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Cowards Bend the Knee
Cowards Bend the Knee
Actors: Darcy Fehr, Melissa Dionisio, Amy Stewart, Tara Birtwhistle, Louis Negin
Director: Guy Maddin
Genres: Classics, Drama, Special Interests, Sports
NR     2005     1hr 0min

Adapted from a ten-part peephole installation, COWARDS BEND THE KNEE is jam-packed with enough kinetically photographed action to seem like a never-ending cliffhanger...In this twisted and poisoned wish-fulfillment, direct...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Darcy Fehr, Melissa Dionisio, Amy Stewart, Tara Birtwhistle, Louis Negin
Director: Guy Maddin
Creators: Guy Maddin, John Gurdebeke, Philip Monk
Genres: Classics, Drama, Special Interests, Sports
Sub-Genres: Silent Films, Love & Romance, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Hockey
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
Format: DVD - Black and White,Full Screen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 09/20/2005
Original Release Date: 01/01/2004
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2004
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 0min
Screens: Black and White,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 10
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Out-Lynches Lynch
PolarisDiB | Southwest, USA | 12/08/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Understand that I'm getting a bit tired of people comparing every strange movie that comes along to a David Lynch film too. Unfortunately, Lynch is the norm and just about one of the most accessible strange filmmakers out there, so sometimes the comparison is needed for a starting point, like in this case.

This movie is, roughly speaking, the story of a swinging hockey player who gets entrapped in a bunch of relationships, including most prominently one with a scarred daughter who wants her father's death revenged. Her father's killer? Her mother. It includes but is not limited to perverse sexuality, weird psychoses, and severed arms.

It's shot in black and white and is a silent film, which creates for it a sort of removed surreality/abstractness which is, honestly, reminiscent of Eraserhead and Lynch's Lumiere and Company short.

What makes it Maddin's, though, is the use of imagery from his childhood (the barbershop, the hockey players, etc.) set to a blatant sexuality which goes beyond just being blatant but enforces it: you see the sexual image, and then the words follow saying exactly what you were thinking. No more subtlety and deranged fetishes, this is straight-forward Freud and primal scene.

Because of this, this film as a whole remains true to itself and never lets go of its own private Universe, one that we could never live in and yet, terribly, can relate to, figure out, and eventually even understand.

Beyond that, there's not much that can be talked about this movie besides the fact that it there's no common approach to it. It has no genre (besides maybe Silent film) and is disconcerting, requiring a certain level of viewer interaction that most movies don't ask for. For fans of strange and insane cinema, it's great; for anybody looking to be entertained, this is most definitely not for you.

The deep, dark, weird world of Guy Maddin
Muzzlehatch | the walls of Gormenghast | 11/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This struck me from the first when I originally saw it in 2007, as I'm sure it will many people, as possibly Maddin's most personal - and subversive - film to date. That title may now belong to MY WINNIPEG, but consider: COWARDS is his first solo-written screenplay in over a decade; he acts as his own cinematographer here; the main character is called Guy Maddin, plays hockey on the Winnipeg Maroons (fictional, though there was a minor-league baseball team by that name decades ago) and much of the action revolves around a hair salon - Maddin's mother was a hair stylist. Still, unless Maddin is hiding some awfully creepy and weird secrets, the film's descent into really far-out madness and murder is probably not entirely lifted from life - at least, one would hope not! You see, Maddin (Darcy Fehr) has a girlfriend, Veronica (Amy Stewart) who he's knocked up. The hair salon doubles as a brothel and abortion clinic/hospital and the two take a visit there. As things go horribly wrong on the operating table presided over by creepy Dr. Fusi (Louis Negin), Maddin meets the eye the salon owner's daughter, Meta (Melissa Dionisio) and is instantly drawn into a fatal seduction.

Stop a moment. Re-read that: Maddin and Meta meet in the operating room as his girlfriend is getting an abortion. That weird enough for ya? How about Veronica dragging herself bloody out of the operating room and dying in the come back later and romance Maddin's father? How about Maddin getting drawn into a revenge scheme of Meta's to kill her mother, who with Maddin's captain on the hockey team has been having an affair and killed her father? How about Meta carrying around her father's amputated hands in a blue solution, which she wants to have affixed to Maddin before he carries out these dastardly deeds?

Whew. And there's more, much more. This one is told in 10 6-minute segments, originally commissioned for an art installation to be viewed through peepholes, which is where the "bend the knees" part of the title comes in (you'll have to learn about the "cowards" yourself in the latter part of the film). As usual it draws heavily - in this case almost entirely - from the silent cinema traditions and is monochrome. Unlike most of the silent films known to film buffs today, though, there is copious nudity (male and female) and sex here; this is probably in part due to the "peep hole" nature of the project, the very early and continuing juncture of cinema and erotica which the director is only too happy to explore. Maddin melds sex and violence more overtly and more extremely than just about any non-exploitation director in history, but he does it all with a veneer of outrageous humor and surrealism; even if you wanted to be offended, you can't help but wonder if it's all a dream, and if any of it is to be taken seriously.

The Zeitgeist DVD doesn't offer a whole lot in the way of extras; this is the barest of the Maddin releases I think, but given the embarassment of riches contained within the film itself I don't think one can complain too much.

Disgusting, disturbing, fascinating, hilarious. Typically Guy Maddin territory.