Image from The Film Company
It’s interview city at AFC lately, a forum I’m sure you’ll all be sick of by the end of the week since we’re hosting yet another artist discussion this Friday. With Joy Garnett of NEWSgrist as our upcoming feature and my conversation with Guy Maddin at the Reeler this week though it’s hard to go wrong. Today, I talk to Maddin about his latest film Brand Upon the Brain!. I’ve included a slightly larger clip of the piece than usual so that you can get a sense of what the conversation and film is like, but you’ll need to click through to read the whole piece.
“The Past! The Past! The Past!” reads the repeating text in Guy Maddin's latest film, Brand Upon the Brain!, which opens theatrically Wednesday at the Village East. The words imply the narrative structure of a semi-autobiographical work focusing on the tortured adult recollections of childhood experience: A grown man named Guy returns to the island where he was raised to paint a lighthouse at the request of his dying mother. As he does this, memories flood back forcing him to relive the iron-fisted rule of an orphanage below the lighthouse; his unrequited crush on young detective Wendy (who in turn falls in love with Guy's sister); and Wendy's subsequent disguising herself as her sleuth brother Chance in the hopes of seducing Sis. Chance soon discovers small wounds on the necks of the orphan children, and dark family secrets in the form of perverse sexual and emotional relationships come to light as the movie unfolds.
The narrative represents the most linear thread Maddin has put together in a while, especially compared to recent titles like Cowards Bend the Knee and The Saddest Music in the World (neither of which can be described as abstract). Such aspects are secondary, however, to the mounting buzz about the screenings’ live sound effects, onstage castrato and special guest narrators including Isabella Rosellini, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Crispin Glover and TV on the Radio frontman Tunde Adebimpe. Not having experienced these elements in my press screening, though, I recently spoke with Maddin about the artistic decisions that shaped Brand Upon the Brain! — beginning with how he felt about his first filmmaking experience outside of his native Canada. “It felt kind of good,” he told me. “I felt like a real gun for hire — my first foreign film.”
The Reeler: I saw that on a trailer this morning — you talking about it being a foreign film. It seemed really awesome to think about a film made in America that way.
Maddin: Yeah, that was exciting, and I also welcomed the chance to step (away from) my regular collaborators in Winnipeg. You know, it felt like I was having an affair. We did end up using one Winnipeger though; John Gurdebeke is my regular editor. I work with him all the time. The task of editing in two different cities was just too modern for my sensibilities. It could have been done e-mailing the files back and forth; it's just that you need to be close with your editor. I was going to say, the editor is the filmmaker almost. It's really important, and it's the one craft that's least valued in the public. It's just something that speeds by at Academy Award time, and I'm even convinced that peers can't even judge the impact another editor brings to his or her own project.
Click here to read the complete piece.