Just When You Thought You've Seen Everything, There's Guy Maddin

Posted by Miss Ess, May 9, 2007 03:01pm | Post a Comment
A couple nights ago I had the great pleasure of attending a screening of Guy Maddin's newbrand upon the brain guy maddin film Brand Upon the Brain! at the palatial Castro Theater as part of the 50th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival.  (The festival actually ends today....)
guy maddin
I can only bow to Guy Maddin's genius.  His films are totally idiosyncratic, totally dynamic, totally gorgeous.  This newest film was no exception.  Guy himself was there to introduce the film, and the screening included live Foley Sound Artists, a full orchestra, a castrato, and a narrator, Joan Chen.  Did i mention Brand Upon the Brain! is a silent film?  All the sounds for the movie were created live onstage in front of the audience. 

The film's plot involves a boy named Guy Maddin (natch) who lives on a bleak island off of Canada in a lighthouse which serves as an orphanage.  The orphanage is policed by Guy's overprotective, youth obsessed mother.  When she is looking for Guy, she turns the lighthouses' rickety huge lantern out and around the entire island while yelling for him to get home.  Guy's father works tirelessly and wordlessly in the basement inventing things and mysteriously producing some kind of strange nectar....
brand upon the brain sis guy maddin
There's also this whole part of the plot involving Guy and Guy's sister ("Sis") both falling in love with the same woman, who leaves and then returns to the island masquerading as a man to try to win Sis' affection and also get to the bottom of the mysterious nectar.  Sis and "Chance" begin a hot and heavy relationship, all the while trying to keep hidden from the watchful and disapproving eyes of Guy and Sis' mother.  Guy tags along jealously, somehow drawn to and growing a "boy crush" on this new "male" figure on the island.

Joan Chen narrated the entire film from the stage.  She has many many credits to herjoan chen name, including The Last Emporer and Heaven and Earth.  She also directed Autumn in New York with Richard Gere and Winona Ryder!  I have to say she has got definate guts cause her live narration of the film was done with precision and she had to basically make it sound like she was having an orgasm right there on stage at one point.  It takes quite a lady to pull that off flawlessly.

The Foley Sound Artists had their work cut out for them.  They stood surrounded completely by props, from a bin of water to a wind machine to plain old celery stalks which they broke and celery stalkseven bit into at one point when they needed sounds of bodies breaking and bending.  It was exciting to watch, almost to the point of distraction.  My favorite sound, apart from the celery of course, was the foghorn sound they used a long oboe-type instrument to make.

The castrato had a short song he reprised twice and he sang (as expected) like a little boy!  It was so strange to see a grown man stand, take the mic, and then out came this high, controlled sound.  While he wasn't singing he was sitting onstage in a rocking chair.

The whole experience was just that, an EXPERIENCE.  I really was blown away by the whole thing, and having seen most of Guy Maddin's films before I didnt expect anything less.  If you haven't seen any of his stuff, check out this short he made called The Heart of the World:

careful guy maddin

Please note that this film was made in the year 2000....!  If you liked it, you should check out his films Careful and The Saddest Music in the World.  They are both available on DVD, along with several of his other films.  At the risk of sounding like a total nerd (as usual), his films always include at least two shots that actually take my breath away.  The dude rules.  Brand Upon the Brain! is playing in its full extravagant spectacular fashion in several other cities on several other dates.  If you have the chance, go check it out for yourself.

Relevant Tags

Brand Upon The Brain! (1), Guy Maddin (2), The Heart Of The World (1), Joan Chen (1)