Thursday, June 7, 2007

Brand Upon the Brain! (2006)

(Directed by Guy Maddin, Canada, 2006)

The Canadian director Guy Maddin seems to make movies for film geeks and afficionados, obviously being one himself. His films are beautifully photographed, while his stories are deliberately over the top, so much so that they defy any attempt at synopsis and analysis.

His latest work "Brand Upon the Brain!" is being shown theatrically in two ways: as a live multimedia "happening" complete with live celebrity narrator, foley artists and small theater orchestra and also as a prerecorded narration by the wonderfully voiced actress Isabella Rossellini. If I ever directed a silent film, I would want her to narrate it.

Well, dear readers, I saw the latter version. An older 'Guy Maddin" returns home to the isolated island where he grew up, to paint the lighthouse where his parents kept the "Mom and Pop Orphanage", he will refresh the place with a fresh coat of paint. And then the memories start coming back and the movie is an extended flashback to Guy's childhood and the subsequent baroque intensity/insanity. As with most Maddin's current work, this involves a lot of Freudian complexes worked into the plot as well as a lot of absurdist plot complications as well. Some are resurrection, weird substance abuse and anti-aging serums, a Nancy Drew character dressing as a boy and entering into a lesbian affair with Guy's sister SIS and other assorted mayhem.

It's nice to say that Maddin has improved on his editing since the earlier "Cowards Bend the Knee", indeed this film is reminiscent of the earlier one: with rapid fire montage, very deadpan title cards and beautiful images recalling some of the earliest surviving film images and silent film techniques. Some surrealism is apparent too in this film: the 'aerophone' that distorts everything coming out of it and holds on to earlier spoken commands and the sentence "Father was replaced by a hamster and a metronome" among others.

Let's just say you can watch this film as you experience a dream, letting each successive image wash over you. If this is not your cup of tea, there's probably another movie ending with '3' awaiting you at the multiplex.

The live show sounds like fun, if it's playing at a theater near you, see it!

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