Guy Maddin's snow globe cinema, hermetically sealed in ghostly adoration of silent cinema, is well matched to this darkly comic fable about a legless beer baroness's search for the saddest music in the world. Musicians from the four corners of the globe assemble in the frozen city of Depression era Winnipeg for the opportunity to win a $25,000 prize. Taking a central part in the competition is a father and his two estranged sons, one a fast talking, wannabe Broadway producer (a surprisingly effective Mark McKinney) and the other a grief stricken cello player mourning the death of his son and the disappearance of his wife. Maddin displays his characters like so many wind-up tin toys stranded in a fish bowl, melodramatically absurd castaways from a rogue Monty Python sketch. Yet absurd as they may be, their pain is never belittled by Maddin's baroque leanings; the opposite is in fact true as the director's penchant for stylistic artificiality lends an operatic significance to the sadness of every character. Lest this imply that the work is primarily concerned with a dour exploration of grief, let it be noted that the film is quite funny. Maddin's success comes in allowing the comedy to be, by turns, as cartoonish and as serious as it needs to be. A wild orchestration of flamboyantly touching images and fair ground theatrics, The Saddest Music in the World is, love it or hate it, a refreshingly and exuberantly personal vision of the world.