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Archangel

Canada 1990
produced by
Greg Klymkiw, Andre Bennett (executive) for Ordnance Pictures, Cinephile, Téléfilm Canada
directed by Guy Maddin
starring Kyle McCulloch, Kathy Marykuca, Ari Cohen, Sarah Neville, Michael Gottli, David Falkenburg, Margaret Anne MacLeod, Michael O'Sullivan, Victor Cowie, Ihor Procak, Robert Lougheed, Stephen Snyder, Michael Powell, Sam Toles, Lloyd Weinberg, Graham Bicq, Brent Neale, Caroline Bonner
story suggested by John B.Harvie, screenplay by Guy Maddin, George Toles

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Russia 1919: World War I is over and the Bolsheviks have taken over power in the country two years ago, with the Russian royal family being murdered in 1918.

But for some reason, nobody ever cared to tell this to the people of Archangel, the Northernmost city of Russia, who still fight the Germans and still defend their tsarist believes against the Bolsheviks, whom they consider to be nothing more than manbeasts. Eventually, the Canadian soldier John Boles (Kyle McCulloch) comes to Archangel and finds abode with cowardly Jannings (Michael Gottli) and his brave wife Danchuk (Sarah Neville), who finds herself immediately drawn to the young soldier. But in Boles' heart there is only room for one, Iris, his deceased fiancée, and when he meets Veronkha (Kathy Marykuca), who is the splitting image of Iris, he thinks his dead fiancée has come back to life and does everything in his power to win her affections.

Veronkha has a problem of her own though, she has once married pilot Philbin (Ari Cohen), but found him shagging a chambermaid in their wedding night, upon which she immediately annuled their marriage. However, Philbin has since been struck with amnesia, and he constantly thinks he has just married Veronkha and they are off to their honeymoon, and he has forgotten and keeps forgetting everything that has happened since.

Eventually, Veronkha can't take it anymore and agrees to go to Murmansk with him on their honeymoon, just to have her revenge on him. Hearing about this, John Boles travels after them, only to find a weird scenario: While Veronkha is still waiting for him in their room, Philbin once again shags another woman, this time even in the hotel lobby. Boles grabs his chance, steals Philbin's pilot outfit and enters Veronkha's darkened room disguised as Philbin. Veronkha, thinking him to be Philbin, confesses that she has never loved him (Philbin) but is in love with Boles - upon which Boles lights a candle to reveal his true identity. Rather unexpectedly, Veronkha is positively shocked by this, faints and immediately loses all her memory. Again, Boles grabs the chance and tells her she is his fiancée Iris, and they are very much in love. This goes alright for a while, to a point where Boles steals the baby of Danchuk and Jannings (who has since died a hero's death saving his son from the Bolsheviks) and tells Iris it is theirs - but then some of her memories return to Veronkha, those of herself and her husband, and how happy they were just after their wedding and before their honeymoon - and unfortunately she doesn't remember anything after that, leaves John Boles for good and goes back to Philbin to fly to Murmansk for their honeymoon ...

John Boles is left behind a broken man, who will probably die lonely since he is unable to notice the now widowed Danchuk's affections towards him ...

 

Whatever movies you usually watch, Archangel is ... well, different. The only films it is comparable to are probably some of the other films by Guy Maddin. Archangel is high drama, shot a bit in the style of silent and early sound cinema, in deliberately unconvincing sets and featuring actors who quite obviously hold backregarding their talents. Now in the hands of a lesser director, the film would be little more than a mess - and not in the best meaning of the word either - but Maddin manages to merge all of the films intentional shortcomings into a unique piece of cinema that creates a parallel universe all of its own, which is of course also helped by an over-the-top anything-goes screenplay that seems to exaggerate at every twist and turn the story takes and that features more amnesiacs than you can shake a stick at, very weird war scens and of course a man who strangles his enemies with his own intestines. And though none of this makes really sense in itself, in the context of the movie, it makes total sense.

Highest recommendation.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
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out now on DVD