Thursday, May 10, 2007

Brand Upon the Brain Live! - May 10, 2007

If you have ever attended a screening of a silent movie with live accompaniment, usually an single organist, and walked out feeling as though you'd seen something very special then you need to see Brand Upon the Brain LIVE before it closes on Monday in New York. (This event is also travelling check for cities near you.) This is not only a total EVENT the likes of which are very rare as far as film is concerned nowadays, but also a wonderful movie on its own.

Not only are we treated to a truly funny and beautifully filmed in black and white, but at these performances the accompaniment includes a 11 piece orchestra, a foley team and a different guest narrator at every performance but also a Castrato! When will you ever see this sort of set up again? It is a rare delight, not to be missed.

The premise of Guy Maddin's new film is the unusual events of his childhood on remote Black Notch Island where his parents run a 'mom and pop' orphanage. Sinister doings in the basement laboratory of Guy's scientist father provide the horror and suspense of the films of F.W. Murnau with an homage to The Leech Woman involving harvesting 'nectar' from the brains of the orphans in attempt to keep Guy's mother young.

Subplots abound as the oldest orphan Savage Tom runs black masses late at night; Guy's sister (aptly named "Sis" and played with a comic flair and restraint by the delightful Maya Lawson) engages in the first throes of young love; a celebrity harpist and "Kid Detective" Wendy Hale (Katherine E. Scharhon) appears on the island to investigate the odd markings on the orphans necks and subsequently falls head over heels for Sis prompting her to a Twelfth Night-like cross dressing hidden identity as her own twin brother Chance Hale; and this is just skimming the surface of this highly entertaining, thoroughly modern and yet vintage-feeling film (beautifully shot by Director of Photography Benjamin Kasulke). It's as if David Lynch made a comedy - and I mean that with the utmost respect and praise.

I believe this film would be equally entertaining without the 'event' aspects, and depending on the narrator possibly better, seen as film alone. The performance I attended featured a completely under-rehearsed Anne Jackson in a somewhat annoying and embarrassing performance as the narrator. That said, I do highly recommend you try to see it in it's "Live!" incarnation if you possibly can. It's not often you get to peek in on Foley artists at work, and they are fascinating.


Brand Upon the Brain

Village East Cinema
181 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10003
running time: 97 mins no intermission
Closes in New York May 14

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