Thursday, June 17, 2010

LAFF ’10: The Night Mayor (short)

The nights in Canada get awfully long and dark. That is why Canadians were fascinated by the images generated by a Bosnian immigrant inventor who developed an experimental broadcasting system powered by the Aurora Borealis. Nihad Ademi’s fantastical story forms another chapter in director Guy Maddin’s secret history of his hometown of Winnipeg in the short film The Night Mayor, which screens during the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival (and is also available for online viewing courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada).

A proud Canadian by choice, Ademi was captivated by the “music” of the Aurora Borealis. He invents the telemelodium, a machine that transformed the energy of the Northern Lights into sound and imagery. However, as more Canadians starting subscribing to his signals, the telemelodium started tapping into the countries subconscious, generating unexpected visuals, including that of Ademi’s daughter in her altogether. Despite Ademi’s patriotic motives, the national government is not happy to have this window opened into the Canadian soul.

Bearing the hallmarks of Maddin’s weirdly elegant style (glorious black-and-white, expressionist set pieces, unsettling music and audio effects), Mayor could easily be considered an addendum to his borderline brilliant feature My Winnipeg. However, where the full length film started with incidents in Maddin’s fictionalized and sensationalized history that seem eccentrically plausible, slowly but surely seducing viewers with its bizarre vision of the central Canadian city, Mayor’s improbability never convinces viewers to suspend their disbelief. Still, it is an undeniably original and more or less accessible bite of post-modern science fiction that should please Maddin’s loyal art-house fans.

Maddin is one of the few genuine auteurs working in film today. While his overall filmography is somewhat hit-or-miss, Mayor is an inventive and subversive short. Entertaining on its own, Mayor would probably be even more effective when viewed as a companion to Winnipeg. It screens at the LA Film Festival as part of Shorts Program 2 tomorrow (6/18) and Tuesday (6/22).

(Photo credit: Rebecca Sandulak)