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Thread: A Tribute To Stan Brakhage

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Ottawa Canada

    A Tribute To Stan Brakhage

    Last night was a very special night for me.

    A whole evening at the cinematheque dedicated to the late Stan Brakhage. We had film historians, enthusiasts, and even a collaborator of Stan's (James Tenney) in attendance to view three films and discuss them at length.


    Christ Mass Sex Dance
    Faust 4

    James Tenney holds the distinction of being one of only 3 people to collaborate with Brakhage. He composed the score for "Christ Mass", a description-defying film- which was an amalgam of soundscapes and Elvis' Blue Suede Shoes.

    The score was composed in 1961, but wasn't used by Stan until 1991. Faust 4 was the highlight of the night. A 34 minute editing marvel, you are overwhelmed by the juxtaposed images. Brakhage was one of the greatest film artists of the 20th century, and part 4 of his Faust series is proof positive that he may even be better than Eisenstein.

    What makes Brakhage films pure "Brakhage" is the fact that 99% of his film experiments are silent. So to have the composer of a Brakhage score in the house last night was a priviledge.

    Another reason last night was great was the fact that I won the contest they held. The Virgin Megastore was co-sponsoring the tribute, and they donated a coupon book worth over 400 dollars.
    Yours truly won it when I answered the fastest with a question on Brakhage.
    so today I'll be doing a little shopping...
    Last edited by Johann; 02-29-2004 at 05:30 AM.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  2. #2
    Raoul Guest

    Brackhage at the Cinematheque

    Typically, my cinematic tastes are less experimental than the films of the late Stan Brackhage. I’m a writer’s writer and most of my favourite movies appeal to me because they are well written. I’m disturbed that lately, Hollywood has elected to produce sexy visual stimuli oriented films made possible by the latest technological advances. Any piece of ass wipe will do for a script, just give it to the animation guys: they’ll take it through the roof.
    So, in order to understand this disturbing trend at its roots I saw it fit to learn from one of the original acknowledged masters of cinematic visual stimuli – Stan Brackhage. Last Friday at the Pacific Cenematheque, I got an education.
    It takes a special sort of person to appreciate a Stan Brackhage film, and the collection of geeks gathered at the P.C. last Friday night were indeed special. Some stuck out from the crowd; he type of people one would expect to find at an experimental film. But many looked like ordinary, mild mannered Vancouverites. Only once the films had begun could I fully appreciate the true nature of the psychopaths that surrounded me.
    Before that night I had never experienced a Brackhage film. I knew of his works: 16mm films made by double exposing, colouring the negatives and scratching them, using acidic agents to create effects. I knew that his films were a labour of love, put together just so to create a specific visual effect. But nothing could prepare me for what kicked off my weekend.
    Christ Mass Sex Dance seemed like it ran for all of seven minutes, and it instilled in me a fond appreciation for Brackhage and his Art. It was filmed to accompany the song “Blue Suede” a cut up version of Elvis Presley’s #1 hit. It featured random sound bites woven in amongst strings of static and those indescribable sounds that exist only between stations on a radio dial. Stan Brackhage used a bunch of 16mm of nothing in particular to create some vivid, eclectic images. Mostly, the film was an art piece of colour. Abstract shapes move about the screen in no particular order as the sounds of mangled radio static dominate. As clearer bits of Elvis’ tune shine through in the soundtrack, the screen gives us more tangible images: ballerinas mostly. Still, though, their tangibility is mangled through layers of unintelligible objects are superimposed over them on the film. It looked to me as though in some parts he had drawn on the negative – shapes that weren’t quite faces, but maybe could have been. Were they?
    I highly recommend that anyone who enjoys good art see this short film. It’s a masterpiece.
    CMSD had been the perfect appetizer. As they changed reels and James Tenney bantered with some curator type film geek, I grew impatient waiting for more Brackhage.
    Before Faust 4 began, that curator guy (who came off as comical and possibly medicated) began to tell us about his initial impressions of the film the first time he saw it. He was cut off by one of the seemingly mild mannered psychopaths only two seats away from me.

    ”Don’t RUIN it!” The kid exclaimed, cutting the poor guy off in mid thought. “Let us watch the damn thing, then shoot your mouth off!” The heckler’s face was red with anger. I thought his glasses were going to break from the heat. The MC, curator guy stepped off very casually and introduced the film right away. In retrospect, a little bit of insight may have been in order. This journalist was wholly unprepared for what he was about to experience:

