[Part of The Maddin-est Blogathon in the World! Contest Head over to that link for more Maddin-ness.]
Nobody can really tell you what watching a Guy Maddin film is like. Or maybe nobody really tried to tell me. My first Maddin experience was Brand Upon the Brain!, and it was less than a year ago. Despite having heard about Maddin from Marina and Kurt for years, I had no idea what I was getting into. Watching a Maddin film is like jumping into another world, and not just in the way that all cinema is a window into another world. Maddin makes films like none I’ve ever seen before, somewhere on the line between narrative and avant-garde, evoking very early cinema but with a soft edge of surrealism that most primitive films only gain through the degradation of nitrate stock, and infusing that very old style with a preoccupation with memory, repression, and sexual anxiety.
Thinking back now on Brand Upon the Brain! and Careful which I watched soon after is like looking through a mirror filled with murky memories – I remember snatches of Isabella Rossellini’s narration, and matted images harkening back to Maddin’s eponymous character’s childhood. I remember muted colors and highly stylized acting. I remember butler school and a lighthouse. I remember troubling mother issues and ghosts and cats. My memories of the two are not mixed up, because though both use a throwback visual style, they’re very different from each other. But both exist in the hazy nether regions of visual memory rather than as fully-formed narratives. Perhaps that’s appropriate. My memories of Maddin films, even ones I’ve seen within the past several months, approximate Maddin’s own slipstream way of visualizing and editing his films with a dream logic all their own.