Crispin Glover in Chicago, Pt. 2: "Brand Upon The Brain!"
By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on May 16, 2007 2:00PM
Last year when we posted about Crispin Glover coming to Chicago with his film What Is It?, we had no idea it would trigger a rather heated discussion about the nature of art and of provocation's role in art. We were also surprised that, well, that many other people saw the film; after all, a film with a naked woman in a monkey mask jacking off a man with severe cerebral palsy isn't exactly aiming for the mainstream.
So how about a silent film with a live 11-piece orchestra, a castrato, three sound effects artists, and Crispin Glover narrating the proceedings in person?
That describes Guy Maddin's new film Brand Upon The Brain! which shows for three days only at the Music Box this weekend. Canadian wunderkind Maddin will be releasing the film a bit later with a standard recorded soundtrack (with Isabella Rossellini narrating), but before that there's a limited tour with live musicians, sound effects and "special guest narrators" providing the sounds. For the New York shows, Maddin was able to round up Eli Wallach, Joie Lee (Spike's sister), Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson and even esteemed poet John Ashbery. Glover will be on hand for the Chicago edition (his performance described as "tastefully restrained in his narration, letting loose a womanly shriek only when the script called for it.")
Maddin's films are always one of a kind (anyone who's seen Rossellini as a glass-legged beer baroness in The Saddest Music in the World can attest to that), but his newest film sounds more overtly autobiographical than previous outings, despite the usual bizarre trappings. The "story" (loosely defined, as in any Maddin film) revolves around a boy named Guy who lives with his family in a lighthouse which doubles as an orphanage. Young Guy has a crush on Wendy, an androgynous teen detective, while his mother takes on the role of villain: "Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate by way of Psycho." It's all shot in sumptuous black and white. Surely just as remarkable: it was conceived, written, shot and edited in only six weeks.