See if you can follow: In this silent, black-and-white horror-comedy directed by Guy Maddin ("The Saddest Music in the World") and narrated by Isabella Rossellini, an adult Guy Maddin (Eric Steffen Maahs) reflects on his youth at an unusual orphanage. There, he endures the strict rule of his surrogate-mother and finds himself attracted to Wendy, one of two harp-playing detectives from popular novels who has come to the orphanage to expose criminal activity. Get it?
Big question: Is "Brand Upon the Brain!" powerful and original or just weird?
Catch it: Maddin's latest is a unique and strangely funny way of wondering why everyone yearns to be young when childhood is full of painful memories. With boatloads of creativity and daring, the flick takes on the drifting, fragmented feel of a dream without sacrificing the meaning that reveals itself when you wake up.
Skip it: If you can't keep your big yap shut. We appreciate when "Brand Upon the Brain" points out that "Secrets are always told in whispers," and we don't want a loudmouth like you anywhere near our dirty laundry.
Bottom line: David Lynch, so off his rocker on "Inland Empire," should take a lesson from Guy Maddin. Even at its most whacked-out, "Brand Upon the Brain!" is never in danger of flying off the rails--or becoming a film that viewers think requires a few bong hits to best enjoy.
Bonus: Think you've become tied to your work? If you're compelled to return to your desk after spending 30 years in a harp case (as Guy's dad does), you may be due for some time off!
Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.
'Brand Upon the Brain!'
Directed by Guy Maddin; screenplay by Maddin and George Toles; photographed by Benjamin Kasulke; edited by John Gurdebeke; music by Jason Staczek; production design by Tania Kupczak; produced by Amy E. Jacobson and Gregg Lachow. A Film Company release; Fri.-May 24 at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave. Running time: 1:35. No MPAA rating (parents cautioned for nudity, violence and sexual themes).
Guy - Sullivan Brown
Neddie - Kellan Larson
Mother - Gretchen Krich
Chance/Wendy - Katherine E. Scharhon
Narrator - Isabella Rossellini