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Cowards Bend The Knee (2003)

  Directed by: Guy Maddin
Starring: Melissa Dionisio, Darcy Fehr, Guy Maddin
Links: Cowards Bend The Knee on the IMDb
Genre: Romance

This movie gets: 4.00 (1 rating)
nofreelist.com Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

Cowards Bend The Knee (2003) is also mentioned in mino's review of A Trip to the Orphanage (2004), mino's review of Sissy Boy Slap Party (1995) and mino's review of Sombra Dolorosa (2004).

"Convention: what is it good for?" - a review by mino

Here we are then. I've taken care of the three Guy Maddin short films I saw before a screening of Cowards Bend The Knee, and I don't think the overall impression has been a great one. So, on to the main feature.

Firstly, let's get it out of the way: Cowards Bend The Knee is one of the most bizarre films I've ever seen. I mean, I'm a man of the world, squire. I've, uh, been around a bit. I'm not a Julia Roberts kinda guy. I've seen my share of slightly surreal arthouse cinema. And yet, Cowards Bend The Knee ranks right up there.

The story is hard to explain, at least partially because the film is so disjointed. The movie was actually made as a series of short displays for an art gallery, and was intended to be viewed, in pieces, through peepholes, like some piece of 1920s bawdery. The film is scratchy, crackly, dim, flickery, and otherwise rather, ahem, ‘interesting’ to watch — not to mention totally silent. It's a challenging watch, but I have to admit that the rather novel approach does make the movie feel rather more authentic — and rather more salacious.

Anyway, the action revolves around a character named Guy Maddin (but played by Darcy Fehr, not the director), a star ice hockey player for the Winnipeg Maroons. Unfortunately, Guy is something of a cad and a bounder and when, right after a championship win, his girlfriend reveals she's pregnant, he carts her straight off to a combined bordello/hairdresser's/abortion clinic (yes, it's that kind of movie). Alas, while she's having the abortion, Guy abandons her to hook up with the vampish Meta (the stunningly beautiful Melissa Dionisio), daughter of the establishment's madam. Not only does the Guy's girlfriend die during the op, Meta herself turns out to be a bit of a fruitcake, demanding that Guy have her murdered father's hands transplanted on before she'll let him get, uh, ‘fresh’ with her.

What follows is a very very dark, very very twisted (though at times quite funny; I think the humour was lost on a lot of the other folk in the cinema, though, so it may not be to everyone's taste) journey through references to old horror movies, gratuitous sex, ghosts, hallucinations, violence, love, lust, waxworks, fisting, and murder.

In all honesty, it's hard to explain the movie much more clearly than that. It's worth noting that it's surprisingly graphic, both in terms of sex and violence, which might scare off some viewers. Normally I wouldn't point this out, but I've never seen so many people leave a cinema. I was quite close to the front, but of the maybe fifteen or so people I could see from my seat, probably seven or eight of them left — though it's hard to say whether this was because of the violence, the sex, the filmmaking style, or the general unconventialness of the filmmaking style.

I think I enjoyed Cowards Bend The Knee more than most people in the cinema, but only because the general consensus was, I think, that it sucked. I wouldn't be that harsh, but I'm also not going to go out of my way and say I loved it. Sure, it's the best film I've ever seen in which all the action takes place inside a drop of semen (oh, didn't I mention that?), but I can't say I thought it was great. Interesting, yes; good: sorry, no. Unconventional but unimpressive.

mino gives this movie 4 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 20 Aug 2004

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