If you ever loved the artistry of David Lynch, but thought his films were too dark and incomprehensible, there's Guy Maddin to ride in on a sea of comedic absurdity. With his silent film Brand Upon the Brain! he did something entirely different -- he created the ultimate live theater experience, one that can never be replicated at home unless you're ridiculously rich with a live orchestra, group of foley artists, a celebrity narrator, and a castrato at your disposal. But even still, this Criterion release does a fine job of coming close.
But first, the plot. The film focuses on a young Guy Maddin as he lives on a remote island that holds a lonely orphanage. His mother reigns with an iron fist and peeping watchtower while trying to reverse the weariness of age with her strange, scientist husband. Meanwhile, one of the orphans dies, strange holes are found on some of the kids, and some teen detectives come to investigate, all in the pulsing throb of teenage rebellion and sexuality.
While you can't create the live experience at home, Criterion has done everything possible to make this disc like the live experience. Each screening across Canada and the states had a celebrity narrator, and this disc allows you to choose between the seven narrators, which essentially gives you seven different ways to view the film -- from Maddin himself to Isabella Rossellini, John Ashbery, and Crispin Glover. There's also a documentary with interviews, two new short films, deleted scenes, a trailer, and an essay by Dennis Lim.
Check out James Rocchi's Review | Buy the DVD
Meanwhile, there's also CJ7, for those of you who love some cute aliens in your cinematic diet. Stephen Chow, of Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle fame, is the director behind this sci-fi comedy, which focuses on a single father Ti (played by Chow), who is looking for the perfect toy for his son.
The man is poor, and does everything possible to give his young son the life he didn't have. Still, the child feels the pressures of money from his classmates as they play with all the latest fancy toys. Then Ti discovers a weird orb, and brings it home for his son. CJ7 is an out-of-this-world pet with powers that seem like just the thing to bring the young kid some status at school. Of course, bringing a powerful alien to school is not the smartest idea, and the little thing raises an uproar.
The disc is pretty sparse, but there is a commentary to check out.
Check Out Peter Martin's Review | Buy the DVD
Be sure to visit Peter's Indies on DVD for more picks like Smart People.