184, 517-518 by Brakhage: An Anthology (Volumes One and Two)

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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knives
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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#201 Post by knives » Thu Jul 21, 2011 1:55 pm

Compared to Jeff Keen they are.

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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#202 Post by SternDiet » Thu Jul 21, 2011 2:55 pm

knives wrote:Compared to Jeff Keen they are.
That's absolute nonsense. It's virtually impossible to edit faster than Brakhage does in quite a lot of his films.

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knives
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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#203 Post by knives » Thu Jul 21, 2011 3:20 pm

This is a terribly stupid thing to get into a argument about and I should probably stop right here, but I'm terribly stupid. from what I've seen (only about twenty films admittedly) while they are quickly cut there's moments that do allow for one to absorb the film versus the massive amount of cuts that Keen has in his movies. I don't see why you're upset at this observation considering it doesn't speak to the quality of either director and really was a toss off line in my initial appraisal.

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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#204 Post by SternDiet » Thu Jul 21, 2011 3:48 pm

knives wrote:This is a terribly stupid thing to get into a argument about and I should probably stop right here, but I'm terribly stupid. from what I've seen (only about twenty films admittedly) while they are quickly cut there's moments that do allow for one to absorb the film versus the massive amount of cuts that Keen has in his movies. I don't see why you're upset at this observation considering it doesn't speak to the quality of either director and really was a toss off line in my initial appraisal.
I'm not at all getting upset, it's just that describing Brakhage as slow is about the same as describing Bela Tarr as fast. It's nonsense and in fact quite the opposite to what their films actually are. So maybe you should watch some more Brakhage before trying to describe it to someone else?

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knives
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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#205 Post by knives » Thu Jul 21, 2011 3:57 pm

I didn't describe Brakhage as slow though, I described him as comparatively slow (and by the way I do consider Tarr fast, but that an entirely different matter).

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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#206 Post by Tribe » Thu Jul 21, 2011 4:04 pm

SternDiet wrote: I'm not at all getting upset, it's just that describing Brakhage as slow is about the same as describing Bela Tarr as fast. It's nonsense and in fact quite the opposite to what their films actually are. So maybe you should watch some more Brakhage before trying to describe it to someone else?
You sound upset to me.

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Gregory
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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#207 Post by Gregory » Thu Jul 21, 2011 4:06 pm

I don't see how either of you can really generalize about Brakhage's work as a whole in the way one can about Bela Tarr. Talking about "editing" and the speed or rhythm of editing vis-a-vis his body of work is really problematic, I think, when you've got all manner of paint-on-film technique, multiple superimpositions, various ways of moving the camera, and so on. Wouldn't it be more useful and interesting to talk about specific examples, for someone new to Brakhage's work to observe something about one or two films that stood out to them? Just a suggestion, and I don't mean to seem pushy or rude about it. It's just that I've seen this happen before: someone throws out some one- or two-sentence statement about Brakhage's work as a whole, and then someone takes issue with it, and it never seems to get anywhere.

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knives
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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#208 Post by knives » Thu Jul 21, 2011 4:30 pm

You're absolutely right Gregory so I'll give an example of what I mean with probably the biggest example, Dog Star Man. There's a hell of a lot going on here, but the scenes of walking up the mountain for instance are held steady for a long while. You know I hate having to defend this particular statement of all the ones I said considering how ridiculous shot length is for judging.

Anyways the images here don't run over each other. Each frame is sequential and exists within it's reality. I can breath during my viewing whereas with Keen everything is quick and sharp that even his slowest and longest works fall into each other so that it becomes like one image layered over each other. It's a flash in the pan whereas Brakhage wants his films to last an eternity. Even though they are using similar editing techniques the results are drastically different experiences.

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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#209 Post by SternDiet » Thu Jul 21, 2011 4:38 pm

knives wrote:You're absolutely right Gregory so I'll give an example of what I mean with probably the biggest example, Dog Star Man. There's a hell of a lot going on here, but the scenes of walking up the mountain for instance are held steady for a long while. You know I hate having to defend this particular statement of all the ones I said considering how ridiculous shot length is for judging.

Anyways the images here don't run over each other. Each frame is sequential and exists within it's reality. I can breath during my viewing whereas with Keen everything is quick and sharp that even his slowest and longest works fall into each other so that it becomes like one image layered over each other. It's a flash in the pan whereas Brakhage wants his films to last an eternity. Even though they are using similar editing techniques the results are drastically different experiences.
But there is a world of difference between your subjective perception of a movie and an objective description. I mean, for me 'Gertrud' seems to last only 45 minutes every time I see it, but that doesn't mean it isn't a slow film. And it seems to me to me that when you're describing a particular filmmaker to someone who doesn't quite know what to expect, subjective perception is not quite the way to go, to put it mildly.

