Aspiring young politician Mackenzie King (Dan Beirne) dreams of becoming the Prime Minister of Canada. But his romantic vacillation between a British soldier and a French nurse, exacerbated by a fetishistic obsession, may well bring about his downfall. In his quest for power, King must gratify the expectations of his imperious Mother, the hawkish fantasies of a war-mongering Governor-General, and the utopian idealism of a Québécois mystic before facing one, final test of leadership. Culminating in an epic battle between good and evil, King learns that disappointment may be the defining characteristic of the twentieth century!
If you are a cinephile with any sense of humor, The Twentieth Century will delight you to no end. It’s Monty Python meets golden era Hollywood musical mixed-media delicious. (It’s basically the most appropriate mouthful I can begin with… nudge, nudge, wink, wink) It’s the wackiest and most wonderful way to jump headlong into the holiday season in 2020. It’s easy to see why it won three Screen Canada Awards and jury accolades at TIFF and Berlin. Writer, director, and editor Matthew Rankin gifts us with one of the most unique and visually lush cinematic experiences. The attention to detail is flawless and the writing will bedazzle you. While I find the plot difficult to properly describe, that’s all the more reason to watch. I guarantee you have never seen anything akin to The Twentieth Century, ever.
The complete and total commitment from these actors is to be applauded. The laugh out loud absurdity of the dialogue fraught with overt sexual innuendo is pushed gleefully further with a large percentage of the cast being performers in drag. The scenery often consists of sharp-angled, backlit, triangular towers sometimes wrapped with black & white political iconography. I fully expected a Fred Astaire dance number but was too distracted by the fetish shaming and the nationalist propaganda. It simply goes from weird to completely batshit. Performances across the board are magic. Fun fact: The film is (loosely) based on a true story! What, what, what?! While I know zero about the dynamics of the Canadian government and identity, I can say that The Twentieth Century stands out from a line of great indie films that arrived on the scene this year. Even without the national connection, the story screams a global political familiarity in your face all while making you merrily cringe in fits of laughter. It’s one of a kind.