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  Stump the Guesser Mentalist Mysteries
Year: 2020
Director: Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson
Stars: Adam Brooks, Brent Neale, Stephanie Berrington, Werner Thaller, Alison Lord, Steven Black, Marlise Ritchie, Kevin Doole, Norm Foster, Yollanda Chimbarami, Greg Blagoev, Randy Unrau, Milos Mitrovic, Greg Klimkiw, Marianne Delveaux
Genre: Comedy, Weirdo, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: He is The Guesser (Adam Brooks), one of the experts at mindreading who populate the nation's greatest funfairs, able to answer any query with ease and accuracy. It doesn't matter how obscure or personal the knowledge, he is able to guess it, from people's ages to how many fish they have on their person, and this skill is rigorously controlled, by both himself and the inspectors who judge how well he and his ilk have been doing. But will he meet his match when one jolly-looking man and one meek-looking woman attend one of his sessions and actually stump him?

Guy Maddin had been ploughing much the same furrow ever since he started his eccentric career, a mixture of tributes to the kind of cinema that appeared in the silent era and obsessions that could only be described as archaic, from a world long gone that lives on in the clips and reels you can seek out should you care to feel a connection with that then-newly recorded past. Except of course, the conceit was that Maddin was making his pictures decades, even a century, after any of this ceased to be relevant, and that was a major part of the joke, if you were at all in on it and sympathetic.

If Maddin verged on being a one-joke talent, at least there was nobody really making stuff like this, or nobody as Canadian as he was, at least. While there were Maddin-esque efforts like The Twentieth Century dotted around Canada's film history, nobody quite did it like he did, although it should be noted his latter-day collaborators here were the Johnson Brothers who had followed in his footsteps enough to become practically inseparable from his working style, co-directing shorts with him, not that you would notice a particular difference in approach. In this case, there was that trick of turning what looked out date into something wild and vibrant, all through the techniques of those works updated with the whistles and bells that Maddin's contemporary technology would afford him.

If you had seen even one or two of this talent's pieces, you would find it familiar enough, but his benefit in operating in such a specialised field was that you were unlikely to be tired of him when you did stumble across his films, or indeed actively sought them out. The Guesser was played by Brooks, another Canadian eccentric moviemaker (did they make any other kind up there?) who was a member of the horror and science fiction trash film collective Astron-6; his presence had you thinking yes, you could see the comparison, that single-minded dedication to presenting a singular vision based on pop culture that had become out of time, though not through want of trying to imprint on the minds of generations of viewers.

It was just that Astron-6 were taken up with the nineteen-seventies and eighties, and Maddin was in love with the early years of motion pictures. The plot here was difficult to describe, possibly surprising since it clocked in at just under twenty minutes and you might have thought there would not be much to dip into, but the Guesser is humiliated by being unable to recognise his long lost sister from the stage, which takes an uncomfortable turn when he falls in love at first sight with her and determines to disprove heredity. This played out as a Soviet era civic lesson for the massed comrades of the revolution, but it didn't take a great mind to ponder wait, this is a terrible pursuit, Mr Guesser, as he was scientifically engrossed with so-called experts pointlessly demonstrating how right he is - or rather how right he thinks he is, when anyone with an iota of sense can see how wrong he is. This grew ever more insane and agitated, a one-joke movie as noted, but unlike anything else from anyone else.

[Click here to watch on MUBI.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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