The ghosts of cinema loom large in Guy Maddin’s body of work. Hauntings is a series of very short films commissioned for the opening of TIFF Bell Lightbox. Both a cheeky commentary on the idea of an essential films list and a harrowing exploration of the regret and weakness felt by cinema’s great masters, this is both Maddin’s most expansive work in terms of the sheer size of its palette and his most personal. For years, he has been collecting tales of unrealized, half finished or abandoned films, potential masterworks doomed to oblivion as they slipped out of their creators’ control. This impulse rhymes remarkably well with Maddin’s thematic obsession with regret and the perils of wild abandon found in both his film and installation works.
Cinema is a haunted medium, a projection of people, places and things not really present. As we know a film can summon before our eyes, like ghosts invoked from the beyond, performances from the past, performances by actors no longer with us, in settings changed forever. But when a movie is lost, as so many great works from the medium’s earliest years are, it’s a double haunting, for a misplaced film is an artwork consigned to limbo, a narrative with no known final resting place. It wanders over unconsecrated ground, an unhappy spirit. Out of concern that the sensational TIFF Bell Lightbox might be too spanking new for the sad ectoplasms that really should be a movie venue’s luminous principal denizens, I have offered to haunt the joint. I present then, to the facility’s first throngs, projected resurrections of film history’s most mourned-after lost masterpieces remade, as wispy fragments conjured in my own private studio seances. I hope these long-beleaguered spectres feel immediately at home in the TIFF BLB, and set themselves to the entrancing task at hand: haunting!