Thursday, August 06, 2015

Stan Brakhage Film Stills from the Underground

The other day I watched some beautiful experimental films by Stan Brakhage. Don't think I just popped a Criterion Collection disc in the DVD player and instantly felt cool by taking time out for silent, hand-painted experimental film (well, as cool as it's possible to feel, watching the ancient technology that is DVD).

My first thought was, JESUS, get ON with it! But I always think that when I watch art films. And I even have special training for them, having earned an MFA in Cinema in the 90s. You know who likes art films? MFA film departments, that's who. But after his very early 1960s and 70s work gave way to the 80s and 90s, I settled in and started randomly pushing "pause" just for fun—to see what would happen. The still frames that froze on my screen were stupendous.

Stan Brakhage was a sort of regular-guy mountain man who never could stop making films, however poor or struggling or parental he happened to be. He called himself a frustrated poet, but if you take the time to screen some of his work, I think the poetry comes through. He was the kind of obsessive artist who inspires by his very nature (endless obsession and hard work, against all odds). Whether his movies "click" for you or not, I hope you can take some of that kind of focus and put it into your passions.

Everyone should have passions in life, whether it's making a great Cobb Salad, or meticulously applying moth wings and plant remnants to raw stock and processing it to see what happens—as in Mothlight, Brakhage's 1963 exploration of a moth reaching the end of its lifespan. Of course, DVDs and Internet streaming can't replace the incredible painted-light qualities of actual film footage projected on a screen, but we do what we can.

Make it happen. See what happens. See.

The Garden of Earthly Delights 1981

The Dante Quartet 1987

The Dark Tower 1991

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