A unique, surreal TIFF experience – Guy Maddin, iconoclastic Canadian filmmaker, has created a live cinematic performance. His 1920s style silent film was presented with a live orchestra, three-piece Foley artist group, live narration, and faux Castrato singer to interject some vocalizations to the proceedings.

The film is a bizarre mess of monster movie, teen detective novel and coming of age, cross-gendered romance film. The film and its titles bounce across the screen, images brought back over and over as the rapid-fire editing, in-camera irises and quirky title cards conjure the cinema of another age. The sets, costumes, and makeup all convey this sense of this being a lost film, archaeologically rescued somehow by Maddin and brought to TIFF for its overdue premiere. In fact, it is only the sly cheekiness of the story, its ridiculous characters, gadgets and situations that serve to the remind the audience the film is firmly planting its tongue against its cheek.

I enjoyed the live score thoroughly, and found myself torn between watching the ever changing imagery and staring at the Foley artists as they worked their brand of sonic magic with a myriad of tools. I think I would have liked a more profound narrator, but I’m sure the small town Canadiana twang of the actor fit Maddin’s idea perfectly.

Band Upon the Brain was certainly a unique filmgoing experience, one I am extremely pleased to have attended.