99 minutes – Drama
Release date: April 30, 2004
Canadian distributor: IFC Films
Set in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Great Depression in 1933 is in full bloom. Beer Baroness Lady Port-Huntly is a double amputee (played by Isabella Rossellini) who decides to fund a global competition to determine the saddest music in the world. Given the $25,000 prize, musicians from across the globe pour into Winnipeg. Sobbing Mexican Mariachis, dour Scottish Bagpipers, woeful West African drummers and numerous other grief-stricken ensembles give it their all. Down-on-his-luck Broadway producer Chester Kent (Mark McKinney) and his amnesiac girlfriend Narcissa (Maria de Medeiros) return home to his native Winnipeg as the United States entry in the contest. He soon finds himself embroiled in a family reunion as treacherous and twisted as the competition itself. Ultimately, a cataclysmic fire and the machinations of fate sort matters out for the sad characters and the denizens of the saddest city on earth. Part musical melodrama, part tongue-in-cheek social satire, Guy Maddin’s expressionistic film achieves a level of lunacy rarely seen since the Marx Brothers. Based on a story by Kazoo Ishiguro (Remains of the Day), then adapted by Maddin, The Saddest Music in the World has been called “a work of genius.”
Northernstars.ca selected The Saddest Music in the World as one of its Top 10 Canadian Films of the Decade in December 2009.