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Twilight Of The Ice Nymphs Review

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★★★★

Considering that David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan work there, it's something of an achievement to be rated Canada's weirdest director. With Tales From The Gimli Hospital, Archangel and Careful, Guy Maddin has done more than enough to earn that title, and, without ever compromising the commitment to strangeness that has run throughout his work, this may well be his breakthrough. Based on a novel by Knut Hamsen, Twilight is Maddin's first in full-colour and with a cast that includes Frank (The Riddler) Gorshin and perennially strange women Duvall and Alice Krige.

The story follows Peter Glahn (Whitmey), just out of prison, who returns to Mandragora, an island perpetually on the point of sunset without ever getting there. On the ship, he falls in love with Juliana (Bussieres), who turns out to be the mistress of a sinister, one-legged doctor (R.H. Thomson) with whom Peter's dithery sister Amelia (Duvall) is smitten. Before getting together with Juliana, Peter has a fling with Zephyr (Krige), a wood-dwelling pregnant woman whose fisherman husband is missing, and there are complications courtesy of Cain Ball (Gorshin), an aged worker who is trying to bully Amelia into selling him her family ostrich farm.

Twilight has a unique look, with pastels predominant, gorgeously fakey sky backdrops, costumes in striking single colours and woodland sets out of a Victorian pantomime. There are a great many wonderful moments, with a strain of unusual but potent sexiness. It gets gruesome and tragic at the end, with Thomson's mad doctor lending a bad influence out of German expressionist horror, but Maddin's surrealism is always gently persuasive rather than all-out shocking. Nobody else is doing anything remotely like this; reason enough to treasure it.