Brand Upon the Brain!

(Photo by Adam L. Weintraub)

Director Guy Maddin’s latest pomo revitalization of early-cinema tropes and aesthetics sees the Winnipeg-based fabulist attempting a blockbuster event: a live spectacle with celeb narrators and an 11-piece orchestra, at least for the first three days of the film’s Los Angeles premiere engagement, after which it’s a prerecorded score and Isabella Rossellini voice-over for you. In other words: had-to-be-there jubilation versus clock-watching disappointment. Erik Steffen Maahs frames the film as the middle-aged Guy Maddin, returning by rowboat to his Black Notch Island home, where his folks once ran an orphanage out of a lighthouse. Unveiled as “a remembrance in 12 chapters,” the serial flashes back to the dysfunctional childhood of young Guy (Sullivan Brown), in which vampirism, organ harvesting, Lord of the Flies primalism and monstrous human resurrections soon bubble up from thick swamps of repression and secrecy. Not to discredit its wild artistry by saying the gimmick’s the prize here, but .?.?. the gimmick’s the prize. Without all the live hoopla, there simply isn’t enough variation to this stylized fever dream to justify its running time, nor to call it anything less than predictably Maddin-esque. American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre. Live shows: Fri. & Sun., June 8 & 10, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., June 9, 7:30 & 10 p.m. Prerecorded soundtrack: Mon.-Thurs., June 11-14, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m.

­—Aaron Hillis


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