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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#210 Post by knives » Thu Jul 21, 2011 4:44 pm

An objective description isn't interesting though. The experience is much more worth looking at if you ask me.

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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#211 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jul 21, 2011 4:46 pm

An Internet message board is no place for opinions

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Gregory
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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#212 Post by Gregory » Thu Jul 21, 2011 4:55 pm

I'm glad there's a specific example on the table, even though I think it's particularly hard to speak briefly or in broad strokes about Dog Star Man -- certainly not to say we shouldn't try to talk about it at all. As you say, there's a hell of a lot going on here. You're right that there are long-held shots in Brakhage, as seen here, but they're made incredibly complex with the use of fades and changing qualities of light and color within the same "sequence," here the figure climbing the mountain with the dog. The pace of most parts of Dog Star Man is very quick, and there's a great deal of variation in how consistent the rhythm of it is (the final segment is pretty jarring).

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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#213 Post by knives » Thu Jul 21, 2011 5:01 pm

The one thing I particularly like with my one experience with Dog Star Man is that it feel like a film backwards. I don't yet know what his exact intentions with the film were, but it seems like tracing a life from death until birth. So that for me actually made the prologue the most jarring as it at times feels unrelated to the other parts while being an intense comment for them. It's like the spine of a book. Of course with any of these guys it takes like five viewings to be able to say anything truly meaningful, but the vibe I have from Brakhage on the whole is one contradicting his statement on narrative. I get the feeling he really did want to find a new way to tell stories.

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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#214 Post by zedz » Thu Jul 21, 2011 5:15 pm

If you're working through Brakhage chronologically, I can understand where the speed perception comes from, but once you get amongst the hand-painted films, the imagery in a lot of those goes by too fast for the brain to process in traditional ways. And then again, Brakhage can use the optical printer in something like Black Ice to deliver imagery that's paradoxically accelerated and slowed-down, suspended between multiple time-states.

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knives
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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#215 Post by knives » Thu Jul 21, 2011 5:16 pm

I'm just going by how they're organized on the discs.

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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#216 Post by Tribe » Thu Jul 21, 2011 5:21 pm

knives wrote:The one thing I particularly like with my one experience with Dog Star Man is that it feel like a film backwards. I don't yet know what his exact intentions with the film were, but it seems like tracing a life from death until birth. So that for me actually made the prologue the most jarring as it at times feels unrelated to the other parts while being an intense comment for them. It's like the spine of a book. Of course with any of these guys it takes like five viewings to be able to say anything truly meaningful, but the vibe I have from Brakhage on the whole is one contradicting his statement on narrative. I get the feeling he really did want to find a new way to tell stories.
As perhaps many of you do, I view Brakhage's movies as if they were paintings. When I attend a museum and am admiring a painting that doesn't follow traditional depictions, where what is represented doesn't fall within anything other than shapes and colors, for instance, it's not important whether it's supposed to be tracking some narrative or story that the creator may have intended. The swirls and hues can be sufficient to enthrall me.

That's I respond to Brakhage's work.

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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#217 Post by SternDiet » Thu Jul 21, 2011 5:26 pm

knives wrote:An objective description isn't interesting though. The experience is much more worth looking at if you ask me.
It's a completely different matter. Your original post was in direct response to someone who didn't quite know what to expect and you gave a description which leads to a distorted view of Brakhage. That's the only thing I took issue with and after that you started twisting the whole thing into your own experience. Which is a valid discussion point, but only in a completely different context.

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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#218 Post by Gregory » Thu Jul 21, 2011 5:52 pm

I'm not sure watching them in the order presented on the Criterion discs is the best way to go for novices, as it kind of launches you right into long and challenging stuff like Dog Star Man and The Act of Seeing... which may work out fine or may not.
Chronological is an interesting way to go, and people wanting to see some of Brakhage's early stuff should also check out Kino's second Avant-Garde set, which has a few examples of Brakhage's less-discussed work, dating from the 1950s era of Desistfilm and The Wonder Ring. Brakhage directs silent slapstick comedy? Believe it!

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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#219 Post by aox » Thu Jul 21, 2011 10:39 pm

Wow. Just Wow.

I just watched the child birth film, Window Water Baby Moving. I didn't think something this beautiful exists in our world. Just stunning. I watched the first two films on series one and they were almost as impressive. I skipped Dog Star (70 minutes is a long demand after the day I had today) and the autopsy one because I am not sure if I want to see that, but given that I got through the Blood of Beasts (not his of course, but it means I can not be squeamish when I want to be) and seeing how he handled birth in WWBM, I am more open to viewing it.

