Daily Archives: September 15, 1989


From the Chicago Reader (September 15, 1989). — J.R.


*** (A must-see)

Directed and written by Guy Maddin

With Kyle McCulloch, Michael Gottli, Angela Heck, Margaret-Anne MacLeod, Heather Neale, and Caroline Bonner.

Given the murky black-and-white photography, the fascination with repulsive medical details, the loony deadpan humor, the impoverished characters and settings, and the dreamlike drift of bizarre and affectless incidents, it’s difficult not to compare Tales From the Gimli Hospital with David Lynch’s Eraserhead. It’s also being distributed mainly (although not yet in Chicago) as a midnight attraction by Ben Barenholtz, the same man who launched Eraserhead on the midnight circuits a dozen years ago. Turning up here at the Film Center in Barbara Scharres’s “Films From the Lunatic Fringe” series, Tales From the Gimli Hospital isn’t an easy film to categorize, but invoking the name and weirdness of David Lynch gives you at least a rough idea of what to expect.

In many respects, Guy Maddin’s oddball independent Canadian production is distinctly different from Eraserhead. The sensibility at work here is neither painterly nor musical — the frames aren’t rigorously composed, and the eclectic editing rhythms are relatively stodgy and clunky — but steeped, rather, in the traditions of oral narrative and cinema of the late 20s and early 30s.… Read more »

Videos by Stephen Roszell

The remarkable Writing in Water (1984), which runs less than half an hour, consists of a collective account by a family and their neighbors in rural Kentucky of a visit by an old friend who has clearly lost his mind. Beautifully articulated, this tape gradually constructs two stories at once–an oblique narrative of a man going to pieces, and an equally fascinating and challenging portrait of how the family and their neighbors deal with it, practically and emotionally. The narrative method recalls Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, but Roszell’s editing and juxtapositions of sound and image are so beautifully structured that the work becomes mesmerizing in its style and content–and wholly original. The 58-minute Other Prisoners (1987), which alternates stories by guards and inmates at a Kentucky prison, is a more conventional documentary. But it’s a vivid and illuminating one, with a feel for southern story telling and alternating views of reality, and for using speech patterns and images to orchestrate narrative rhythms. Roszell, who is based in Chicago, will be present at this must-see program to introduce and discuss his work. (Chicago Filmmakers, 1229 W. Belmont, Friday, September 15, 8:00, 281-8788)… Read more »