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Cowards Bend the Knee

Canada 2003
produced by
Philip Monk for The Power Plant
directed by Guy Maddin
starring Darcy Fehr, Melissa Dionisio, Amy Stewart, Tara Birtwhistle, Louis Negin, Mike Bell, David Stuart Evans, Henry Mogatas, Victor Cowie, Herdis Maddin, Marion Martin, Aurum McBride, Bernard Lesk, Erin Hershberg
written by Guy Maddin

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Guy Maddin (Darcy Fehr) is the top hockey player of the Winnipeg Maroons, but when knocked over the head by an adversary, he becomes somewhat addled in the brain ... at exactly the worst moment in his life, because this is the day his fiancée Veronica (Amy Stewart) has an abortion - in of all places a brothel that is disguised as a beauty salon by day ...

But while Doctor Fusi (Louis Negin) - also the physician of the Maroons - performs the abortion on her, Guy runs off with Meta (Melissa Dionisio), the daughter of brothel Madame Liliom (Tara Birtwhistle). And while Veronica's abortion goes wrong and she dies - on the hockey field Guy usually plays at -, Guy wants to have sex with Meta ... but she can't be touched until the death of her father (Henry Mogatas) is avenged, who was cowardly killed by Liliom and her lover Shaky (David Stuart Evans), incidently the captain of Guy's hockey team and police captain.

And to really turn Guy into the vengeful killer she needs, Meta has Doctor Fusi transplant her father's hands (which are blue because he was a hairdresser and the dye would stick to his hands) on Guy. Only Doc Fusi is in no mood to perform a hand transplantation and instead only paints Guy's hands blue - and somehow this does the trick, before long Guy has murdered Shaky in front of a large audience during a hockey game against the Soviet Union ... and Guy even gets away with it scot free. Later he goes to the police to turn himself in, but officer Mo Mott (Mike Bell), Guy's best friend, refuses to take Guy seriously - to an extent that Guy strangles Mo Mott to death right at the police station ... but nobody seems to have noticed.

Later, Guy finds himeslf alone with Liliom, and when he suddenly remembers Veronica's abortion and death, he kills her, too.

In the meantime though, a few other developments ahve taken plance: Veronica has somehow returned as a ghost and now works as the new girl at the beauty salon, and soon enough, Guy falls for the new girl and they spend the night together. This again makes Meta furious, and after Guy has murdered Liliom, she asks for her father's hands back, and this time around, Doc Fusi does not hesitate to hack 'em off ... only he doesn't give Guy any new hands ...

Even without hands, Guy continues to play hockey, but then he learns that the new girl - Veronica - has started an affair with his own father (Victor Cowie), and he confronts them both in a forgotten wax museum (that is curiously enough positioned above the hockey field), and calls upon the wax figures - all portraying famous hockey players - to help him ... but somehow the wax figures turn against him and confront him on a catwalk directly above the hockey field ... which is when Meta enters the scene and recognizes her dead dad in one of the figures. She wants to throw herself into his arms, but since he has no hands and is thus unable to catch her, she falls off the catwalk and onto the hockey field to her death, at exactly the same spot Veronica died ...

A year later: Guy, the handless coward, has found his place among the wax figures - all like him handless cowards ...


Wow. Even by Guy Maddin's standards, this is wild. It's pretty much a clash of everything you wouldn't expect: early silent filmmaking and avantgarde cinema, kitsch and surrealism, oedipal melodrama and in-your-face horror, high art and bathroom humour ... and somehow, thanks to Guy Maddin's genius, it not only works, it's also entertaining. It's just darn unusual, it invites the viewer into a world where fake hand transplantations, wax figures coming to life, ghosts having affairs with humans, sport announcers fondling ice breasts and abortion clinics disguised as brothels disguised as beauty salons make perfect sense. In a word, this is the world of Guy Maddin ... and even for him, this film is unusual.



review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




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


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD