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Brand Upon the Brain! - Criterion Collection
Brand Upon the Brain - Criterion Collection
Actors: Sullivan Brown, Clayton Corzatte, Gretchen Lee Krich, Erik Steffen Maahs, Maya Lawson
Director: Guy Maddin
Genres: Comedy, Science Fiction & Fantasy
UR     2008     1hr 39min

In the weird and wonderful super-cinematic world of Canadian cult filmmaker Guy Maddin, personal memory collides with movie lore for a radical sensory overload. This eerie excursion into the gothic recesses of Maddin s mad...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Sullivan Brown, Clayton Corzatte, Gretchen Lee Krich, Erik Steffen Maahs, Maya Lawson
Director: Guy Maddin
Genres: Comedy, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Sub-Genres: Comedy, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Studio: Criterion Collection
Format: DVD - Black and White,Widescreen,Anamorphic
DVD Release Date: 08/12/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2006
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2006
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 39min
Screens: Black and White,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 17
Edition: Criterion Collection
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Branded Upon My Brain!
Thorkell Agust Ottarsson | Norway | 08/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Brand Upon the Brain! is Guy Maddin's 2nd film in an autobiographical trilogy, which started with "Cowards Bend the Knee" (2003) and ended with "My Winnipeg" (2007).

I have been a fan of Maddin for a long time and absolutely loved The Saddest Music in the World (2003) but Brand Upon the Brain! is by far the best film I have seen by him (I have yet to see My Winnipeg which also got rave reviews).

Maddin is one of the few directors who still makes silent films. This film is in fact only partly silent. There was a short time when silent films had soundtracks (music and sound effects), and Maddin does the same thing here. He also uses a narrator, but they where sometimes used at the time of the silent films (then live), especially in Japan.

The film is pure surrealism. It is autobiographical in the same way as Kafka was is his books. It has the humor of Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet and the horror of David Lynch. It is, in a nutshell insane and amazing. Strongly recommended to anyone interested in Avant-Garde cinema.

About the DVD. The Transfer is very good. It offers multi narration track, which is much appreciated. The documentary about the film was really good and informative. The same goes for the essay on Maddin, by film critic Dennis Lim. The two new short films are far from being the best I have seen from Maddin. "It's My Mother's Birthday Today" is some kind of music video and "Footsteps" is in fact just a documentary about the foley artists which worked on the film."
Why is this an overpriced Criterion release?
J. W. Kennedy | Richmond, VA United States | 11/13/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)

"I'm a longtime fan of Guy Maddin - I own every one of his feature films on DVD from "Gimli Hospital" up to "Brand Upon the Brain". I anxiously await the video release of "My Winnipeg" since there is no arthouse theater around here where I could have seen it. I have long felt that Maddin's movies deserve to be honored with the prestigious, pretentious, pricey Criterion label ...

But not this one.

I hate to say it, but Guy is slipping. He's starting to repeat himself, and the spastic editing style does not help to conceal that fact. It actually makes the movie LESS watchable. I appreciate the effort that went into chopping up the movie so it looks like a deranged chimpanzee had a seizure whilst gripping the jog-wheel of a DVC deck .. but after about 15 minutes the edit pace stops meaning anything, and the flickering images blur into a sleepy incoherence. We've fallen a long way from "Saddest Music in the World," in which the pace of the editing varied to match and magnify the emotional intensity of the scene. Here it is ridiculously fast & choppy throughout, and it just seems to be style for style's sake, nothing more. I was disappointed.

Of all Guy Maddin's films, this one least deserves to be released on Criterion. It is worth seeing, but not at this price."
And you thought "eraserhead" was weird!
drollere | Sebastopol, CA United States | 03/05/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"this is a beautifully conceived and truly original surrealist comedy drama, filled with romance and terror, pathos and parody, a half painted lighthouse and a staircase of orphans, a claustrophobic island and the eternal cycles of memory, the bald head and the baby, a tushy crazed mommy and a workaholic father, vampyrism of brain nectar and lesbianism of sex, turpentine baths and butter on the wall, the maternal searchlight of anger and the paternal foghorn of purity -- and raging aging! and rumania! oh don't forget rumania!

everything is told in black and white, grainy and misprinted film, wobbly and erratically vignetted images, and a campy imitation of the silent film conventions of motion pantomine and text slides (but with punctuating sound effects, deliriously incoherent music, and a fiendishly arch narration by isabella rossellini thrown in).

i wasn't sure what to expect and now, well ... i'm not sure what to tell you to expect. you won't forget it, you won't always enjoy it (i found it dragged in places), but you will find it not quite like anything you've ever seen before -- unless it was by guy maddin."
Silent Film as Performance Art
Alric Knebel | Biloxi, MS | 11/26/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Guy Maddin's BRAND ON THE BRAIN! is art first, film second, and stands like a puzzling and intriguing piece you'd see in a museum. A description in one of extra features on the disc explains that BRAND ON THE BRAIN! "toured as a live event to many cities around the world, featuring an eleven-piece orchestra, a Foley team, a celebrity narrator, and a castrato." So, really, this film is basically a silent movie presented like a concert, with the celebrity narrator and Foley team becoming an essential part of the act itself. Some of the narrators were Isabella Rossilini, Guy Madden himself, Laurie Anderson, Crispin Glover and -- and this was a big surprise -- Eli Wallach. The disc supplies a couple of those performances from the 2007 New York presentations as alternative tracks. Whichever one you choose, in an ingenious display of melding style and meaning, Maddin utilized the limitations inherent in the silent film era to conjure the sense of distant memory. It incorporates not only the dropped frames, which exaggerates the spliced editing, but his minimal use of sound and distortion creates a sense of dreaming and semi-consciousness. It suggests the sense of a memory deteriorated by time, yet one that has lost none of its power. His recollections flicker on the screen not so much as what they were in reality, but how they settled into his subconscious. Therefore his mother is depicted as a possessive harridan enthroned in a turret atop a lighthouse, scouring the beachhead with a searchlight, searching for escapees from her dysfunctional authority. Sometimes her voice is rendered as just a harsh squawk by the Foley team. It's worth noting that no actual dialogue of the actors is ever heard, but is instead conveyed through the mellifluous narration supplied on the default track by Rossillini. Sometimes her voice was synced with the actors lips, most of the time not, as she simply tells you what is being said, and sometimes conveying just the gist of what was going on. So like a dream, you're there and not there; and the most bizarre events are paradoxically eerie and mundane.

There is a story here really, too, if you're inclined to look at it. But it's all symbolic and surreal. I found it so intriguing as it was, with his dark shadows and blanched lights, I really didn't care to analyze the archetypes to delve into their deeper meaning. It was fun watching his imagination at work. The end product exists somewhere between dadaism and science fiction, embellishing an archaic medium with a darkly humorous panache.

I can't say, as some others have, how this fits into the Maddin canon. I've only seen one other of his films, and it didn't strike me the way this one did. I highly recommend this if you're interested to see what a film can be in the hands of an artist, of a man who treats the medium with no regard for the mainstream. And if you're not impressed the first time out, watch it a time or two more. It's something you really shouldn't miss. Then you can go back to normal life.