"Twilight of the Ice Nymphs" (1997), a cockeyed "Midsummer Night's Dream" set on an Atlantis-like island and screening at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, represents Maddin at his most problematic. His stretches of deliberately arch or flat dialogue become tedious. In the film, a young political prisoner (Nigel Whitmey) returning on a ship to his native island of Mandragora encounters a goddess-like beauty (Pascale Brussieres) who unleashes in him a deathless passion. Once home, however, he is quickly drawn to a winsome widow (Alice Krige). His dippy spinster sister (Shelley Duvall) has the same intense feelings for a dashing mesmerist (R.H. Thomson), while her goofy handyman (Frank Gorshin) lusts for her and her ostrich farm. Also screening: "Waiting for Twilight" (1998), a documentary on Maddin.
The Maddin series concludes next Thursday at 7:30 p.m. with "They Won't Believe Me" (1947), which finds Robert Young caught up with Susan Hayward and Jane Greer. Following it is Maddin's most recent -- and costly -- movie, "The Saddest Music in the World" (2003), in which a Depression-era Canadian beer baroness (blond, bewigged Isabella Rossellini), who lost both legs in a darkly comic mishap, offers a $25,000 prize in a contest to discover the most sorrowful music ever. Rossellini is, however, caught up in a crazed family of two brothers, a slick would-be Broadway producer (Mark McKinney) who has latched on to an amnesiac beauty (Maria de Medeiros) and who has an epically morose brother (Ross McMillan) and a father (David Fox) mad for Rossellini.
It's strained at times but considerably more buoyant and entertaining than "Twilight of the Ice Nymphs." But, like that film, "The Saddest Music" suggests that Guy Maddin flourishes on tight budgets that challenge his formidable resourcefulness as well as his imagination.