Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Brand Upon the Brain!

Guy Maddin | 2007 | 95 min | Canada

Maddin once more works with long-time writing partner George Toles to produce their best work since 1992's Careful. Main character Guy returns to the long abandoned lighthouse of his youth where his family once ran a mom + pop orphanage. His visit prompts memories of how he came to leave the home. If you are familiar with any Maddin films it is needless to say that the events he recalls are bizarre. They center on his sister (dreamy Maya Lawson), Wendy Hale (Katherine Scharhon), who is one half of celebrity youth detectives The Lightbulb Kids, + their investigation into why orphans are leaving the island with mysterious holes burrowed in their necks. Then things start to get weird. I won't recount the next thirty-six twists, but Maddin's takes on family issues, orphan terror, + unrequited love are a treat.

Maddin's visuals remain firmly entrenched in the early cinema style he is known for. The film is shot in stark black + white with no sync sound, making use of title cards, foley, + heavy narration instead. Maddin plays on these conventions + his reputation for using them more on this project than any of his previous films, as well. He even goes so far as to manufacture performance + performer details for throwback effect. The story, however, owes a large debt to Hammer horror films + similar old thriller pictures rather than to Eisenstein or Murnau.

I was fortunate enough to see the live presentation of Brand at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto. The show was replete with live orchestration, narration, and three white-coated foley artists. Though the old-timey presentation was obviously more unusual + outstanding than any trip to the multiplex, I am sure the picture will translate to a great cinema experience. I know I missed more than a few moments on screen by craning my neck to catch glimpses of the live sound + singing that happened around me, so I am curious to see it again + take a look at how all the elements work in the final presentation. I will gladly use the excuse to watch this movie at least one more time.

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