to it, but it did not hold my interest.
July 5, 2012
Ebert says in his review the more films you've seen the more you will like The Saddest Music in the World. I can agree with this up to an extent. I think what's more accurate is the more films you've seen the more you can appreciate what Guy Maddin does with the style and the world. There's a unique mixture of comedy and melodrama but not in the way of Lynch. The acting feels like it's straight out of a film from the 30's and the look of the film accompanies this. The overall story might seem like something that came from that era too, but Maddin presents everything in such a strange way. The Saddest Music in the World follows much of what the title says; Lady Helen Port-Huntley announces on the radio that Winnipeg has been listed as the saddest place in the world during the Great Depression, so she offers to pay $25,000 to someone who can come up with the saddest music in the world. She does this in hopes that it will draw attention to her beer company and when the prohibition is done her sales will go over the roof. I was reading many critics saying this had no real message to it, but I really disagree. There's a scene when the characters are trying to decide if sadness has anything to do with true emotion or is simply something people have to get the attention of others. There are plenty of scenes that show people from places all around the world and the ones who play solo tend to get turned down while the groups pass through. And Maddin seems to be bashing on America pretty hard. The American keeps paying off people from other countries to drop out and become a part of his troupe. It's almost like Maddin's saying that it's hard for people to empathize with a single person, and the American part was saying that we steal everyone's culture. On screen we don't show our own sadness. I disagree, but it was definitely funny to see. There are plenty of strange scenes that work for Maddin's style, which lets us know this is not some lost classic but a modern day film (other than the actors, of course). Lady Port-Huntley has a scene where she can't get over her new glass legs and can even feel Chester touch them. She lost her legs in a car accident a long time ago when Chester's dad (and her other lover) was standing drunk in the middle of the road. Pinned under the truck, Fyodor pulls out his saw to amputate her leg but he's drunk and cuts off the wrong one first. This is why she has no legs. She hates this part of her life. Nothing could be worse. Hearing people play these sad songs probably helps her cope with her own life. She's not alone. We also get Chester's brother's story. Roderick's a weak guy who has lost his wife and son and wants to join the competition under his wife's country in order to win the money. He goes far to compete with his brother in the end. Of course, or else this wouldn't be like the classic films. As all of this might seem like a typical movie, this is nothing of the sort. As things progress and Roderick goes crazy, the film gets even crazier. It's hard to follow and you need to just go back and remember what it's ultimately about. I would have liked more story as to why Lady Port-Huntley and Chester are no longer together by the beginning of this film. Is it simply because she can't have legs anymore, so when it becomes a possibility he's willing to be with her again? I believe this is the case, but I would have liked a little more to this. Perhaps more sorrow. I felt like there could have been more regret and sorrow mixed in with the comedy. Not much, just a little. I did think it was hilarious to see people who won the round slide into the pool of beer. People in America are mad to see they can't drink beer, yet these people are splashing around in it. I love Maddin's style which is probably why I like this so much. It's a great surreal film that only a brilliant mind could come up with.
½ June 13, 2012
A clever indictment of the soulless Hollywood blockbuster culture. The whole film is an extended metaphor as we see an obnoxious backstabbing American use flashy-but-soulless musical numbers to fake his way to a cash reward in a "saddest music in the world" contest, triumphing over more genuine and passionate competition.
April 21, 2012
I recently checked out Guy Maddin, a filmmaker whom an acquaintance intriguingly described as the Canadian David Lynch. From his 2003 film "The Saddest Music in the World," David Lynch indeed popped into my head. This is a weird movie, filmed in great granny's grainy black-and-white. Sometimes it's blurry, out of focus. Sometimes even the aperture is limited. So put away the 3D glasses. The visuals might be anti-high-def, but at least the movie seems deft in its own dimension of lunacy.

Its silly pouty premise is set during The Great Depression. Winnipeg has been pegged as the sorrow capital of the world. To commemorate the "honor," beer baroness Lady Port-Huntley (Isabella Rossellini) wants to hold a musical contest. For a grand prize of $25,000, she's inviting countries to compete for the "saddest music in the world." Three of the participants belong in the same family. And two of these three have a complicated and severed past with Lady P.

Fyodor Kent (David Fox), the father, represents Canada. On the stage, he knocks down the piano, because, you know, his song is dedicated to fallen heroes. His son, competing for USA, is Chester Kent (Mark McKinney), a Broadway producer donning a slimy and deceitful mustache. He thinks he'll win it all; his show business pizazz coupled with downer songs could be just the ticket. And finally, from Serbia, there's the cellist son, Roderick. Unlike his smiley brother, Roderick is full-on morose. The man is so so sad, it's funny. Maybe not funny ha-ha. More like it's funny he shares the same fashion sense as Harry Potter's Professor Snape.

Despite the title, this movie is, from what I can tell, a comedy. It reels out its own eccentricity, laughing, winking, and elbowing the audience on the chest as if it's saying, "It's funny, right? Brilliantly wild, right? Riiight? Riiiight?" Well, uh - ahem! - uhmmm ...

Here's the thing. I did like it, but my appreciation for the movie is limited and indirect. I hardly responded to it right away. I found the visuals distracting, the humor initially inaccessible, and the characters sometimes gratingly outlandish. Now those are three strikes already. However, with patience and perseverance, I actually got into it. I thought a few scenes, especially the ones involving the competition, have a haunting yet quirky quality. I wish it could have been more consistent in that tone. The movie walks a fine line between funny and ghastly. Unfortunately, its walk is as tipsy as its characters. But there is no denying that "The Saddest Music of the World" is strikingly original and Guy Maddin is a talented filmmaker. I just have reservations recommending it to people. Hey, you never know. You might actually enjoy it, but you won't blame me if you don't like it, right? Riiight? Riiight?
Super Reviewer
½ February 19, 2012
It has a sad, surreal atmosphere that suggests a type of fantasy nostalgia, as if Maddin is lamenting a false version of the past that he desperately wishes was real. The result is a film that's intoxicating to watch. Its also a pretty spot on and rather hilarious satire of perceived cultural identity and America's invasive notion of superiority.
½ December 15, 2011
- are you an american?
- i'm not an american. i'm a nymphomaniac.
December 9, 2011
Brilliantly bizarre ... Loved it !
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