Thursday, August 14, 2008

An interview with cult director Guy Maddin

Robert Loerzel writes:
Canadian cult director Guy Maddin’s Brand Upon the Brain! was truly a spectacular event when it toured movie theaters in 2006 and 2007—not just a silent film, but a silent film with an orchestra, foley artists making sound effects, live narration by performers including Lou Reed, and a singer billed as a castrato. It just came out on DVD (August 12) from the Criterion Collection.

Guy Maddin talks to PopMatters about family, childhood, memory and his cinematic Gesamptkunstwerks that often look like damaged artifacts dredged up from an archive of lost 1920s and '30s film.

The grainy quality of Brand Upon the Brain! reminds me of some ‘40s and ‘50s films, and the editing reminds me of early Soviet films. Was that deliberate?

Guy Maddin: No. I’m kind of at the point now where I just have my own vocabulary, which has heavy accents from other eras and then just my own. It’s whatever I felt. I just feel that film has always been industry as much as it had been art. It’s been the industry that has hastened it along far too quickly. Everyone is familiar with the belief that the silent era was just beginning to peak when it was abandoned completely in the haste of the industry. If you just go back along the roadway of film history, you can find all these great vocabulary units and tropes. You can just dust them off and use them. So that’s what I do. I just collected all these things, and I use them whenever I feel like it. They still feel fresh to me... I suspect some things from early film were just created something so strongly and out of something so primal that I suspect they’re as timeless as the best fairy tales and Bible stories and cave paintings and things like that. I think they’re just good.