Thursday, July 19, 2007
I went to see Guy Maddin's Brand Upon the Brain tonight. It had some outright belly laughs in it, which is different from the usual-sly-weirdness-that-never-ceases-to-amuse tone of Maddin's other features. It's basically a traditional silent film with intertitles and no sync dialogue, but included a recurring narration. This reminded me of a trend with distributers in the late 20s and early 30s films in which silent film footage was recycled for the age of sound, using a trivial voice-over to give the audience the impression that they are watching a sound film but are really just being told about what is readily apparent on the screen. I have a short documentary like this where an African travelogue is voiced-over and repackaged for a new audience ten years after silent films had gone out of style. Perhaps it would better be compared to Chaplin's Modern Times which began production as a silent film but came to contain sync sound elements and was released with a married soundtrack and score. An element of Brand Upon the Brain that I felt was disconcerting was the occasional use of dissolves which seemed formally disconnected from the shooting and editing style of 90% of the film, feeling more like moments from a 1940s film. Maddin premiered this film last month in Winnipeg the same night that I was there screening my own films at the Winnipeg Cinematheque, but I regretfully didn't attend. I like to believe he stole my audience away from me, even though I was very happy with the reception I had (thanks to Dave Barber).