Last night, my lovely wife and I went to the Cinerama and waited in line with the oft-obnoxious Seattle Filmophiles to watch Guy Madden's Brand Upon the Brain! And, it turned out to be a movie experience that delivered on its title promise. I was certain, while walking home, that my dreams would be filled with the dream-like (nightmare?) images which filled it. Rather than try to summarize the plot (a la Awarapan), I'll just copy and paste the press kit description:
Brand Upon the Brain! In which the shocking truth is finally revealed about young Guy Maddin and his hellish childhood on a remote island, under the hyper-watchful eye of a crazed mother hellbent on restoring her youth and a diabolically distant scientist-father, proprietors of a mom-and-pop orphanage they surreptitiously operate within the dank confines of the family lighthouse. Watch! as the sex instinct grabs hold of young Maddin and his sister! Thrill! as the Mysteries of the Light House are divined by teen detectives! Reel! at the headstrong invention and heart-stopping rhythms of the elder Maddin¹s heroic silent moviemaking!!
Mad scientists! Teen detectives! Lesbians! And an evil mother who sits in a mechanical rotating booth high atop a lighthouse shouting orders to her children through a quasi-magical device called an Aerophone. It was a compeletely unique and engaging combinations of themes and elements that created a world and mood unlike anything I've seen. Parts of it seemed Lynchian, but more accessible and often more effective.
But, part of what made the film amazing was not only the film itself, but the live in-cinema experience that accompanied it. The movie itself is a grainy silent film by Guy Madden, but for this showing it was also accompanied by a live band, a castrato singing, live foley artists and Guy Madden himself providing narration. I've been to several other shows that combine both live elements with film (namely, Crispin Glover's performance of "What Is It?" and Portastic's live music score for "The Unknown"), and they always impress me. There is something about having a live element accompanying the film that help make the experience not only more engaging, but also special.
Sadly, the movie was so engaging that I hardly took time to look down at the foley artists and watch them do their things. But, almost every time I did, I was surprised at what I saw. The sound of a bonfire? Ruffled tin wrapping paper and crushed packing material. The surf on the shore? Sand rolled around inside a tamborien. The sound of life fluid (nectarite) being sucked out of someones neck? Two rubber gloves being twisted together.
Also, the castrato bears mentioning. (Don't they always?) Even after doing some research on the web, I couldn't verify who the castrati is, or how he became one; but his voice was unlike anything else I've heard... at least coming from a man. Possibly one of the more beautiful voices I've heard in a long time, the experience would just become surreal when I'd look over and realize that it was coming from a large man who looked like he should be standing next to the Three Tenors. Unreal. And, like the entire movie, unsettling.
The entire experience left Sarah and I with stuff to ponder over. Branded.