Not Another Interview With Guy Maddin

There is no other filmmaker quite like Guy Maddin, so let us thank the great gods of Manitoba for sending him. This interview was conducted in parts by three personalities over the period of approximately one month. It begins with cinematographer Rubén Guzmán posing questions to Guy Maddin by email, segues surreally into Maddin posing questions to himself, then lurches back into reality with our man Steven Lee Beeber coming in like the cavalry to wrap it all up. This multiple perspective, inside and out, creates a visual portrait of a creator of moving images that moves itself in cinematic ways. It also allows, as Guzmán says, "Canadian filmmaker extra-ordinary Guy Maddin [to talk] about the waxing of legs and mustaches, the Vaseline-like veil of desire and the pathetic repetition of human patterns, among other most stimulating things. What follows flickers like a Maddin film, like a chiaroscuro dream as seen through a vaporous glass."

conduit: What do you owe to Vaseline?

maddin: Halation! Erasure! Vagueness! All the things important to lovemaking.

conduit: Is there any difference between formaldehyde and Vaseline, in the sense that the former preserves things in time?

maddin: That question is far too poetic to be topped by any answer. I love the question. Let's let it stand unanswered!

conduit: Speaking of preservation, what kind of taxonomy do you envision future film archivists will apply to your films? In other words, how do you imagine your worked preserved in an imaginary, ad hoc film archive/museum of the future?

maddin: My daydreams around this subject often see my films rising in history's estimation, like Vigo's, long after my death. Lately I've been less optimistic. I often see our entire culture being swallowed up by another and everything that went before being burnt like the Library of Alexandria. I see myself and my movies as so much dust. Art only gets you the slightest sliver of immortality at best, even if you're Hitchcock. When our sun goes out, God isn't going to sit around spooling our movies up onto projectors on a Sunday afternoon. But maybe in the next few decades the taxonomists will file me under "N" for "Novelty." I'll be happy to be filed at all. I would prefer under "E" for "Eccentric."

conduit: You went from casting people from within your own universe—namely, Winnipeggers—to casting people well known internationally with Saddest Music In The World. What compelled you to make this leap—is it a leap forward or one into the maelstrom of Hollywood forces?

maddin: I actually made this leap ten years ago with a little-seen film of mine, Twilight Of The Ice Nymphs, in which I cast Shelly Duvall (Best Actress winner at Cannes for Three Women), Alice Krige (whose first film job was a co-starring role with Fred Astaire, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Melvyn Douglas, and John Houseman, all immortals, all in their last roles, in a picture called Ghost Story), Frank Gorshin (who seared my young brain with his turn as the Riddler on TV's Batman), and Pascale Bussieres (who is Canada's Natalie Wood—a sexy child actor turned sexier adult, one whom I'd lusted after for years!). I've always really felt it was important to reach way back into my past, my personal mythologies, deep into the pedigrees of actors as only I would ordain them, in order to make that reach across time. In my earlier films, when I cast almost exclusively out of my home town, it was always easy to link up characters in my films to characters in my life through actors who were often just playing themselves, or playing their own parents, brothers, sisters, ex-lovers or their own lovers who happened to be ex-lovers of mine—anything which hooked me up and immured us in the emulsions! I felt that if no one ever saw the films I made at least I would have what amounted to an incredibly self-indulgent species of diary on my hands with each project. And each film is indeed a text which can eventually be untangled to tell my own autobiography! And what a thrill to use actors I've long admired, and from afar, too, to tell me my own story!