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The Twentieth Century Review: A Savage Biography of the Prime Minister of Canada

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Matthew Rankin’s spooky biopic reimagines Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s formative years as a wacky Freudian nightmare.

In debt to both Guy Maddin, German Expressionism and Elaine May, “The Twentieth Century” resolves itself as a mega-silly but strangely sincere caricature of a nation’s cuckold mind. While even the most revisionist interpretations of American history are shaped by a nearsighted sense of divine importance and the measure of the cock that tends to accompany it, a film’s leaky snow globe from director Matthew Rankin s ‘supports Canada’s pathological fixation to be second best; with “simping,” being friend-zoned, and elevating your reputation for polite submission to something that feels almost patriotic if you squint hard enough. “Canada is just one failed orgasm after another,” someone laments towards the end of this unclassifiable wonder, but there is something to be said about impotence after seeing (another) president american fuck the whole world.

A student of Canadian history in addition to being an accomplished director of short films, Winnipeg-born Rankin begins his first feature film with the confidence of someone who has worked all his life on this bugnuts show, and his brain feverish. from someone who passed that time, drinking from the same water supply that Guy Maddin gave us (Rankin worked in the art department on Maddin’s ‘My Winnipeg’). Maddin’s influence is clear from the first moments of “The Twentieth Century”, which plunges us into a hallucinogenic vision of the past that marries the scenography of silent films with a vaporwave color palette and freeze-dried everything in an ice cap of cold irony.

It’s 1899, and young Mackenzie (Dan Beirne) is a 25-year-old twerp whose demonic mother – played by Louis Negin, the first of several gender-swapped performances in a movie that tells the story of homosexuals every time. that she can – raised him to believe that he is destined to be prime minister someday. As a result, Mackenzie has developed a degree of pride and entitlement that puts him at odds with most other Canadians he meets; people like the consumer orphan (Satine Scarlett Montaz) whom he visits at the Hospital for Defective Children in Toronto which becomes his biggest fangirl and says things like “Mr. King, when you become Prime Minister, would you make TB illegal? ?

It’s a funny line written with a Simpsonian bite, softened by the child’s subsequent insistence that “the doctor tells me I’m going to die in agony and no one will come to his funeral,” then again by how quickly Mackenzie stops listening to him once he sees the beautiful Ruby Eliott (Catherine St-Laurent) playing the harp. She’s the woman his mother imagined for him – a painting of Ruby has hung in Mackenzie’s bedroom since he was a little boy – and seeing her in the flesh is enough to re-energize Mackenzie toward his destiny to lead the world. Dominion with Ruby by his side. .

So he sets off for the leadership tests that will determine the next PM, the next logical stop in a relentlessly absurd film that could be exhausting if it wasn’t so well modulated into a long crescendo of ever-increasing strangeness and cut with a handful of clear, memorable characters. For Mackenzie to achieve political success, he will have to defeat homoerotic tyrant Arthur Meighen (Brent Skagford) and golden boy Bert Harper (Mikhail Ahooja) in Canadian-ness exploits that range from ribbon cutting to queuing. and yours. name in the snow.

The inspired comedic montage that comes next embodies how Rankin’s film – paving the way for instant obscurity in much of the world – is delusional enough to connect with anyone who reveled in the absurd. There is no doubt that it was made for Canadians, and the rest of us can only feel some of the jokes that are playing over our heads like a Porter flight taking off from downtown Toronto. , but Mackenzie’s male beta ambitions are broad enough to connect with uneducated neophytes. who never even ate at Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant before it closed, and thinks Vancouver is just an NXIUM cover version of Seattle instead of the glorious city that helped the New York Rangers win their premiere Stanley Cup in 54 years (thanks, guys!).

It helps that Beirne and the rest of Rankin’s cast are all on the same page, with each person here delivering a performance that makes Fritz Lang different from Adult Swim. Richard Jutras is impeccably sad as Mackenzie’s indebted father, whose rapacious sexual appetites have somehow been satiated by his new pet bird (a howling puppet). Sarianne Cormier brings heart and true romantic pathos to this story through her role as the nurse who pines for Mackenzie, and the love triangle she creates between her unrequited crush and her precious Ruby lending to “The Twentieth Century” the kind of readable emotional scaffolding that’s strong enough to take all the weirdness that Rankin is layering. And Emmanuel Schwartz plays the intriguing Lady Violet with a sexually transgressive tendency that somehow manages to assert the beige-ness that is remembered about the non-charismatic king.

These performances and many others resonate like echoes with the sets of Dany Boivin, and this cohesion allows “The Twentieth Century” to achieve a degree of centrifugal force that holds your attention even after your eyes have frozen. While there is a certain ‘a lot’ to Rankin’s style, and needless to say it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, the filmmaker’s refusal to temper his vision serves him well in the long run. , because his debut in a feature film ends up becoming a lyrical farce. which carries it to the finish line.

Mackenzie might have been taught to fetishize deception (“may he protect us from foolish aspirations,” the young man promises with his political comrades), but by making him the centerpiece of this glorious sanctuary of aspirations. foolish, Rankin saved a perverse measure of respect for a political giant he wouldn’t actually support in real life. Canada is a great country that has global TIFF, Carly Rae Jepsen, and an endless array of cheap, semi-believable filming locations for movies that seemingly set in New York City. With “The Twentieth Century” he has yet another source of pride.

Quality: B +

Oscilloscope will release “The Twentieth Century” in virtual theaters on Friday, November 20. Visit the film’s website for screening details.

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