Sunday, October 14, 2007

Brand Upon the Brain! And more horror...

Brand Upon the Brain (2007) - I'm on so much crack! I'm a huge fan of horror. Guy Maddin! I love his movies and he was just in Seattle to perform Brand Upon the Brain! I'm certain I've written about Guy Maddin's films in the past, because he has been in Seattle several times for screenings and discussions of his work, especially since he spent quite a bit of time here casting, filming and scoring Brand Upon the Brain! with all local talent.


What is so unique about Guy Maddin is that he creates modern, silent expressionist horror movies. His other films have been scored and therefore have the look and feel of a 1920s era silent picture without being silent. Brand Upon the Brain! is a silent movie and his best feature thus far.

Like much of Maddin's previous work, this is totally autobiographical, or to quote Guy, "The thing is literally a true story - only much, much better." The main character is the prepubescent, Guy Maddin (Sullivan Brown). He lives in his family's lighthouse with his teenaged Sis (Maya Lawson). This lighthouse is also an orphanage, run by Guy's parents where the children are made to clean away the dirt and filth and all have mysterious scars on their heads. It is these mysterious head marks that the sibling teen detectives, Wendy and Chance Hale (Katherine E. Scharhon), arrive at the island to investigate providing Guy with the object (Wendy) of his first infatuation. The film encompasses so many diverse emotional notes, mystery, fear, curiosity, beauty, passion, and a tale that feels genuine about the psychology of childhood. While few of us have an overbearing mother who kept watch over us with the bright beam of a lighthouse watchtower or a father who was rarely seen, but whom we knew to be conducting strange scientific experiments in the basement, I think there is a certain emotional truth to the memories of childhood. This is an absolutely marvelously constructed story.

Brand Upon the Brain! is a film that must be enjoyed live. It is a total magical experience. Since it is a silent film, the film is accompanied by an orchestra, narrator, foley artists, and a castrato singer. This is amazing to watch, when you remember to peel your eyes away from the glorious imagery of the film to see the others that share the spotlight with the film. I share Guy Maddin's amazement with foley artists, the men and women who provide the sounds in movies. In Seattle, The Aono Jikken Ensemble provided foley with percussion equipment, a tub of water, crying baby dolls, cranks, bottles etc. Aono Jikken are well known for providing the sound effects and score for silent movie screenings in Seattle and I always enjoy watching them work. There is also a castrato singer that tours with the film, Dov Houle. I was unaware that castrati still existed, but they do. The difference is that Dov is a natural, or medical castrato meaning someone with a medical condition the prevented his voice from cracking at puberty. He was amazing to listen to with the unearthly quality to his voice, that is neither male or female sounding.

Guy Maddin provided the narration for the screening that I attended and was spot on perfect. I seriously cannot imagine anyone doing it better since the narration is the internal voice of Guy Maddin, the boy. But I'm betting that Crispin Hellion Glover, Laurie Anderson, Justin Bond, Udo Kier, and the many other voices lent to Guy Maddin as Brand Upon the Brain! tours are also great. But as of this moment, I seriously cannot imagine anyone, but Maddin doing it better.


I Spit on Your Grave (1978) Now I remember why I was so adamant for so many years that I don't watch horror movies. Movies like I Spit on Your GraveAKA Day of the Woman. I made a promise to myself that I would try to watch a few of the feminist revenge classics after Kill Bill and then again after The Brave One, but I forgot how hard I find these movies to watch. You see, in order for the woman's revenge to be justified, something unspeakable has to happen to warrant the comeuppance. The act of violence is often a long, brutal rape scene and these are very difficult for me to stomach. Always has been. In this film, I was very bothered by the rapes and while I was on her side for the vengeance, I didn't find myself cheering it on either. I didn't much enjoy this one, but I did appreciate it for not destroying the female lead and letting her drive into the sunset.

Cronos (1993) I always thought the The Devil's Backbone was Guillermo del Toro's feature debut. I learned that he had a previous release Cronos while browsing the Halloween movie selection put together at Scarecrow. And I'm happy to have made this discovery. Cronos is about a mysterious gold encapsulated mechanism that was invented by an alchemist that appears to have found the secret to immortality. I was so pleasantly surprised by the depth of this movie as its plot definitely follows a familiar horror movie structure in a familiar story about the pursuit of eternal life, but it also has at its heart the story of the love of a girl for her grandfather. I really liked this one. Plus it has Ron Perlman who is one of my favorite character actors.

The Red Violin (1998) I pulled this one out on Friday and it was a little like visiting an old friend. This passionate story about the life of a violin is another film that I would have never categorized as befitting to the Halloween movie challenge, but when I began to think about how I remembered the movie, it seemed like there was some darkness to the story, so I thought I would watch it again. One might even call The Red Violin a ghost story. Anyway, I'm probably reaching here, but hell I have to reach 31 somehow.

Tally: 10 horror movies in 13 days, 7 new to me.

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