Guy Maddin reluctantly returns to his childhood home, an abandoned Canadian island, where his parents ran an orphanage. As Guy fulfills his dying mother's request to paint the lighthouse ... See full summary »
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Maria de Medeiros
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Guy Maddin reluctantly returns to his childhood home, an abandoned Canadian island, where his parents ran an orphanage. As Guy fulfills his dying mother's request to paint the lighthouse which served as the orphanage, memories of strange events there overpower him. An undercover investigation by child author/detective Wendy & a revolt by the repressed children, blew open a cover-up by Guy's parents. Wendy disguised herself as her brother Chance and discovered that Maddin's inventor father performed outré scientific experiments on the orphans. Written by
Hollywood wouldn't dare and the independent forces of North American don't have the gall to try it anymore
'Brand Upon the Brain' is the perfect example of the kind of intriguing art-film still taking place in remote sects around the world. The kind of film that will go unnoticed by the majority of the film-making and film-going world. The film is heavily stylized and all the more engaging for it. The cinematography is washed out, hazy, even intentionally blurred at times, but consistently breath taking and beautiful. The starched white's bleed into the blacks establishing a nostalgic, dream-like quality. Overall the film is consistent in looks with Guy Maddin's 2003 silent film 'Cowards Bend the Knee,' it is myriadly more comprehensible than 'Cowards,' while by no means stepping into any mainstream consciousness. The film, for all practical purposes, is silent, but is lead, throughout, by an animated Isabella Rossellini, who often narrates the action, at other times is the voice of the characters or the voice of their subconscious. The film also heavily relies on naturalistic noises, artificially produced as sound effects to sporadic events taking place. This treatment of sound, so well executed that Maddin's crew deserves an Oscar for best sound editing, contributes to the overall sense of a hazy dream state. Which is precisely where we join the main character of the film, Guy Maddin, as the film opens. He is traveling by canoe back to the island that he grew up on. His family and a host of orphans inhabited a large lighthouse on an ambiguous island. His mother is dying and needs him to repaint the lighthouse, with two coats, so that she may visit it before she dies and remember it how it was. As he paints he realizes he is painting over the past and becomes lost in memories of abandonment, sexual promiscuity and confusion, an over- bearing mother, a treacherous and loving sister, immoral scientific experimentation, and the hi-jinx of a child brother/sister detective team, among other acts of sexual experimentation, near incestuous contact, voodoo curses and paganism. To say the least the film is sprawling, but it is pulled together nicely through cyclical imagery and themes (though this film is out there, the cyclical nature of themes in films about families is pretty standard), but it works nonetheless. The editing of the film is up to par for Maddin. Jarring, painfully emotional and crass. Another aspect of this film that will likely be overlooked by the advertising teams whom decide what films people are going to go and see. The film is short, only clocking in at around an hour and a half, but it is fast paced and the kind of film that you walk out of knowing, whether you felt it was brilliant or not, that it was worth how ever much you had to pay for it, a unique experience that Hollywood will never be able to offer an audience and that the assimilating forces of independent film don't offer audiences often enough.
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