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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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
Maddin should have dropped the narration for general release, but the film is still gangbusters
First of all, I have to say: finally! I was almost positive that I was going to have to wait for DVD for this one, and God knows how long that was going to take. Secondly, I have to speak my only criticism of the film up front: the live show experiment might have been something truly awesome. I'll never know. But I do know that the disembodied voice of Isabella Rossellini, which you'll find in the general release, and presumably on the DVD, is extremely distracting. It works once in a while, but I would much prefer Maddin to have had a slightly separate version that was only silent. Unfortunately, several sequences wouldn't be comprehensible without the spoken narration, so I doubt we'll find it gone on the DVD (though I do hope that they might include some of the other narrators they used in the live show). Thankfully, as the film progresses, she pops up less and less. If not for this, I would have had no problem calling this a masterpiece.
What to say about Brand Upon the Brain!? It's a Maddin film, and if you've seen his other films, you know pretty much what to expect. Not that his style hasn't varied between films (although all of his films since his first huge success, Heart of the World, have existed in a similar silent film milieu), but he is just so far beyond what anyone else has ever done, his style can be called entirely unique. As are all of the director's films, Brand is a hilarious nightmare. Maddin creates situations that can only ever exist in the subconscious. The plot of this one includes a lighthouse orphanage, a mad scientist and his sexually repressed wife, teenage detectives à la Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys, lesbian erotica, incest and the haunting presence of dead memories. Maddin is sometimes criticized as being little more than a snarky jokester, but the more I watch his films, the more I disagree with that assessment. His films are, of course, comedies. All of his films are meant to be funny. But I can also feel the pain, the yearning and emotional honesty behind his work. If the movies illustrate tapestries of the dreamworld, as I am certain they do, then the moods behind them, though melodramatized to high heaven, contain glimpses of the deeper truth. I think David Lynch is a rather similar director. Only where Lynch seems to look at the nightmares from the inside, Maddin's point of view is from that of a man who has just awoken. Nightmares sure are scary when we're in them, but they sure can seem ridiculous when recalled.
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