Movie Moment: Secrets! Secrets! Secrets! — Brand Upon the Brain! A remembrance in 12 chapters

Brand Upon The Brain! A Remembrance In 12 Chapters (Guy Maddin, 2006).

I don’t often do this, because I’m not keen when people force me to watch videos and I don’t like inflicting that on others, but here’s the full trailer. It’s only about a minute and a half long and there is boobs.

That’s Isabella Rossellini’s voice repeating “The past, the past,” like a bad French student film (in Maddin’s The Saddest Music in the World, 2003, she played a tragic baroness who has two glass legs filled with beer).


The thing with Maddin is that there is nearly always a point, usually 20 or 30 minutes in, while I’m watching his stuff that I’m like, “Oh, come on,” because I’m over the striking visuals that sucked me in to begin with and I’m beginning to be irked by how it’s become over-the-top or maudlin in its cult precosity, like on-purpose cheesily cult or derivative, and I become uncertain.

Are these overtly contrived, look-how-symbolic-I-am moments and their anachronistic cinematic dialogue part of an abstract ironic technique made to make me question the tropes of arthouse garbage, or is this straight arthouse garbage? So often with other deliberately unusual movies I go with “straight arthouse garbage,” because I get like that due to dramatic over-exposure to pretentious hipsters in my short life (I’m looking at you, Portland), but with Maddin I pull back from that judgmental jump. There’s a third category: (1) parody of overwrought indulgent nonsense, (2) actual overwrought indulgent nonsense, or (3) … something else? better? deeper? more effective?


Because right when I’m supressing the urge to roll my eyes and spoil any avant garde cognescenti cred I have accidentally accrued, suddenly some really great moment will have a huge impact on my emotional experience of watching the film and I’ll be sucked in and by the end just sure it’s my new favorite.


But then the next time I pop it in to show some friend, I’m back to thinking I’ve been duped by either the ultimate sly hipster or a genuine savant who sometimes falls flat, and I’m initially embarassed for us both. But then — TUG — in to it again.

It’s a rapid, repetitive cycle, like an awkward date with your own gynecologist — you both have an idea of what’s going to happen but you don’t know what to expect. Or watching a really close friend fuck the lines to a scene badly in a drama class, but totally sell it with their eyes, and you worry that only you can see that though it looks messy it’s probably headed somewhere amazing. Uncomfortable and anticipatory. That’s Guy Maddin movies for me.

I kind of love him.

Uncomfortable is, well, uncomfortable, yeah, but it’s so often just right because it’s the truth.

Anyway, I recommend Brand on the Brain!, is the upshot.

(All the caps came from the trailer because I do not [yet] own this movie.)

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