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Brakhage 5/29/10 part 1

Posted by martinteller on May 29, 2010

Desistfilm (rewatch) – One of those “me and my buddies fucking around with a camera” films from Brakhage’s early career.  It does feel more cohesive and less arbitrary than most of the others, but it’s still rather thin material.  The mutated soundtrack and quick editing help.  Rating: 5


Wedlock House: An Intercourse (rewatch) – The sense of tension and anxiety is very contrasted with the sense of unity and privacy.  It’s a feeling of “we are trapped together and we are trapped together“.  The sexual congress that at first is a repetitive, even frightening, part of this shadowy world eventually resolves into a release, as whatever conflict between the couple is resolved.  The film starts in black but ends in white.  Rating: 7


The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes (rewatch) – Is there any film which so completely and brutually confronts the viewer with the realities of death?  I think the real brilliance of this movie is what Brakhage doesn’t do, his sense of restraint and focus.  His camera never flinches, there is no commentary, no metaphor, no cutaways.  Except for one brief shot of a janitor, there are no superfluous scenes, nothing that doesn’t relate to the physicality of death and the body.  One could argue that nowadays you can switch on the TV and see the same thing, but those shows are concerned with imparting some kind of medical knowledge.  This is all about seeing death with your own eyes, and it can actually change the way you see yourself.  Rating: 9


Cat’s Cradle (rewatch) – Another one of those “Stan’s home movies” that I just don’t find that interesting, no matter how he edits it, or what kind of justification he conjures for it.  Rating: 4


Window Water Baby Moving (rewatch) – Probably Brakhage’s most famous work.  In a way, this is a negation of The Act of Seeing, even though it came many years earlier.  It’s all about the physicality of life.  Its more abstract form is an expression of creation… it’s construction, not reportage.  Rhythmic, poetic, full of life and imbued with love.  There are still parts that are visceral in nature, but in context they are beautiful, not horrifying.  Rating: 9


Mothlight (rewatch) – Beautiful, dancing interplay of machine and nature.  I really love when Brakhage toys with the medium like this.  Although there are films of his that I like more as a whole, this is what I generally look to him for.  Rating: 8


Eye Myth (rewatch) – Well, it’s nine seconds long.  The brief, fleeting image is captivating, though.  The artist seemingly encased in the materials of his art.  Rating: 7


The Wold-Shadow (rewatch) – A visual embodiment of the representation of nature in art.  Sometimes I feel like such a tool discussing experimental film.  I wonder if I’m just fooling myself.  I think to myself, “is this really art, or is it just a guy fucking around?”.  But I think if something forces you to think about whether or not it’s art, then it must be art.  Whatever that means.  Rating: 7


The Garden of Earthly Delights (rewatch) – Very similar to Mothlight.  Perhaps more than anyone else, Brakhage benefits from a theatrical viewing, but it is great to be able to freeze-frame and study the textures of films like this in hi-def.  Rating: 8


The Stars Are Beautiful (rewatch) – Annoying, overreaching, tedious.  Brakhage described himself as a frustrated poet, and here we can see why he was frustrated.  A jumble of uninteresting new mythologies and pithy affirmations like “retention colors are the only true colors”.  Really, Stan?  Why?  None of the imagery is that imaginative and the juxtapositions are uninspiring.  Rating: 2


Kindering (rewatch) – Although it could be lumped into the “home movies” category, it’s still a pretty odd take on childhood.  The distortions of the film and the soundtrack, as well as the suggested master/slave nature of their play, gives it a sinister air.  Rating: 7


I… Dreaming (rewatch) – One of those that feels random and pointless, even you know and recognize the director’s intentions.  Yet it’s still somewhat engaging.  Does that make sense?  I feel like I’ve said nothing.  Much like this film.  Let’s move on.  Rating: 5


The Dante Quartet (rewatch) – Of the hand-painted films, this is one of the most compelling, due to its thematic structure, varying aspect ratios, and use of actual footage under the paint.  Having not read Dante, I’m probably not getting the full effect.  I suspect it doesn’t quite work as he intended.  But as a visual treat, it’s a rapid series of striking images.  Rating: 8


Night Music (rewatch) – Another gorgeous painted work.  Too short to say much about it, but I love the aesthetics of these.  Rating: 7


Rage Net (rewatch) – Um, ditto to Night Music, I guess.  Oof, I knew that trying to write up the entire “By Brakhage” was going to be challenging.  Rating: 7

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