    Motherfucking Mlaaaaaaaa skendenmpahakuolmslllk….. is that a?llkasal amarmanaziensstenaxcma;klla;lldldll;a; adjflak;a;; ;;;;)9-8&6^$(%& wghohh.. Lnandscape? Nollll 87*&^*57656980)&54fgkaoi09 09Y9yhon iuyb97^9bg(&gboppiuUOIhbiuHBoiYOPybgp(&ygb[oiYbpiupofism990 and thoell difll eidlchevroletdifferaentialkjfjwe33--09lam jee I could really us e an a sclass fo f of of ckoola9id k koolaid mwhad had do I know what I think kasldkfjo wiia hanhl ali kdjjaidfjacactujsesnasdflkjadsfnakugyn,z…,mk /.m/.,mjla;nll mannandmmorel*(*56875cactusesanddtumbleweedsliasdl asd f dfikaklf kadjf asdjFLASH jlkj jf of FlashFLaskj !!!@@*9ya n 987(^(69.
    What the fuck was that I asked myself but it was too late. I already didn’t know if I knew what I knew or not. If what I knew was only what I had been shown to know without even knowing it Friday or any other day without… oh oho hohoo oooohhhhoohal alls ein th en do what the duc=alkk allllskima dleudktusnat….. and so on.
    There should have been a goddamn warning to epileptics in eight foot high letters before that film. If I ran the Pacific Cinematheque, I would have insisted that anyone viewing the movie sign a sweeping liability waiver in triplicate before I sold them a ticket and another one before they entered the theatre, just to be safe.
    Overwhelmed by the Juxtaposed images is the understatement of the century, Johan. That was a goddamned assault on my eyes and a re arranging of my mind and soul. Johan says it was thirty seven minutes long and I’m going to have to take his word for it because once it finally stopped I barely knew WHAT I had watched and how long seemed beside the point. It was bloody long enough. I can’t imagine to imagine the time that it took to edit that ‘masterpiece’. There were barely two frames that belonged next to each other. Are there any hardcore Brackhage geeks out there who might be able to tell me what sort of twisted subliminal manipulation that I subjected myself to?
    FLASH blah blah blah blah FLASH FLASH! Kind of scenery but wait FLASH! You get the idea.
    In Faust 4, one is unable to focus on anything for more than around two seconds. All the while, images were hitting my eyes at miles a second. The mind records everything, but doesn’t have time to immediately extrapolate it. Dangerous cinema.
    After rubbing my eyes a little and figuring out vaguely what the fuck was going on, I immediately got up to leave. I decided that whatever Coupling was, I wasn’t ready for it at that present moment. Besides, all of the people surrounding me were people who willingly subjected themselves to that kind of visual mayhem and presumably enjoyed it. There was no telling what those lunatics were capable of. I thought it best to leave before they found out that I wasn’t one of them.
    I left the PC and stepped out into a crisp November night in Vancouver. Although I had escaped the tribute to Brackhage visibly undamaged, it has taken me until today, Sunday, to settle down enough to write about that mindfuck. It is possible that it will haunt me for the rest of my natural life.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Ottawa Canada

    raoul raoul raoul

    Whoa, dude.

    You were definitely at the cinematheque that night. I can tell from your post. How did you find out about

    I saw the films quite differently, but I know what you are saying. The crowd was definitely SERIOUS, but if I may "soften the blow" for you, I'll try.

    You are fairly accurate in your description of CMSD. It is uber-editing, supreme juxtaposition. It is an art experiment. (and one that succeeds, btw)

    I was also sitting near those guys that told the host to shut up, and it annoyed me. Yes, the host was a geek, but James Tenney kept the proceedings intelligent. He was very nice,, and I wish I could have spoken to him afterwards. (I think he was scared off by the british chap who claimed to "know film" and said that Blue Suede synchronized with Christ Mass). He was indeed psycho.
    There were some serious film geeks there, no doubt, and they scare me. Too bad I know more about film than them. They need to get a life, simple as that.

    I'm dismayed that you walked out on Coupling. You missed a hand-painted Brakhage film! He actually painted on the celluloid!

    Get some therapy, Raoul. It sounds like you lost your dog on Friday...
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Ottawa Canada

    Hold on

    I got your number Raoul. I met you at Blunt Bros. Small world...

    I thought you were leaving to go to work!
    You lying bastard....*smiles*
    Just couldn't handle the Brakhage, eh?

    Johann knows Raoul, folks.

    I thought he was someone else. I dragged him to the Brakhage tribute, so I apologize. (He's a fellow Hunter S. Thompson disciple)

    "We were somewhere around Barstow, when the drugs began to take hold..."
    Last edited by Johann; 11-24-2003 at 03:41 PM.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  5. #5
    Raoul Guest

    I remember saying something like -

    I feel a bit light headed, maybe you should drive; and suddenly the sky all around me was full of what looked like huge bats, all screeching and swooping around the car.

    Way to blow my cover. No matter, it couldn't have kept up long anyhow.

    Let me start off by saying that I mean no ill will to any Brakhage fans. Yes, you're geeks. But that's OK. Even that limey asshole who got cross with James Tenny was only being passionate about his art; something that I myself have been guilty of since long ago. A festival of such nature is bound to attract a wide assortment of 'uber' filmsters. Kudos to all of them for showing up.
    As a matter of fact, I did have to go to work. It was one of the weirdest shifts of my life. Truth be known, I decided to quit that night. My decision was in no way a direct relation to the films that I saw that night, but my mindset was and I owe/blame that on/to Stan Brakhage.
    Much thanks to Johan for tiping me off about that mind bending experience. I look forward to a time when I'm able to stomach another Brakhage film.... thirty years from now or so.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Ottawa Canada

    Cazart! Those Swine!

    The films were Better Than Sex.
    I had no Fear.
    I had no Loathing.
    The ballerinas were like Angels.
    Not angels from Hell, tho.
    It was a Campaign to honor Brakhage.
    Those film geeks seemed to be on a Shark Hunt.
    The show had a wide Generation gap...
    30 years? Dude! That sounds like a Lono Curse!

    Cheers Raoul, and I'll see you somewhere on the highway or in a hotel room. Possibly Blunts?
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Ottawa Canada
    I was very saddened today to learn from the Ontario Cinematheque website that Mr. James Tenney died last August.

    I never heard a thing about it.

    I hold that Brakhage tribute I attended very close to my heart.

    I hope you and Stan are collaborating on something up in the spheres, James.

    The art and cinema crowds have lost a great man.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd


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