The film’s style is impeccable, its comedic delivery perfectly timed, and its editing sharp and energetic. A biopic by way of expressionistic absurdism, it’s a bold and uproariously funny statement of intent.
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The more familiar one is with Canadian history, the funnier it is. But even without prior knowledge of our neighbor to the north, it can be enjoyed for its combination of supreme creativity, jaw-dropping audacity and amusing tongue-in-cheek dialogue.
Rankin’s ambitious thesis on how idiocy, horny neuroses, and pure chance come to sculpt the geopolitical narrative never gets bogged down by the social-studies minutia. He throws one dazzling diversion after another at his audience.
While there’s a certain “muchness” to Rankin’s style, and it goes without saying this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, the filmmaker’s refusal to temper his vision serves him well in the long run, as his feature debut eventually achieves an operatic wackiness that carries it over the finish line.
It’s the most exciting kind of aesthetic pastiche, one that swirls together so many different flavors that it feels like something wholly new.
The jokes are often ridiculous, as is pretty much everything else that happens, but there’s a palpable energy and visual inventiveness on display that keeps things watchable.
Is it all a bit much? Sure, but the self-consciousness is baked in: Rankin names one public gathering place “Disappointment Square.”
Think Guy Maddin as the long-lost seventh Python. But it’s also one of the more vivid and amusing excursions in a year marked by unclassifiable realities and the need for diverting art.
The Twentieth Century exists somewhere on the Venn diagram between midnight movie, fever dream, Turner Classics fetish object, and all-Canadian prank. Does that sound interesting? By all means. Does the movie go anywhere? Not really. Will you mind? I didn’t.