May 4, 2007

Interview. Guy Maddin.

Brand upon the Brain! "A companion piece of sorts to the exceptional silent installation-feature Cowards Bend the Knee, the semi-autobiographical Brand upon the Brain! mines the rich territories of director Guy Maddin's youth and spins them into a delirious fantasy of familial discontent," writes Jonathan Marlow in an entry for the San Francisco International Film Festival. "At this special screening" - he's talking about Monday at 8 at the Castro - "the film's original score will be performed live by a 13-piece ensemble, with three onstage foley artists, a benshi-like narrator and a castrato adding to the fun."

Just up, too, is Shannon Gee's quick talk with Maddin after this was first tried in Toronto. It's got this exhilarating air of a post-game interview with the victor. And the show goes on. Check here for more live extravaganzas in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles and here for further screenings.

Updated through 5/10.

Updates, 5/7: For the New York Times, Dennis Lim talks with Maddin about his "double apotheosis": "Brand Upon the Brain! is his most nakedly personal film, chronicling a flurry of traumas that befall a youngster named Guy Maddin. Conceived as a live spectacle without a pre-recorded soundtrack, it is also the closest he has come to a pure silent feature, not that purity is a pertinent concept in the case of the magpielike Mr Maddin and his dense, crossbred melodramas."

R Emmet Sweeney has a good, long and occasionally funny talk with Maddin for IFC News.

Updates, 5/8: Phil Nugent talks with Maddin for ScreenGrab.

Paddy Johnson interviews Maddin for the Reeler.

Updates, 5/9: "The castrato and foley artists turn Brand Upon the Brain! into something of a happening, but the film casts a mesmerizing spell even without all the live bells and whistles," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times.

Aaron Hillis, writing in the Voice, doesn't quite agree and compares the live extravaganza and the plain vanilla screenings, or "had-to-be-there jubilation versus clock-watching disappointment. Not to discredit its wild artistry by saying the gimmick's the prize, but... the gimmick's the prize. Without all the hoopla, there simply isn't enough variation to this stylized fever-dream to justify its fatiguing running time, nor to call it anything less than predictably Maddin–esque."

"Desire! Madness! Gramophone-telephones!" exclaims Nicolas Rapold in the L Magazine. "Maddin's pulse-quickening editing, close-ups, and black-and-white photography make Brand an exhilarating, physical experience, affectionately pitched between homage and over-the-top."

"Densely composed and outrageously Freudian, Brand Upon the Brain! offers psychosexual anxiety, resurrection, vampirism, and the kind of phantasmagoria that exists only in the mind of a playful visionary," writes Fernando F Croce at Slant. "Maddin's fantasies can become easily overextended, and the film could have used some of the condensed brevity of Cowards Bend the Knee. As a frantic, lyrical spectacle, however, it has images unforgettable enough to do justice to the title."

IndieWIRE interviews Maddin.

"Brand Upon the Brain!, Guy Maddin's umpteenth travesty of silent-movie gimmickry, never quite lapses into rank silliness like Maddin's atrocious experimental musical, The Saddest Music in the World," grumbles Armond White in the New York Press. "Instead, each scene here boasts seriousness. Its primary virtue is that it almost - but not quite - sustains interest to the end."

"While the film itself seems far more scattered, drawn-out, and more undistinguished than Maddin's best - in its own solipsistic way repeating the Freudian obsessions of Coward's Bend the Knee (2004) but with less delinquent, idiosyncratic expression, energy, and anxious concision - its presentation is utterly unforgettable," writes Daniel Kasman. "[T]he memory of the amazing live experience will stay with me long down the road, and may inevitably be re-lived with some disappointment when the canned version comes out to play in theatres and on video."

Updates, 5/10: Edward Douglas talks with Maddin for Coming Soon. Via Movie City News.

You can read or listen to Andrew O'Hehir's talk with Maddin at Salon.

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Posted by dwhudson at May 4, 2007 4:23 PM