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Careful Movie Review

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Careful is receiving the sort of ecstatic (and strategically placed) reviews that assure it a place in cult movie circles for many years to come. On the basis of its unique visual style alone, it is well worth a look, but whether Careful succeeds in luring you into its spell may depend on your ability to accept the artistic choices of its director, Guy Maddin. Careful is a movie I found easy to admire but hard to love, and I tried. Its striking use of colors; its playful nod to scratchy soundtracks, intertitles, and other outdated film conventions; its sincere attempt to reveal how repression ignites overwhelming passion—all provide clear evidence of the quirky and original talent of its director. But ultimately, Guy Maddin's limited abilities as a storyteller are not equal to his ambitious visions. His characters are more like puppets than flesh-and-blood people. If they make a sound when they are sexually aroused, they may be buried by an avalanche, a theoretically intriguing dilemma, but less than riveting to observe even when accompanied by a bag of visual tricks. None of the folks in this movie affect us quite as deeply as when they are in repose and no emotion or language gets in the way. Maddin's use of formal speech patterns is deliberate. The script was translated from English into Icelandic and then back again. Intellectuals may worship this approach, but I found it as draining as all the overproduced set pieces in Sergei Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible, another so-called classic that's difficult to be moved by, however great it is to watch. Recommended for viewing after Careful: the great Gosia Dobrowolska, rather underused here, in John Dingwall's Australian classic Phobia, which wrings more emotion out of two characters on a single set than Maddin does in this kaleidoscopic romp in a Canadian grain elevator.

1992 100m/C Kyle McCulloch, Gosia Dobrowolska, Jackie Burroughs, Sarah Neville, Brent Neale, Paul Cox, Victor Cowie, Michael O'Sullivan, Vince Rimmer, Katya Gardner; D: Guy Maddin; W: Guy Maddin, George Toles; C: Guy Maddin; M: John McCulloch. VHS

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