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.


Anonymous said...

I LOVED "The Saddest Music in the World"! I'm going to Netflix right now to look for the others!

Scotty D said...

Diane-this one is right up yer particular wazoo, I guarantee you'll be back in this space extolling it's abundant virtues.

Anonymous said...

Remorse, fear, passion, anxiety, memories of dreams, dreams of memories, fairy tales, the darkness of the soul, parents eating children, sexual ambiguities, tensions, and confusion,the persistent insistence of the flesh, mad scientists, the insanity of religious fervor, phantoms, people that turn into other people and rise from the dead, Mother in the all-seeing eye of the lighthouse like the eye of Sauron. Near the end, there's a caption that reads, "Covering up major structural cracks with a thin coat of paint..."--which is what we all use memories, real and made up, for, isn't it? This film is astonishing--I feel like it's branded on my brain!