Endlessly perplexing, Keyhole is a loose adaptation of various greek tragedies told with a film noir edge. Ulysses (Jason Patric) is a charming gangster who returns home after rescuing young girl Denny (Brooke Pallson) from drowning. Filling the ground floor of his manse are his languid mobster cronies who drink, sleep and lust the night away whilst on lookout for the cops. Out of the parlor and into the hallway roams the rest of the houses’ reluctant inhabitants, including the ghost of an old man wearing his wrinkly birthday suit performing felatio on dusty, wall mounted wooden penises (well, they looked wooden).
Forcing his way past/through the ghosts that taunt him, Ulysses, along with the aid of Denny and his bound and gagged son Manners, trail around the house prying open all the locked doors. Confronting his shrouded past and dead wife Hyacinth (Isabella Rossellini) hiding within.
As if the afore mentioned story outline wasn’t telling enough, suffice to say that Keyhole is an absolute nut-bar of a film. It’s also a labour of love, with influences spanning both literary and filmic tropes. It’s a mixed bag of Homerically grandiose allusions, with Beckett absurdity, Dali surrealism and just a hint of Lynch’s ‘Crazy Clown Time’ bewitchment all on display.
Although Maddin’s world is organically odd, Keyhole fails to enthrall audiences like his personal essay film My Winnipeg (2007). He has a tendency to throw everything onto the screen, hoping that at least half of it will stick. The result is muddy, and even some of the lovingly crafted lunacy is strained.
A phantasmagoric odyssey, Keyhole forces us to peek into the dark, hidden depths of the cult director’s cerebrum. Maybe it’s a door best left locked.