I watched a DVD the other day that instantly skyrocketed to my list of 10 all-time favorite films. It’s called “The Saddest Music in the World” and stars Isabella Rossellini as a crazed, double amputee (yes, you heard me) beer baronness named Lady Port-Huntley, Mark McKinney (of “Kids in the Hall” fame) as washed up Broadway producer Chester Kent, and Portuguese actress Maria de Medeiros as his amnesiac girlfriend Narcissa. The story takes place in 1933 in desolate, freezing Winnipeg, Canada, and it’s the most original, demented plot I’ve seen in decades, as Rossellini starts a contest to see which country can produce the world’s saddest music. She’s offering a $25,000 prize which, at the height of the Depression, attracts hordes of contestants, each one wailing a tune more miserable than the next. The film came out last year but the cinematography is absolutely brilliant in the way it evokes the sparkling black and white of the early 30s. Canadian Guy Maddin is my new favorite director and the DVD comes with several of his equally unique shorts. RUN to get this film! In a pivotal scene, Isabella is announcing her contest on the radio, and looking straight in the camera, she slowly and seriously utters the following line in her unique Swedish/Italian accent:
“If you’re sad…and like beer…I’m your lady!”
Has a better line of dialogue ever been written? Isabella is such a clone of her mother that I’m amazed no one ever forced her into an Ingrid Bergman biopic. She did do a great spoof of Bergman’s Ilsa from “Casablanca” on an episode of “Tales from the Crypt” once. Can you tell I have a thing for actresses who make bizarre career choices? Isabella is another one who probably drove her agents mad by taking all manner of odd roles, starting with her fantastic, unflattering performance in “Blue Velvet.” Even when she’s in mainstream fare, her presence automatically elevates it (remember her “Friends” episode?). I still can’t believe that Lancôme dumped Rossellini as the spokesperson for their makeup line because she was TOO OLD! (And this was in 1994 when she was only 42!) Even with no legs and a Baby Jane fright wig on, she is still one of the most beautiful women ever to appear on celluloid. I call on all people of conscience to toss their Lancôme products into the nearest trashcan.