With great prime ministerial gravitas it’s Burl, here to review a picture that purports to tell of an episode in the life of Canada’s longest-serving prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King! Ha ha, the picture’s called The Twentieth Century, and indeed it begins at the dawn of that storied hundredyear!
The picture presents King as a milquetoast mama’s boy with a shoe-sniffing fetish! His mother, played by Louis Negin from Keyhole, is an unpleasant old haggis who stays locked in her room, where she abuses a nurse! The nurse, meanwhile, pines for King, for reasons unknown (he’s a weirdo and surely nobody’s dream date ha ha!), and King himself pines for the daughter of Lord Muto! Muto is played by Seán Cullen, who has done comedy on the CBC but is nevertheless very good in the role here! In fact, ha ha, everybody in the cast does a terrific job!
The main thrust of the plot is King’s desire to qualify for his party’s nomination for the federal election! To this end the picture presents an uproarious series of tests, from gopher pounding to snowbank micturition! Ha ha! It’s a terrific scene, and one in which, as in so many scenes in this picture and in other pictures like it, fake snow swirls around the personages as though to give physical form to their roiling emotions! Ha ha! King goes through many trials, including a stint with the terrifying Dr. Milton Wakefield, but as with any true-life tale we know in advance where the story must go! Students of Canadian history that we are, we know it will end with King winning not just the nomination but, eventually, and for a record-breaking period of time, the prime ministersy!
Now, one of the swirling-snow pictures that The Twentieth Century is like is Careful! Yes, I would guess that the director is very much a fan of the 1992 Guy Maddin movie I so recently reviewed for you! I think it’s a fine thing to use as an inspiration, and the new movie is so fiercely imaginative in its realization that one readily forgives the truly dedicated and uninterrupted nature of the hommage! Ha ha! As well, the movie often looks like a painting by the Canadian artist Simon Hughes come to life, which is no bad thing!
Lovely to look at in its 16mm glory, well-performed, funny, full to bursting with whimsy and inventiveness, The Twentieth Century is an only somewhat alloyed joy! It has a simple and repetitive story, and wears its inspirations like shoulder braid, but it’s nevertheless something very special! I award the picture three masturbation alarms!
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