I have only watched 3 films and this is already worth the $35. The BD is stunning too from a tech viewpoint.

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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#220 Post by Murdoch » Thu Jul 21, 2011 10:53 pm

The Act of Seeing With One's Own Eyes you really have to be in the right mindset to view, in a class I was in as an undergrad four people passed out while watching it. I think of it as a compelling companion to Window Water Baby Moving, and I think it works best when viewed with WWBM.

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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#221 Post by MichaelB » Fri Jul 22, 2011 7:01 am

Murdoch wrote:The Act of Seeing With One's Own Eyes you really have to be in the right mindset to view, in a class I was in as an undergrad four people passed out while watching it. I think of it as a compelling companion to Window Water Baby Moving, and I think it works best when viewed with WWBM.
The Act of Seeing With One's Own Eyes triggered the biggest walkout that I've ever personally witnessed - the cinema was packed at the start, and I think 80% of us had left before the end. The guy on the door told me that they'd anticipated this, which is why they'd programmed the film last.

I must get round to showing it to my wife sometime - she's medical and regularly attends Caesarean deliveries, so I suspect she'll be completely unfazed.

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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#222 Post by Murdoch » Fri Jul 22, 2011 12:49 pm

I didn't even mention the walkouts, nor the constant trips to the restroom several classmates made. It made me realize that I have a very high tolerance for such things, the only moment I felt nautious was during one part I don't care to go into detail on but was the breaking point for most. We had an interesting discussion later about the coroners dissecting these bodies and how desensitized they must be to the entire experience.

Though I find the film most interesting in how Brakhage manages to abstract these corpses, both through zooming techniques and by simply showing them being torn apart, I was somewhat reminded me of those documentaries on manufacturing and industry with the assembly lines of workers that trace a product from the beginning to its completion. Perhaps it's because the film is like a day in the life of these coroners and their casual demeanor at the proceedings reminded me of the industrial workers who seem to carry out their jobs with a mindless efficiency, little thinking of the actual product being made and more on completing their part of the assembly/ritual.

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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#223 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Jul 22, 2011 12:57 pm

I think my favourite films from the first volume (embarrassingly I have not yet delved into volume 2) would have to be I...Dreaming and the incredibly dense thirteen second piece Eye Myth (though of course YouTube doesn't really do justice to the almost 'reach out and touch' textured feel of many of the films, even on DVD. Many times I've simply paused some of the painted films and just marvelled at a single frame). I never thought that a film could capture the kind of ghostly afterimages that can be seen on the inside of your eyelids for a brief moment, yet that one does.

The autopsy film, despite of course having to be approached with caution, has some incredibly beautiful imagery - the way that the intact bodies are shown whole and then skillfully probed and opened up to reveal the quite amazing inner workings (the moment I particularly remember is the removal of a skull where the inside of it glitters inside like a jewel) is quite powerful. Though despite those moments of found beauty, and the commendable unflinching gaze of the camera, by the second or third cadaver going through the same process (showing I guess the interchanageability of the bodies and the inevitability of the act of autopsy itself) I was feeling quite queasy!

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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#224 Post by Mr Sausage » Fri Jul 22, 2011 2:55 pm

I don't know what it says about me, but I found the whole autopsy film fascinating and easy to sit through (after discussing the film with my mother, who works in a hospital, she said the worst part of an autopsy is the sound, especially the saws, so I think we're actually saved from the hardest part to endure). The movie reveals the whole of the human body in every aspect and perspective possible, and you get a sense of how limited and how guided by convention your visual relationship to the body is. Stuff like the intricate way the internal organs are packed around each other, the strange way the scalp and forehead are peeled forward like a mask to get at the skull, the fullness followed by sudden emptiness when things are removed (strange feeling), you really become aware of our own constructedness, the physicality and materiality of ourselves that we so often try to overlook or ignore. We're stuff, and yet that stuff is fascinating and strange. The movie renders the human body a bit alien even as it familiarizes you with it. Kind of reminds me of that Wallace Stevens line: "And there I found myself more truly and more strange."

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Re: 184 & 517/518 by Brakhage: an anthology (Volumes 1 and 2

#225 Post by zedz » Fri Jul 22, 2011 5:06 pm

All of these different reactions are fascinating, since in some respects it's one of Brakhage's most straightforward films, formally.

For me, I don't get any sense of physical nausea or distress, I get instead an overwhelming emotional reaction to the images, but it's emotional in an oddly non-specific way: it's not sadness, or awe, or grief, or terror, it's a big tidal wave of lots of things tied up together. It's like Brakhage turns all those bodies into a cathedral.

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