Crispin Glover Shrieks Like a Woman at the Debut of ‘Brand Upon the Brain!’

Sullivan Brown as Young Guy Maddin in Brand upon the Brain!Photo by Adam L. Weintraub / Courtesy of the Film Company

The debut of Guy Maddin’s silent film Brand Upon the Brain! was a remarkable spectacle even when we weren’t watching the screen — which turned out to be quite often. Last night at the Village East Cinema, the movie was accompanied by a live soundtrack that included an eleven-piece orchestra; a castrato who gave voice to a lovestruck teenage girl; and three sound-effects artists in white lab coats, who splashed around in water during the boat scenes and fluffed wads of magnetic tape to mimic a walk through tall grass. If Maddin’s jittery, expressionist camera work confused the audience, Crispin Glover was on hand to explain what was going on. Sporting a neat Prince Valiant bob, he was tastefully restrained in his narration, letting loose a womanly shriek only when the script called for it.

Oh, and there was a movie too! It told the supposed story of Maddin’s childhood, complete with deranged parents, a pair of crime-fighting teens, and a lighthouse that doubled as an orphanage. Though the musical score shifted seamlessly between the melodrama’s moods, the live sound effects were occasionally distracting, in part because a few door slams were so poorly timed, they were almost comic. But maybe that was also part of its charm: As the Foley artists grabbed thick bunches of celery, how could we not wonder whether the story would end with the entire cast breaking their necks? —Lindsey Thomas