Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Despite my fevered ardor for Guy Maddin’s The Saddest Music in the World (2003) and My Winnipeg (2007), I somehow missed his in-between effort, Brand Upon the Brain (2006, Criterion, 99 minutes, $39.95) yet another truly captivating exercise of Maddin’s rickety-tickety Freudian nightmare meta-silent David Lynch-meets-King Vidor brand of cinema. Campy? Not quite. Eye-winking? Certainly. Disturbing? Just about. Naughty? Undeniably. Visually stimulating? To the point of distraction and beyond. Brand Upon the Brain is a simple tale of childhood rediscovery set largely in a lighthouse on an a remote island, with a bit of fratricide, gender-bending, teen sleuthing, mad science, Lord of the Flies, voyeurism, black magic, age reversal, and even human resurrection tossed in the Maddin blender. That blender is shot on 8mm; chock full of silent film technique, surrealistically layered, both dizzying and hypnotic. While it operates within the seeming confines of primitive expressionism it moves and flits with the speed of light—shopworn imagery propelled by a rapid fire modernism. It sure ain’t butter for the popcorn crowd, but anyone with an eye for truly vivid filmmaking won’t be able to take their peepers off it. Pop this in the DVD player and it will feed your dreams for days.