Guy Maddin’s appearance at the 50th San Francisco International Film Festival marked the second consecutive year that he had brought his unique vision to that event. Last year, it was to receive the festival’s Persistance of Vision Award. This year, it was to present his latest film, BRAND UPON THE BRAIN! in its live event incarnation, complete with orchestra, interlocutor (Joan Chen), foley artists on stage, and a castrato to sing the film’s wedding song.
Maddin’s films are the work of a true auteur. Who else makes films without spoken dialogue these days? When I spoke with him on May 5, 2007, he was pretentious, cogent, brilliant, and puckish, as his fertile mind leapt nimbly over a variety of topics, from Spike Lee’s Blackberry ™, to the truth that can be found in melodrama and no place else.
Guy Maddin’s BRAND UPON THE BRAIN! is such a purely, viscerally visual experience that, like trying to describe a dream, much is lost when trying to put the language of the subconscious into words. And that is what Maddin is working with here. Boasting no spoken dialogue, eccentric black-and-white exposures, he bills this as a semi-autographical piece. There is little question that the semi has nothing to do with the events depicted, and everything to do with the emotional response that they engender. Horror, fascination, and the comedy of the absurd mixed effortlessly with a kind of dead-on depiction of family life that while rife with hyperbole in the specifics, somehow nails the emotional experience in a way that sticking to the facts, or reality at all, would never have been able to do.