by Fred Camper
Stan Brakhage, who died
last March, was the greatest of experimental filmmakers, but many of his
films have yet to be screened here. The centerpiece of this program of
local premieres, "Trilogy" (1995), consists of three gorgeously sensual
handmade films. By painting and scratching directly on celluloid strips
and then duplicating each image for two or more frames, Brakhage produced
a flickering cycle of abstract shapes that bespeak the restlessness of his
own character and sensibility; the titles of the segments (which Brakhage
also intended to function as freestanding films) further emphasize his
rejection of collective thinking in favor of personal vision.
Above: two strips from I Take These Truths, the first part of "Trilogy," by Stan Brakhage.
I Take These Truths, is a succession of patterns that seem to
struggle with each other, though when sharp-edged white shapes near the
end of the film sprout fine lines from their borders, the effect is rather
like a halo.
Above: two strips from We Hold These, the second part of "Trilogy," by Stan Brakhage.
In We Hold These, the sense of conflict is more muted;
some sections are characterized by even patterning whereby every part of
the frame moves in concert -- a "choral" effect appropriate to the first
person plural of the title.
Above: two strips from I..., the third part of "Trilogy," by Stan Brakhage.
The third and longest, I..., proposes
an unstable image of the self with its centerless collisions of diverse
imagery. Small black shapes are superimposed over diffuse colors, and each
moment seems to consume and obliterate the last in an emotionally charged
rush that suggests a consciousness terrified of stasis and perpetually
Also showing: the three-minute, hand-painted Dark
Night of the Soul (2002), one of several late films Brakhage made in
contemplation of death, in which areas of color surrounded by fields of
darkness suggest a mind peering into an interior, bottomless abyss.
All images from Brakhage films here are reproduced by permission of the Estate of Stan Brakhage and may not be reproduced elsewhere, including on the Internet, except by permission of Marilyn Brakhage (email her at firstname.lastname@example.org). Once permission has been arranged, email me for higher resolution files.
Reader Homepage | On Film Main Screen | Archive of Long Reviews | Archive of Brief Reviews | Critic's Choices | Showtimes |