Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Gretchen Krich, Sullivan Brown, Maya Lawson, Katherine E. Scharhon, Todd Moore, Andy Loviska, Kellan Larson, Erik Steffen Maahs, Cathleen O'Malley, Isabella Rossellini
Written by: Guy Maddin, George Toles
Directed by: Guy Maddin
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 95
Date: 03/19/2013
IMDB

Brand Upon the Brain! (2007)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Head Shots

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Guy Maddin's latest feature ventures ever deeper into his fascination with silent-era cinema. Aside from music, sound effects and spoken narration, this actually is a silent film, complete with title and dialogue cards. Shot in grainy black-and-white, the film tells the story of Guy Maddin (Erik Steffen Maahs). Not to be confused with the filmmaker, this Guy receives a request from his mother to return to his childhood home, a lighthouse on an island, to give it two coats of paint. Once there, Guy remembers his childhood, a bizarre story of teenage detectives, Pagan rituals, secret laboratories, devious experiments, specters, vampirism and zombies. His mother (Gretchen Krich) and father (Todd Moore) run an orphanage, and sleuth Wendy Hale (Katherine E. Scharhon) turns up to solve the puzzle of the circular wounds on their heads. (She later poses as her brother, Chance Hale). Young Guy (Sullivan Brown) falls for Wendy, but his sister (Maya Lawson) falls for Chance, creating an odd love triangle. Guy's mother keeps calling for him in a squawking voice using a kind of enhanced megaphone. It's all pretty amusing, and Maddin never runs short on ideas, neither narrative nor visual, but he appears to be a bit too enthralled with his presentation to let us inside. It lacks the touching, emotional quality of his great 2004 feature, The Saddest Music in the World. In the print that most people will see, Isabella Rossellini provides the narration, but in special screenings, live actors will read the lines. (Joan Chen performed it at the San Francisco International Film Festival, and in other showings, Crispin Glover, Barbara Steele, Daniel Handler, Mike Watt, Udo Kier and others have performed/will perform.) Love that exclamation point in the title!

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