Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Ron Reed

Stan Brakhage

Recommended Posts

The footage is emotionally exhausting enough, but Brakhage's use of flicker makes it literally the most difficult film I've ever tried to watch.

Unfortunately, Stef and I watched Irreversible in the theater. It ends with a similar kind of flicker, and we both almost died of sensory overload.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For what its worth, I agree, Mike. Brakhage is one of a few filmmakers, especially on our list here, that actually creates an experience that might even be considered worshipful or at least closest to creating a contemplative space allowing for something much more spiritually gratifying...

With Brakhage we experience before we register seeing and then we only understand in a literal way after we have defined what we have seen and experienced.

And the defining is half the battle, and half the fun. Reading various people try to understand and interpret is a joy -- trying to put your own words to it can make you feel like a bit of a dolt.

I remember a few years ago I was trying to make the case that a-g cinema, which I now admit I know nothing about except for a bit of Deren and Brakhage, is the most pure, Christian film experience one can have. You've summed up my thoughts and put words on them quite nicely. Thank you.

Unfortunately, Stef and I watched Irreversible in the theater. It ends with a similar kind of flicker, and we both almost died of sensory overload.

Noé borrows heavily from the a-g in that final scene, driving a wedge between that ripping and tearing of the film itself that brings out the grande finale (and guts us in the process), and the ripping and tearing of flesh that was literally seen earlier in the film. It not only serves to drive home his point about the original violence and the violence of the revenge act, but it takes on the very face of violence by borrowing from that mystical place Thom describes above, and then simply shreds the film off the screen in your face.

It is a film that you might say you "hate," and I can't blame you, honestly, it is that visceral. But what happens in it is more respectable than critics give it credit for... I stand by my decision to keep it firmly in my Top Ten from the aughts.

Edited by Persona

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Can you recommend the stronger entries for when I grab this title again?

Christian, I tried to spotlight a couple good starting points in my blurb. Window Water Baby Moving is, I think, a good introduction to a kind of observational avant-garde cinema that is still very much en vogue. Two of my favorite contemporary a-g filmmakers, Jim Jennings and Nathaniel Dorsky, would probably trace their work back to films like Brakhage's. Of course, it's also unusually autobiographical (that is Brakhage's wife delivering Brakhage's first child) and, because of its content, it has a relatively strong narrative pull -- compared to his other films, at least. Mothlight and The Dante Quartet are good introductions to his abstract work (if "abstract" is even the right word).

But, for the record, by recommending these films I don't mean to suggest that cherrypicking them will give you the "a-ha!" moment you lacked the first time you rented the DVDs. I've occasionally made the mistake of thinking, "I have 15 minutes to kill. I'll pop in an a-g film real quick." (Yes, thoughts like that really do cross my mind. Often.) It never works. Watch two or three films together. Watch them again. Read a bit about each of them. Watch them a third time. Go to bed and watch them again the next day. I hope that doesn't sound obnoxious, but the best a-g cinema truly has a pedagogical effect. These films teach us how to watch.

I remember a few years ago I was trying to make the case that a-g cinema, which I now admit I know nothing about except for a bit of Deren and Brakhage, is the most pure, Christian film experience one can have.

I agree completely. Stef, if you haven't already, you should read Dorsky's Devotional Cinema. We touched on it quite a bit when I interviewed him last year.

Edited by Darren H

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Watch two or three films together. Watch them again. Read a bit about each of them. Watch them a third time. Go to bed and watch them again the next day. I hope that doesn't sound obnoxious, but the best a-g cinema truly has a pedagogical effect. These films teach us how to watch.

And right along with that, I'm sure Darren will agree, take time to listen to the commentary by Brakhage that is included with many of the films on DVD. His mind, the way he thinks -- or thought, I guess I should say -- the way he created and sought to relay the things that mattered to him, whether layered in mystery or not -- the way he expresses himself is nothing less than profound.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The local art gallery is showing 23rd Psalm next week. Have added to my diary and will do my darndest to sit through it all, and will of course report back.

