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Brand Upon the Brain!

un film de Guy Maddin

Not to say that Guy Maddin needs the gimmickry of an 11-piece live orchestra, a Foley effects team right on stage, a living breathing singing castrato and celebrity guest interpolation by the likes of Isabella Rossellini, Eli Wallach, Crispin Glover, Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed and Maddin himself, but, well, yeah, he needs the gimmickry of an 11-piece live orchestra, a Foley effects team right on stage, a living breathing singing castrato and celebrity guest interpolation by the likes of Isabella Rossellini, Eli Wallach, Crispin Glover, Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed and Maddin himself. Sorry Guy, it had to be said, but not to worry for all is not lost. Read on.

Avant-garde and esoteric to the nth degree - a sort of Eisenstein/Feuillade disciple gone slightly, dementedly, yet beautifully, off course - Maddin is a far cry from someone whose films one should avoid. Quite the opposite in fact. Maddin's ouevre is like a kaleidoscopic melange of silent film artistry put to a Freudian aesthetic and tumbled with the soundtrack of someone born and raised in the somewhat grim recesses of Manitoba Canada. An oddity indeed, but quite the oddity for sure. But even with all that said - as if I were Maddin's PR man on the side - I still cannot help but wonder just how much will be lost once the live gimmickry of the film fades away and is inevitably, and permanently replaced by a slew of prerecorded studio-fied canned goods.

Indeed it was certainly a treat to watch as the ever-lovely Ms. Rossellini (the interpolator at this particular screening) beamed her words from the theatre's balcony as the orchestra caressed their violins and violas, the castrato caressed his, well, you know, and the white-smocked foley artists showed us that biting into human flesh and crunching celerey between one's fingers make the exact same sound, but what happens when Ms. Rossellini goes home and the orchestra put away their violins and violas and the foley artists put away their celery and the castrato puts away his, well, you know. What happens indeed. Aaron Hillis of the Village Voice said this of Maddin's film: "Not to discredit its wild artistry by saying the gimmick's the prize, but . . . the gimmick's the prize. Without all the hoopla, there simply isn't enough variation to this stylized fever-dream to justify its fatiguing running time".

Surely a funny and enjoyable film on its own merits - the story, as it is, subtitled "a remembrance in 12 chapters", is the story of a fictionalized Guy Maddin and his haunting childhood in an orphanage run by his domineering mother and nearly invisible father and involving silent era serialesque storytelling and is repleat with emotional vampirism, lesbianism, human sacrifice, organ harvesting, zombieism and overtly incestuous overtones - Maddin's film, though perhaps not on the same level as Careful, Archangel, Heart of the World or Dracula: Pages From a Virgin's Diary, may well still be worth a look at a later time (or on dvd even - though that is NEVER the preferred way to watch any film), but if the chance to see it live and full of gimmicked pulchritude, then by all means, see the damned thing before its too late. [06/09/07]

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