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From The Twentieth Century (2019), dir. Matthew Rankin (image courtesy Oscilloscope Pictures)

William Lyon Mackenzie King is notable for having four incredibly posh names in a row, and also being the longest-serving prime minister in the history of Canada. His legacy lives on in a long string of respectful tributes … which decidedly does not include the new film The Twentieth Century. Written and directed by Matthew Rankin, this is history as projected through several warping lenses, a parody of the myth of Canada instead of a traditional biopic. It takes Mackenzie King’s life story and swirls it in with German Expressionism, Guy Maddin, Heritage Minutes, and a complete absence of reverence.

This version of Mackenzie King is plagued by a lust for women’s footwear and dominated by his bedridden mother, who has preordained that he must become prime minister at any cost. Attaining that seat rides not on an election, but a series of absurd competitions amongst hopefuls (cutting ribbons, identifying trees by their smell, demonstrating proper etiquette when someone cuts in front of them in a line). Governor General Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound (good grief, there’s a posh name) is imagined as the tyrannical Big-Brother-like “Lord Muto.” With an endlessly absurd plot and consistently brilliant production design, this is the anti-biopic to beat for the winter season.

The Twentieth Century is now playing in virtual cinemas.

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Dan Schindel

Dan Schindel is Associate Editor for Documentary at Hyperallergic. He lives and works in New York.