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Filmmaker Focus: Stan Brakhage – Programme 2

Stan Brakhage is regarded as one of the most important experimental filmmakers of the 20th century. He worked with various kinds of celluloid; 16mm, 8mm, 35mm and IMAX, and was a practitioner of what he referred to as ‘pure cinema’. Brakhage’s films are usually silent and lack a story, being more analogous to visual poetry than to prose story-telling.

He often referred to them as ‘visual music’ or ‘moving visual thinking.’ He frequently hand-painted the film or scratched the image directly into the film emulsion, and sometimes used collage techniques. For HOME Artist Film Weekender we present two programmes incorporating 16mm projection from the LUX archives of this seminal artist filmmaker.

This second program of rare 16mm films by Stan Brakhage, screening on the occassion of the new edition of the filmmaker’s Metaphors on Vision, presents three pivotal works by the influential American artist. In The Dead, Brakhage trails fellow filmmaker Kenneth Anger in Père Lachaise Cemetery to create what Brakhage called “a very somber and intense visual poem, a black lyric, if you like.” Mothlight creates the illusion of motion from tiny, found objects: working without film or a camera, Brakhage inserted bits of vegetation and dead insect bodies inside a strip of Mylar. The two are shown with Brakhage’s mythic exploration Dog Star Man.

“Brakhage began to write his great polemical and theoretical treatise, Metaphors on Vision, in the late 1950s when he envisioned possibilities for cinema that had never been attempted or explored. As he was writing the book, he began to make his most ambitious film until then, Dog Star Man. In fact, the title first came to Brakhage in 1954 for a scenario he abandoned and published in the book (along with Dog Star Night) as a ‘liter-realized’ fantasy. The completed Dog Star Man is a cosmological epic, consisting of a Prelude and four Parts, corresponding to the seasons in the sequence of Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall.  He finished it soon after the book was published.  It is both a demonstration of his theoretical insights into the nature and potential scope of cinema, and a work that supersedes all his theoretical speculations. In the Introduction (an extensive and remarkable interview) to Metaphors on Vision he unpacks the structure and the mythos of Prelude and Part One, while in the chapter ‘Margin Alien’ he offers as marginalia the literary, painterly, and musical sources that inspired the whole film.” – P. Adams Sitney

Screening as part of Programme 2:

The Dead
(1960, 10 mins)

Moth light
(1963, 3 mins)

Prelude: Dog Star Man
(26mins, 16mm)

Dog Star Man
(1961-64, 51 mins, 16mm, silent)

Duration 94 mins