Watching Guy Maddin's Careful is like stepping into a mutating time warp of cinema history, where German alpine dramas of the 1920s are gene-spliced with Daliesque surrealism, Murnau's silent melodrama, and--in an uncannily precise act of stylistic homage--the hypnotically skewed universe of German Expressionism. Filmed in gloriously filtered colors that cross Maxfield Parrish with Peter Max, this stylistic hybrid virtually defies description and must be seen to be truly appreciated. Suffice it to say, the fictional mountain village of Tolzbad--where silence is golden, and extreme measures are taken to avoid a sound-induced avalanche--is one of the strangest and most outrageously amusing locations in the history of film. You think that's an exaggeration? If anything, it's an understatement.
The villagers of Tolzbad have developed repression into an art form: nearly every sentence begins with "Don't," and they slavishly follow a litany of safety guidelines. Desires are equally suppressed, and this precarious equilibrium is fractured when a young villager's Oedipal dreams collide with his dysfunctional family reality. Pandora's box is opened, Tolzbad-style, and Careful turns into a fever-dream of sibling rivalry, forbidden romance, suicide, murder, and delirious cinematic ecstasy. This is Maddin's best and most coherent film, but even so it's hardly for everyone; only the truly adventurous film lover will eagerly follow Maddin on this demented journey, but the rewards are plentiful for those who dare. Many films strive for enduring uniqueness, but few can make that claim as triumphantly as Careful. This is filmmaking on another plane of consciousness--quite simply, a work of art like nothing you've ever seen. --Jeff Shannon