"Keyhole": A Dream-World of Ideas, Bolted Shut

The latest phantasmagoria of cinematic quotation from Canadian director Guy Maddin, Keyhole is an extremely loose adaptation of the Odyssey. Jason Patric plays Ulysses Pick, leader of a two-bit gang who, carrying a nearly drowned girl on his back, returns home after a long absence. With his criminal accomplices confined to the downstairs sitting room, Ulysses journeys through the labyrinthine house, joined by the girl (Brooke Palsson) and a bound-and-gagged hostage (David Wontner), who Ulysses doesn't immediately realize is his only living son, Manners. Ulysses's goal is to reach the attic bedroom where his wife, Hyacinth (Isabella Rossellini), lays next to her naked elderly father (Louis Negin), chained to her bed. The father lures his son-in-law with a siren call — "Remember, Ulysses, remember" — but the house is full of roadblocks in the form of locked doors, debilitating visions of the past, and inchoate anxieties brought to life. A swirling stew of Maddin's pet themes — family ties, irrepressible sexuality, the weather — Keyhole is less narrative than architectural: It doesn't move from scene to scene, but rather from room to room. The house is a physical stand-in for a dreaming, troubled mind, and the film is so unrelentingly dreamlike that its sudden end mimics the sensation of snapping awake from deep sleep. But whose dream is it? Who is haunted, and who is doing the haunting? Shot digitally in chiaroscuro black-and-white, nearly every frame complicated by multiple exposure effects and strategically harsh lighting, Keyhole is stunning to look at, but frustrating to look deeply into.

 
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