Sunday, October 28, 2012

United States, 1940s and 1950s (and beyond) - Part 2

Stan Brakhage, Anticipation of the Night, 1958 (41 min)

The "scanning"/panning shots seem as if he is checking to make sure everything is put in its place or seeing the process of the day(light) winding down. The human silhouettes passing through the light, the doors repeatedly closing suggest the break of light, the closing of the day. As I watched I started thinking of the title. Maybe it is not the night of one specific day, but of life itself. Brakhage is repeating the same backyard, nightscape, door opening and closing, the window curtain in the breeze and the human figure. I read "same shit everyday"; the repetition and monotony life can bring to the table. He seems to use the out of focus, shadow play, extreme close-ups as a way to disengage the everyday into less recognizable acts, yet just relatable for anyone to make some connection. As the film continues, and the amusement park footage is shown, I think maybe this is the anticipation of the kids going to the park or a way to tire them out. Or, maybe it was the darkness of 29:49-35:29.

Stan Brakhage, Reflections on Black, 1955 (10 min)

During the opening credits, the silent black frames between each sound title card created an awkward setup, but lead directly into the film. i.e. the darkness at the beginning and the choppy sound. The sound seemed from one space and the image from another, however, there were sections where the sound and image (non-recognizable sections) were in sync. I found the walking figures to be rather disturbing. They seemed to move un-human-like, as though they walked out of George Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) without the obvious dead-ness or bite marks. But then the film took a turn and had a unwanted affection/forbiden love feel. The eyes were scratched out and the viewers eyes were treated the same way, to signify the forbidden desire.

[Edit: I forgot to mention the eerie similarity of the whistling to Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon.]

Stan Brakhage, Mothlight, 1963 (3 min) 

Seeing this film in other classes, I know the how and why he made this film (as it was told to me). It still amazes me that the wings, blades of grass, flower petals, etc. are still recognizable (maybe not all the time). There are sections of deliberate animation, the flapping of the moth wings, playing through the rapid succession of organic bits. The frantic pace reminds me of trying to watch a moth flit about; maybe is an interpretation of what the moth sees.

Stan Brakhage, Black Ice, 1994 (2 min) 

One of my favourite cameraless films by Brakhage, Black Ice is a wonderfully synesthetic film. That aside, the rich colours and kaleidoscopic nature enhances the dizzying effect this film gives off. Every time I see this film, I get a stronger and stronger sensation that I am falling into the film --- like time is passing me by but I can only see the colours presented.

Robert Breer, A Man And His Dog Out For Air, 1957 (2 min)

I do not have a dog, but I am working outside quite a bit. I could not recognize the species of bird, but I hear very similar songs from the local population that visit my feeders. I felt as though the "dancing" lines reflected the bird song, along with the possible slight wind occurring during the recording. The viewer sees the man and his dog by the end of the film, and I would have been just as content not to see them. There is something to be said about the line work and the rough bird recording, i.e. if I had not seen the man and his dog, I would have been fine on thinking this was what they had encountered on their walk.

Jeff Keen, White Lite, 1968 (3 min)

I am so sorry to say this is my first experience of a Keen film (pun intended). I really liked the negative quality, the repetition of the opening door, and the fact the viewer sees the filmmaker as the filming is going on. The screen reads, as it was written, "The Chemical Wedding", and there is another layer applied to the film --- a treatment which destroys parts of the emulsion. These sections of "destroyed" film reminded me of static on a walkie-talkie, i.e. the sound mimicked the visual almost creating a wind-like language.


  1. Interesting take on Mothlight. The speed of the film had be anxiety stricken. All moths are attracted to light but it is often interesting to see which ones will die from their temptation and curiosity.

  2. Very impressed about your presentation on White Lite. I didn't like this film very much when I was watching it, but now I think I start to appreciate it.There are so many details that I failed to notice,like the fact that we can actually see the filmmaker filming the film...