Careful. Courtesy of 5th Avenue Cinema

Find it at 5th: Careful

A film embodying the spirit of experimental film

Find It At 5th Ave. is a recurring column that reviews, previews and explores running and upcoming films at PSU’s independent movie theater, 5th Avenue Cinema.


This weekend, Portland State’s 5th Avenue Cinema will be screening Careful (1992), a Canadian film directed by Guy Maddin.


Careful is a thought-provoking film exploring repression, guilt and desire in a remote mountain village where a community lives in fear of triggering a catastrophic avalanche. The residents have strict rules that they follow in order to avoid disaster. However, when two young lovers, Johann (Brent Neale) and Klara (Sarah Neville), dare to break these rules to give in to their passions, they set off a chain of events threatening to unleash the disaster the village has been trying to prevent. As the tension builds and secrets of the past are revealed, the visually stunning Careful becomes a haunting meditation on the consequences of suppressing one’s true desires.


Careful will be the final film presented by the five staff of 5th Avenue Cinema for the winter 2023 term. It was chosen for screening by Cadie Godula, a projectionist at the theater. She found Maddin while looking for movies on Reddit. “I was trying to find more weird movies,” she said. “I found someone that said, ‘try Guy Maddin, he’s kind of a Canadian David Lynch.’” Her interest in Lynch pushed her to try a few of Maddin’s films. “Is that weird?” she said. “No. A lot of people find movies on Reddit, okay?”


The first Maddin film that Godula saw was My Winnipeg from 2007. “It’s the one that makes the most sense out of his filmography,” she said. Godula called it a pseudo-documentary autofiction about Winnipeg, Maddin’s hometown. “It’s all very strange but good,” she said. She has been a fan ever since, slowly getting through his filmography, coming across Careful last summer.

“Guy Maddin is a very strange director,” Godula said. “He makes a lot of movies that are—I don’t want to say ‘nonsensical’ but—kind of nonsensical, nonlinear, a little bit confusing. People get confused by them a lot, it seems.” As a result, many viewers may find themselves wondering what is going on in the story when they watch a Maddin film, but Godula thinks that this should not discourage anyone from watching his films.


“We played Archangel last spring, which is also directed by Guy Madden,” Godula said. “One woman—who used to come here all the time—saw that, and she said, ‘I’m not coming back.’” 5th Avenue Cinema is known for playing films that are incongruent with contemporary cinema, films that are experimental and intriguing. “She said, ‘I didn’t understand it,’” Godula explained, not expecting such a reaction.


Godula vehemently defended the films that they show. “That’s kind of like a hallmark that you’re doing a good job, if somebody really just did not like what you played—I feel like that’s important to do because some people do like it,” she said. She implored viewers to break from contemporary cinema and encouraged students to seek out films that are difficult to predict. “It’s fun to watch movies where you don’t know what’s going on sometimes in the narrative, but you’re having a good time,” she continued. “It’s not that it doesn’t make sense like they didn’t know what they were doing, but it doesn’t make sense in a very intentional and rational way, if that makes sense.” She knows these experimental filmmakers have specific intentions for the viewers and wants the viewer to trust the process.


“This is for people who like offbeat films,” Godula said. “For people that like films that aren’t like what was coming out at the time.” 1992 was not known for experimental films like this one, so the audience of the time saw this as a fresh break from other movies. Godula encouraged people to come if they are open to alternative film and art.


“Guy Maddin has a very distinct style and way of writing dialogue,” Godula said. A fan of Maddin would easily be able to distinguish his film from another. “It just feels very much like a stream of consciousness,” she explained. She considers his films important because she appreciates the aesthetic qualities of formal filmmaking present in a Maddin film. “The visuals are just incredible, and I love them,” she said. “It’s inspiring for me and important in the zeitgeist of more experimental, weird stuff.”


“Not a lot of his films are in color, most are in black and white,” Godula continued. “He’s very much inspired by silent-era cinema and the formal qualities.” Careful is in color, but Godula thought that echoes of the silent era are still visible. “Everything has an oversaturated feeling, and it’s very cool, it’s very neat,” she said. “He uses a lot of intertitles and text slates to break up the movie with acts.”


She said that the saturation of the film is beautiful and struggled to figure out how it was achieved. “This one is emulating almost old-fashioned technicolor, like the hand-painted film of back in the day, when that was how you got colored film,” she said. The enchanting colors give the film an abstract quality. Godula called it a set from a play that is in between lands.


“In Careful, there’s a scene where Klara goes off to work in a mine, and she’s wearing this helmet—you know how old-timey miners have a little helmet with a light on it—instead, she’s wearing this helmet with a bunch of candles on it,” Godula said. The scene really stuck out to her as an imaginative, spectacular addition. “It looks great, it’s very visually stimulating.”

Students can watch Careful on the PSU campus at 5th Avenue Cinema—for free! The film will be screened Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., with a 3 p.m. showing on Sunday.