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also known as The Blue Hands

Cowards Bend the Knee2004

  • 3.6
"Cowardice!! The New Sexy!!!" squeals Guy Maddin about his shot-on-Super-8, expanded-to-35mm silent "autobiography" involving beauty salons, cowardice, femmes fatale, a father's severed hands (and the daughter who wants them sewn onto her lover's arms), orgies and the Soviet national ice hockey team. A John Waters plot filmed by a Super-8-cranking Sergei Eisenstein, COWARDS… continues Maddin's fixation on Soviet-era silent film. But its wondrously overheated visual aesthetic seems inspired by more modern devices (like amphetamines): sudden zooms, shaking cameras, a black-and-white lighting scheme seemingly controlled by a nine-year-old off his Ritalin (and a cast that appears to have been mainlining it). Like any good autobiographer, Maddin polishes his past to a fetishized gleam, with memories unfolding as if through hypnosis: fragmented, slowed-to-a-crawl and unusually lurid. Originally commissioned for Toronto's Power Plant art gallery, COWARDS was designed as an installation to be viewed through peepholes, increasing its voyeuristic thrills and recalling film's notorious beginnings in the disreputable realms of fairgrounds and peepshows, where cowards and perverts bent their knees for a peek at passions described and, ultimately, thrills denied. - Jason Sanders

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3 members like this review

So many of Guy Maddin's preoccupations are packed into this lurid little melodrama: Mom & Dad, Winnipeg, severed members, slapping (hockey and non-hockey) and of course "Guy" himself. The first-time Maddin viewer might find there to be a little too much epileptic editing here, and a disturbing early scene will probably scare off some before the film gets really fun, but if you only have an hour and want to see what Guy Maddin is all about, this is your ticket.

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top reviewer

Member Reviews (5)

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top reviewer

So many of Guy Maddin's preoccupations are packed into this lurid little melodrama: Mom & Dad, Winnipeg, severed members, slapping (hockey and non-hockey) and of course "Guy" himself. The first-time Maddin viewer might find there to be a little too much epileptic editing here, and a disturbing early scene will probably scare off some before the film gets really fun, but if you only have an hour and want to see what Guy Maddin is all about, this is your ticket.

3 members like this review
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top reviewer

Must-see if you love "naughty" silent cinema AND ice hockey! With a nod to "The Hands of Orlac".

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top reviewer

The sexual nature of sports and the bubbling of torched memories. 'Cowards Bend the Knee' is no 'Miracle.' It's all shadow puppets and phallic imagery. A waltz of confusion and malaise, set to the sound of a murky and ethereal orchestra. Guy Maddin reminds us that the dearth of comfort is the greatest sport of all.

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top reviewer

really silly & ridiculous_Meta ( Melissa Dionisio ) is beautiful_the whole thing is fun to watch

Pure Maddin, ridiculous and beautiful