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The Twentieth Century Review: Disruptive Debuts & Where To Find Them

In The Twentieth Century, debutant Matthew Rankin stuns with mesmerising shooting and editing techniques while telling a tale of love, politics, and oppression.

Vintage sh*t has been on the rise for quite some time now. Still, don’t pull that sceptical face when your friends recommend Matthew Rankin’s feature-length debut The Twentieth Century. Rankin is no newcomer when it comes to filmmaking – my suggestion for you today is that you go and check out his marvellous YouTube series Culinary Propaganda. Nevertheless, Rankins’s first feature has more than a couple of points of interest. Let’s discover why.

Whether you’re keen supporters of Sovietic montage or of German Expressionism, The Twentieth Century’s the right film for you. Whether you like war flicks or intellectually-engaged ones, The Twentieth Century will cater to your needs nicely. But if you like to spend your movie evenings completely unchallenged by what you are watching – well you can just pick any title off your ueber-old library and roll with it.

The Twentieth Century is the story of Mackenzie King (Dan Beirne), a blooming Canadian citizen who has been groomed by his mother to be the future PM of the Dominion of Canada as the country transitions into the new century. In order to become his future self, Mackenzie King will have to withstand challenges and subject himself to the superior good, aka the government of Canada, as impersonated by governor general Lord Muto (Seán Cullen). Queen Victoria’s image resonates across the picture. Sharply angular shapes fill up the screen and bring us back to the glorious age of Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927) and Jugendstil. It’s the turn of the century, and everything must have its proper structure. Unless there are de-shaping forces trying to pull it apart.

The Twentieth Century (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Which is actually what sets the core of Rankin’s narrative in motion. But overseas conflicts against West-bound barbarians, a proto-hippie revolution, treachery and double timing are nothing compared to the appalling risk of letting one’s mother down. So, Mackenzie King embarks on a crusade into the unknown – and so do we. Between Eraserhead-like sequences, Academy ratio and propaganda shooting techniques, The Twentieth Century might very well be named after one precise – however extended – moment in time; nevertheless, it feels like it breathes itself larger and spans more than just your average 100 years.

And when we think about it, it actually makes a lot of sense. After all, Rankin’s film was not shot in the 1890s. Instead, Mr. Matthew proves to have crystal-clear knowledge of the history of cinema, the spirit of the age, and how to address issues belonging to these times of general trouble and unrest we live in. If you’re familiar with artist Maurizio Cattelan’s esthétique, then you’ll for sure assign some Toilet Paper vibes to The Twentieth Century. If not, be ready for the ride, because you’re going to be slingshot into a burlesque world of visual buoyancy to no end, where coordinates overlap and institutions rhyme with fetishism.

A praise-worthy piece if ever there was one. A superb intermezzo to help cinema start over in God-forsaken 2020 and to keep in mind that the best way to strive forward might actually be to keep in mind what’s come before; and what should never be again.

The Twentieth Century will be released in US cinemas on November 20, and on Digital on December 11.

Universal Language Review: Perfect Connection – Loud and Clear
Matthew Rankin’s Universal Language is a perfect film about the power of connection, full of absurdist humour and snowy Canadian landscapes.
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