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The Saddest Music In the World


Guy Maddin

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Plot Summary

It's 1933 in Winnipeg and the Great Depression is in full bloom. Beer Baroness Lady Port-Huntly (Isabella Rossellini) announces a global competition to determine the saddest music in the world, and musicians from across the globe pour into town to vie for the whopping $25,000 prize. 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 Madden's expressionistic film achieves a level of lunacy rarely seen since the Marx Brothers.

Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews


  • Reviews Counted: 101
  • Fresh: 79
  • Rotten: 22
  • Average Rating: 7.1/10

Top Critics' Reviews

Rotten: Narratively and spiritually, the movie is bankrupt, even though it's so packed with stuff ... that you can hardly bring yourself to believe that it all adds up to nothing. – Stephanie Zacharek,, Jul 7, 2010

Fresh: The concept is high, the humor lowbrow and the joy of experimentation evident in every frame of this wonderful picture. – Carla Meyer, San Francisco Chronicle, Jun 24, 2010

Fresh: The amber-refracted comedy can serve as an introduction to the work of Canada's most original filmmaker or as a culmination of everything he's done before – John Anderson, Newsday, Jun 24, 2010

Fresh: Any film where a beer baroness's glass leg (filled with beer) shatters when a high note is struck is okay by me. – Stephen Hunter, Washington Post, Jul 16, 2008

Read More About This Movie On Rotten Tomatoes

Customer Reviews

Delightfully quirky

I am fond of all Guy Maddin's work, and this one is no exception. Maddin has a fondness for the way those old scratchy movies from the dawn of cinema looked. Combining this archival look with sometimes shocking content can make for a surreal experience. This particular film also happens to be one of the funniest movies for me. If you are in the mood for something very strange, very darkly funny, and well... just strange: Give this one a try.


Guy Maddin's unconventional film is a unique blend of visual artistry... think the span of "Singing in the Rain" to "The Fatal Glass of Beer." The off-beat through-line throws you off balance from beginning to end. If you like Ernie Kofax and Charlie Chaplin -- look out! Marlene Dietrich is no match for Isabella Rosselini. You'll fall in love with her beer-filled glass legs. Don't miss this one!


The biggest winner is iTunes... now can you get Hal Hartley's little seen stuff like "Trust" and "Surviving Desire"?

The Saddest Music In the World
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  • $9.99
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Released: 2004

Customer Ratings