paulwitcover (paulwitcover) wrote in theinferior4,

Brand Upon the Brain!

Last night I saw an amazing film in a unique performance setting down in the East Village.  Brand Upon the Brain!, by director Guy Maddin, best known for Tales from the Gimli Hospital and The Saddest Music in the World.  Both films have been recommended to me for years without effect -- but after last night, I'm going to see everything I can by this fascinating director, whose obsessions with weird sex, childhood traumas, silent-era movies, and classic horror films and tropes made Brand a delerious experience, part cinematic history lesson, part hallucinogenic journey.  The only equivalent I could think of were certain short films by the Residents, especially the video for "Hello Skinny."  A number of Maddin's short films can be seen on youtube, including the wild and hilarious Sissy Boy Slap Party.  Not even those world-class slappers, The Three Stooges, could keep up with these sissy boys!

Brand is a gothic extravaganza in which a man returns to his childhood home, an orphanage run in a lighthouse on an island off the Scottish coast.  This leads to a twisted Proustian rembrance of things past:  the mother who, enthroned atop the lighthouse tower, watches over her domain through a kind of panopticon searchlight reminiscent of the Eye of Mordor; the father whose creepy experiments yield the fountain of youth . . . at a terrible price; the young cross-dressing detective, who wins the hearts of our hero and his sister; the little orphan Neddie, reduced to spastic twitches by a tragic accident . . .  Murder, incest, cannibalism -- who could ask for more?

But wait!  The movie was shown with live Foley technicians providing sound effects -- often as interesting to watch as the movie itself (how does one make the sound of munching human flesh?), and with a narrator (in our case, Isabella Rosellini, but on other nights an electic cast ranging from Lou Reed to Crispin Glover to John Ashberry).  And an orchestra performing a terrific score by Jason Staczek, and vocals by Dov Houle, who is advertised as a castrato but sounded like a countertenor to me (not that I'm complaining!).

The movie will be performed across the country during the summer.    
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