Call of Chthonic

Poetry fans: Check out, if you haven’t already, this excellent interview with Guy Maddin about his new Brand Upon the Brain!, a mind-meltingly good silent movie (“A Remembrance in 12 chapters”) with a lot of exclamation points. It’s being screened as I write this along with live narration, an 11-piece orchestra, a castrato (!), and fun sound effects.

In the interview, Jessica Winter asks Maddin about the aesthetic kinship he shares with John Ashbery, who narrated a performance of Brand! last night in New York.

(This is neither here nor there, but did you know that Akira Kurosawa’s elder brother, Heigo, was a benshi—a narrator of silent films? I’ve had this factoid lodged in my brain for nearly five years, ever since writing this article; I wasn’t able to deploy it then, but I’m glad I can share it now.)

Back to Brand Upon the Brain!:

New Yorkers, you have until tomorrow to watch it!

Other people, the show might come to your town! (Here’s the schedule.)

UPDATE: Just as this post was “going to press,” Jessica W. e-mailed me about last night’s Ashbery-voxed perf:

Ashbery’s authoritative monotone and deliberate pace, familiar from his readings, made a perfect complement with the feverish melodrama onscreen—just as it underlined his own influence on Maddin’s intertitles. As the story flung itself toward its climax, the effect of Ashbery’s steady intonations became—maybe I just love a chance to use this word, but—chthonic, like an ancient voice from long ago and far away was just reaching us. We were spellbound.

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