‘The Forbidden Room’
Directors: Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson
Stars: Roy Dupuis, Mathieu Amalric
5 (out of 5) Globes
It’s been too long since we had a proper Guy Maddin movie — that is, those flurries of retro silliness, like “Careful,” “The Saddest Music in the World” and the dynamic short “The Heart of the World,” stuffed lousy with gags, bygone filming styles and intertitles like “Bones! Bones! BONES!” Naturally, “The Forbidden Room” — his first “Guy Maddin”-y feature since 2008’s “My Winnipeg,” with the live-action-and-color “Keyhole” in between — spills over two hours (even longer in its original Sundance cut before some fine-tuning). Returning to his shtick with a vengeance, it’s like a suitcase packed so tight the zipper won’t even work, overflowing with every inspired idea he’s had over a long interim. It’s exhausting, but feeling like your head will explode is part of the fun.
There’s no point in even tying these overflowing ideas into a coherent story. Maddin, and his new co-conspirator Even Johnson, don’t even try. They adopt a nesting doll structure that’s part “The Saragossa Manuscript” but even more like a night lost to aimless Internet browsing, one ending with 50 tabs open. An old-timey amateur-style intro about how to have a “Saturday night bath,” offered by a lecherous gentleman in a too-open robe, leads into a tale of troubled seamen on a submarine. That segues into a spelunking adventure where they encounter a cave cult, which makes way for such specific (or nonexistent) sub-genres as the mountain movie, the volcano movie, the lumberjack movie, amnesia movies and any other forgotten, arcane movie type Maddin got his paws on.
There is, simply put, a lot of stuff. There are secret societies, zeppelins, literal dick measuring contests and, of course, squid theft and “offal piling.” There’s Udo Kier doing brain surgery and Mathieu Amalric facing off against his double. There’s a “darkling couch.” There are quotes from Sappho and Keats. There’s a Sparks song, composed for Maddin and whose slick production stands in puckish contrast to the deliberately rough, often Kucharian look that Maddin, once a proponent of creating the old with actual old film, now exerts untold energy recreating digitally. There’s also a “Mysterious Necklace Woman.”