My link

Quite excited - it's now been over ten years since I've seen Brakhage on a bigger screen than my lovely but tiny tele.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Now to figure out how I am going to plan a trip to Nottingham.

Looking forward to hearing about your experience.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thom - FYI: BFI screening of 3 Brakhage films.

Also, I'm aware I haven't written up my thoughts. That's partly because I was somewhat perplexed by the film, but also because I haven't found the motivation to do so. I will try and stir some up this week.

Still a bit too far.

Looking forward to your comments and the potential for some Brakhage conversations.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This thread is amazing. Just read most of it, from Page 1 through this page, while contemplating whether I should purchase the By Brakhage Blu-ray on the last day of the Barnes and Noble sale. If I can get my gift cards to combine, I think I'll do that.

EDIT: I'm disturbed by B&N's inclusion of "Pan and Scan" in its product listing for the anthology on Blu-ray:

Blu-ray (Pan & Scan)

$39.99

Edited by Christian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That is the ratio for his 35mm films, so you may be correct. Nothing is clipped in these discs, and you get the full frame for every film. I heartily recommend the blu-ray, as you get a much better feel for the films than you do in previous releases.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Darren, M. The Blu-ray has shipped, so I'll probably be spending time with it this weekend.

I'm going to start with the first film of the first disc, which I'm assuming is the same on the Blu-ray as on the standard-def, even though I struggled with it mightily during previous viewing attempts. If you have a better recommended starting point, please suggest it. (Maybe it's earlier in this thread; I'll check.)

Edited by Christian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I showed Window Water Baby Moving to my community college students earlier today. For 12 straight minutes, you could hear a pin drop. I had a great time sitting in the back of the classroom trying to absorb the emotional temperature of the room. A few people told me how much they liked it afterward.

 

As an added bonus, I think I may have encouraged teen abstinence without really trying to!

Edited by Nathaniel

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 8/1/2012 at 12:51 PM, Christian said:

Thanks Darren, M. The Blu-ray has shipped, so I'll probably be spending time with it this weekend.

 

I'm going to start with the first film of the first disc, which I'm assuming is the same on the Blu-ray as on the standard-def, even though I struggled with it mightily during previous viewing attempts. If you have a better recommended starting point, please suggest it. (Maybe it's earlier in this thread; I'll check.)

I don't post here much, but wanted to jump back in to say that, five and half years after buying this set, I think I may have, at last, stumbled on to a way to approach the material.

I've mentioned over the years both that I easily fall asleep when viewing feature films at home, and it's happened multiple times while trying to watch the Brakhage disc(s). I've also said that I've had revelatory experiences with certain films while at the gym, on the treadmill. (This happened with Scorsese's New York, New York and, at home on the treadmill, with Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette.) This morning, for my run, I had no audiobook to listen to and couldn't get my OTA antenna to work (I figured I'd just put on the local news - something I never do - just to have something to stare at while I ran on the treadmill). So, searching for a DVD that wouldn't require me to read subtitles or captions - I have trouble with those from the distance my treadmill is from the TV, but also because the slight bouncing in my stride makes it hard to lock in the text) - I decided to put the Brakhage Disc 1 on.

I don't know if it's the endorphins or some sort of chemical response from the exercise, but the films played as new to me, and as extraordinary. I think I'm only on the third one, Dog Star Man, but some of the imagery was unfamiliar to me and, having to pull the disc out quickly once my workout was over so I could get ready for the day, couldn't confirm from the chapter listing that I was actually watching DSM (yes, I felt stupid; googling it before posting this morning didn't provide the visual confirmation I was hoping for). Still, whichever film I was watching was just beautifully strange, and now I feel like maybe, just maybe, I'm ready for more Brakhage. 

Another 2018 movie resolution,  maybe?

Edited by Christian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is great. Hope it sticks. I am training this year for a long race in July - so I will join you as you journey through these discs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×