At the Elgin Theater last Friday, Guy Maddin's newest film, Brand Upon the Brain, started 20 minutes late. The delay was, in fact, understandable: The Toronto world premiere of the film involved an 11-piece orchestra, live foley artists, a narrator and a singer. Introducing the film, Maddin summed it up: "... everything you hear tonight will be originating from these four walls." Catnip to film aficionados and proud Canadians both -- an audacious recreation of the silent film experience for a modern audience.
And there were still problems: The first few minutes of the film ran without music, a false start that had to be backed up. It was a mistake, but it was a welcome one. Without Jason Staczeky's score, Maddin's cuts and images were discordant, elusive, aggravating; with the weighty sweep of strings and the heartbeat of percussion accompanying the second try, the same scenes played much differently. What had jumped now glided; what was shattered, part of a whole. Having the chance to watch art explain itself -- to see the point of a piece happen in front of you -- was a singular experience. It was, in fact, what everyone who was there was hoping for -- a film unique and impermanent, one that would never be seen like this again.