Brand Upon the Brain! [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [2006]

Guy Maddin's lovingly twisted portrayal of a very unusual childhood in Central Canada comes to home video in a definitive presentation from the Criterion Collection. Brand Upon the Brain! has been given a widescreen transfer to disc, letterboxed at 1.85:1 on conventional televisions and enhanced for anamorphic playback on 16 x 9 monitors. The film was shot on black-and-white Super-8 film and looks intentionally grainy as a result, but the transfer gives the image a slightly soft retro look while allowing the details to shine through; Maddin approved this transfer, and this disc does a superb job of replicating the picture's signature look. The audio has been mastered in Dolby Digital Stereo, and the fidelity is excellent, capturing all the nuances of Jason Staczek's wonderful score. Brand Upon the Brain! was conceived as a silent film and for its initial engagements it was screened with in-person accompaniment by a 11-piece orchestra, a vocalist, sound effects artists, and a narrator. For their DVD release, Criterion has offered eight different audio options, with the music and effects accompanied by three studio-recorded narrative tracks (featuring Isabella Rossellini, Louis Negin, and Maddin himself), as well as five tracks recorded during live presentations of the film (featuring Rossellini, Laurie Anderson, John Ashbery, Crispin Glover, and Eli Walach). The narration is in English, and this DVD includes optional English subtitles but no multiple language options. As a bonus, this disc includes two short films by Maddin -- It's My Mother's Birthday Today, an impressionistic profile of vocalist Dov Houle, and Footsteps, which examines the process of creating the sound effects for the movie. Also featured is 97 Percent True, a documentary on Maddin's work and the making of Brand Upon the Brain!, as well a deleted scene and the original theatrical trailer. The accompanying booklet features a lively essay by Dennis Lim on Maddin and his films. Guy Maddin is a true maverick in the contemporary cinema, and no one else could have made Brand Upon the Brain!; few home video companies would have been willing to give this film such an attractive presentation, and none besides Criterion would have released it in so thorough a package, which is as strange and wonderful as the film itself.
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Special Features

  • Narration tracks by Isabella Rossellini, Laurie Anderson, John Ashbery, Crispin Glover, Guy Maddin, Louis Negin, and Eli Wallach
  • "97 Percent True," a new documentary featuring interviews with the director and his collaborators
  • Two new short films directed by Maddin exclusively for this release: It's My Mother's Birthday Today and Footsteps
  • Deleted scenes
  • Trailer
  • Plus: A new essay by film critic Dennis Lim


Brand Upon the Brain!
Guy Maddin wrote and directed this wildly idiosyncratic look at one man revisiting his dysfunctional childhood. Guy (Erik Steffan Maahs) is a house painter who, at the urging of his aging mother (Gretchen Krich), returns to the tiny Canadian island where he grew up to put a fresh coat of paint on the lighthouse that was the family home. As Guy tries to cover the wear and tear of many years, he can't help but think back to his troubled youth; young Guy (Sullivan Brown) and his older sister (Maya Lawson) had to compete for attention with the children of the small orphanage Mother operated, while Father (Todd Jefferson Moore) spent most of his time in the basement, working on his latest invention. When a number of the orphans began displaying strange wounds on their heads, the island received a visit from Wendy Hale (Katherine E. Scharhon), a young detective who, along with her brother Chase, had become famous as "the Lightbulb Kids," the heroes of a series of popular books. Guy became quite infatuated with Wendy, and when the teen crime-fighter disguised herself as her brother Chase, Sis developed a powerful attraction to the "young man." As angry orphan Savage Tom (Andrew Loviska) leads a revolt of the youngsters, Chase and the Maddin siblings began to uncover the terrible secret behind Mother's and Father's seemingly unrelated occupations. Shot as a silent film, Brand Upon the Brain! was initially shown as a special presentation with live musical accompaniment from an 11-piece ensemble as well as three sound effects artists and a celebrity narrator. For later screenings, a soundtrack was prepared for the film that included the original musical score and sound effects, as well as narration by Isabella Rossellini. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Image coming soon
    Erik Steffen Maahs - Grown-up Guy Maddin
  • Sullivan Brown
    Sullivan Brown - Young Guy Maddin
  • Maya Lawson
    Maya Lawson - Sis
  • Katherine E. Scharhon
    Katherine E. Scharhon - Chance Hale/Wendy Hale
  • Image coming soon
    Todd Jefferson Moore - Father
Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.