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A major figure in American avant-garde films, Stan Brakhage made his first film, Interim, at the age of 18, after having a nervous breakdown and dropping out of college. Most of his experimental films since then have been shorts that explore the film medium, offering a modernist critique of Renaissance realist space. He frequently alters the strip of film itself by making scratches in the emulsion after recording images on it, disrupting the effect of the real by recalling the two-dimensionality of what appears to be three-dimensional.
Mothlight was made as a collage of bits of leaves, seeds, ferns, flowers, and moth wings, attached not onto film celluloid but onto splicing tape, which was then run through an optical printer. Mothlight is therefore a film made without a camera and even without film. Because the objects in the film were not photographed, they appear more as abstract shapes than as natural things. Other aspects of Brakhage's short films include accelerated and slow motion shots, optical distortions such as tinting, alternation between monochrome and color stock or negatives and positives; and the presence of film leader and the dots that end a roll of film, as well as frames marked by the flare that results when film is exposed as the camera is being loaded or unloaded.
These techniques, too, may have a symbolic or visionary dimension. For example, The Wonder Ring includes some surrealist effects of superimposition achieved very simply while filming in a subway car: Sometimes the viewer can see both the reflections on the window glass and what is behind the glass in the landscape through which the train passes. Many of Brakhage's films do have characters and stories; however, they are not realistic.
Dog Star Man has no coherent narrative, with continuity achieved instead through recurring patterns and motifs. The dog star man of the title climbs a snow-covered hill with a dog, occasionally falling. At the end he chops wood. In between, there are repeated shots of the sun, trees, different seasons, an infant, and sexual organs, all linked metaphorically through juxtaposition and repetition. Such a film constitutes what Brakhage called an adventure of perception, one in which the eye sees reality outside the convention of realism, with its laws of composition and perspective.
Such adventures are always his guiding principle in filmmaking. Essential Brakhage : Selected Writings on Filmmaking. Stan Brakhage. In the course of making nearly films over the past 50 years, "Stan Brakhage" became synonymous with independent American filmmaking, particularly its avant-garde component.
This major collection of writings draws primarily upon two long out-of-print books--Metaphors on Vision and Brakhage Scrapbook. Brakhage examines filmmaking in relation to social and professional contexts, the nature of influence and collaboration, the aesthetics of personal experience, and the conditions under which various films were made. Brakhage discusses his predecessors and contemporaries, relates film to dance and poetry, and in "A Moving Picture Giving and Taking Book" provides a manual for the novice filmmaker.
Lectures, interviews, essays, and manifestos document Brakhage's personal vision and public persona. Bruce Rice McPherson.
ISBN 13: 9780929701646
Two important but long unavailable books by experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage— Metaphors on Vision and Brakhage Scrapbook —are restored to print in this welcome reissue. Part of the great post-WWII generation of Americans who revolutionized every area of artistic activity, Brakhage was arguably as important to his medium as John Cage or Jackson Pollock were to theirs, and has never received his full due. This is at least partly because his work has been hard to actually see outside of a few places, and there is a lot to see— films over 48 years. But anyone who has seen even a minute or two of a film like Dog Star Man —with its scratches and painted frames, its stunning juxtaposition of abstraction and materiality—immediately recognizes not only Brakhage's singular sensibility, but also its enormous influence on our visual culture. To paraphrase David Bowie talking about the Velvet Underground, not a lot of people saw Brakhage's films, but everyone who did became a filmmaker. Luckily, Brakhage's writings convey much of the volcanic intelligence of his films, as well as eloquently extending their thematic concerns.
Essential Brakhage: Selected Writings on Filmmaking
Ask a Librarian. Brakhage, Stan. McPherson, Bruce R. Kingston, N.
ESSENTIAL BRAKHAGE: Selected Writings on Filmmaking
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