A Tribute to Stan Brakhage

Unknown Premiere

105 MINUTES | (Unknown) |


Stan Brakhage (1933-2003) was one of the most significant avant-garde artists of his generation, the master of the handcrafted film. This prolific filmmaker made more than 350 motion pictures in a half-century, ranging in length from 30 seconds to four hours. Brakhage set the standard for a radically different kind of filmmaking, departing from the tradition of the "narrative" or "story" film. Taking as his subjects the universe around him, in particular his family and the natural world, Brakhage's camera eye was transformed into a meditation on the quality of light, eventually leading him to direct film processes, including scratching and painting directly on the film emulsion (and even pasting moth wings onto the film stock). In a lifelong endeavor to represent on celluloid "an eye unruled by manmade laws of perspective," Brakhage's unique vision resulted in an outstanding body of abstract films of great visual beauty and intense lyricism. The first section of this program presents four short, silent Brakhage films. The Wonder Ring (1955) is Stan's poetic vision of the now-defunct New York Third Avenue Elevated train. In Mothlight (1963), the filmmaker reveals the patterns made by moth wings and flowers taped onto the film stock. According to Brakhage, the "hero" of The Riddle of Lumen (1972) is "light/itself", as reflected through fragments of reality. Black Ice (1994), a hand-painted abstract film, is a meditation on the filmmakers "frightful awareness" of slipping on black ice. (These prints are courtesy of the New York Film-Makers' Coop, a Tribeca based nonprofit organization dedicated to the distribution of experimental films). The second section of this program offers three distinctive portraits of Stan Brakhage (see individual catalog descriptions). These filmmakers all shot footage of Stan at a time when he was acutely aware of his own mortality. They present a complementary view of the trajectory of Brakhage's life, from his childhood as an orphan in Kansas City (Brakhage: The Final Word), to his perennial visits to New York City (Keeping An Eye On Stan) through to his final months in Victoria, British Columbia, living in a virtually bedridden state (A Visit to Stan Brakhage). Whatever may be the geographic locale from which he speaks, Stan ceaselessly articulates in lucid fashion his unique, abstract vision of the world. Mesmerized, we simultaneously witness his tactile relationship to those very pieces of celluloid upon which he has impressed his visionary images of light, color, and substance.