If you’re in New York you’ve got a few days left to catch Guy Maddin’s Brand upon the Brain, the director’s spectacular staging of his latest movie with a live chamber orchestra, castrato, three live foley artists and an assortment of guest narrators like Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson and Isabella Rossellini.
Like all of Maddin’s work, the film immerses itself in the poetics of early cinema, applying the style this time to a storyline that seems a mix of Dickens and gothic horror. But what makes it a must-see is its rare event quality. When the musicians start, the foley artists summon up the sounds of wind, and the spotlight hits the narrator (last night it was an excellent Crispin Glover), you do feel yourself within a privileged moment echoing what audiences must have felt decades ago.
I’ve wanted to do a silent film with live music for a long time, really give the people what they used to get all the time in the twenties, the real Grauman’s Chinese Theater experience! A lavish spectacle for the masses, only more lyrical than what we’re used to now! Piers Handling of the Toronto Film Festival once bounced the idea off me, but it got forgotten for a while. An event like that is not cheap to mount. It’s all in the timing. A festival has to want to do it and have the money. The timing was right this year: we have the screening in Toronto and a couple in New York.