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Expressionist horror film 'Brand upon the Brain!' to screen

RELEASED: April 15, 2010

poster for Brand upon the Brain!EAU CLAIRE —"Brand upon the Brain!" (2006) — an eerie excursion into the Gothic recesses of the mad, imaginary childhood of Winnipeg filmmaker Guy Maddin — will screen April 29-May 2 at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. The University Activities Commission of the Student Senate will present the film at 6 and 8:30 p.m. in Davies Theatre.

Subtitled "a remembrance in 12 chapters," the film is equal parts childhood reminiscence, expressionist horror movie and gender-bending teen-detective serial. "Guy Maddin" lazes away his understimulated youth with his teenage sister on the mysterious island that, one day, he stands to inherit. They share grim, remote Black Notch Island with a horde of orphans all living together in the lighthouse that doubles as a mom-and-pop orphanage. Every move is watched over by Guy's tyrannical mother from the top of the lighthouse, while his father, a scientist and inventor, secretly works in his basement laboratory at all hours.

When the parents of recently adopted children discover mysterious head wounds on their young, teen detectives Wendy and Chance Hale — brother-and-sister sleuths known as the Lightbulb Kids — visit Black Notch Island to investigate. Guy is weak at the knees when he first sees Wendy, while his sister falls in love with Chance — a love that must be hidden from Mother at all costs. The investigation leads the kids into the darkest regions of revelation and repression and spins dangerously out of control as the terrible secrets of Guy's family are laid bare.

"Flickering, high-contrast black-and-white images, shot in 8mm, tell a phantasmagoric story that could be a collaboration between Edgar Allan Poe and Salvador Dali," wrote Roger Ebert. "It's an astonishing film: weird, obsessed, drawing on subterranean impulses, hypnotic."

Filmmaker Guy Maddin (born 1956) is inspired by the aesthetics and melodramatic flourishes of silent cinema, Central European literature and the desolation of his native Winnipeg. Originally mounted as a theatrical event — accompanied by live orchestra, Foley artists and assorted narrators — "Brand upon the Brain!" is a silent film like nothing ever seen before. Four of the narration tracks recorded for the Criterion Collection release will be used for the screening: Louis Negin (Thursday), Laurie Anderson (Friday), Crispin Glover (Saturday) and Guy Maddin (Sunday).

The 95-minute film is not rated.

Admission is free at the door with a Blugold Card or International Film Society membership. Community members who wish to attend campus films must purchase an annual IFS membership at the Service Center (715-836-3727) in Davies Center's east lobby. An individual membership costs $4; a family membership costs $10.

More information about the campus film series is available online and at the Activities and Programs office, Davies Center 133.

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JS/DW

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