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May 16 - 18, 2003

DIRECTORS IN FOCUS
Stan Brakhage: In Memoriam

The dean of American experimental filmmakers, Stan Brakhage (1933–2003) created more than 300 films during his half-century engagement with cinema, and in the process he redefined our understanding of the medium. While Brakhage labored in diverse genres—from documentaries and psychodramas to poetic meditations and hand-painted abstractions—his work remains distinctively marked by his gestural camera movements and strikingly handcrafted, manipulated surfaces. For Brakhage, the film image served not merely as a conveyor of representational content or narrative meaning but rather as a record of intensive acts of seeing: "metaphors on vision," as he famously termed his work. Despite the rather private nature of many of his concerns—ironic for an artist working in such an ostensibly public medium—and despite his self-imposed exile in the mountains of Colorado, Brakhage’s figure cast a large shadow across the realms of independent and experimental cinemas worldwide, and his oeuvre represents an exemplary practice unmatched in the history of the medium.

This series is drawn from the HFA collection and includes several prints donated personally by Brakhage.


May 16 (Friday) 7 pm
May 17 (Saturday) 9 pm

Brakhage

Directed by Jim Shedden
Canada 1998, 16mm, b/w and color, 80 min.

Capturing the full arc of Stan Brakhage’s career, this acclaimed film portrait explores the exquisite splendor of the artist’s films while examining the intersections of his art and his life. Curator and critic Shedden mixes candid interviews with Brakhage’s friends, family, colleagues, and critics together with extensive excerpts from the artist’s films and those of his contemporaries. The result is a thoroughly engaging and at times deeply moving examination of the depth and breadth of Brakhage’s art, his personal charm, and his enormous aesthetic influence.

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May 16 (Friday) 7 pm
May 17 (Saturday) 9 pm

The Jesus Trilogy and Coda

US 2001, 16mm, color, silent, 20 min.

One of the last major films completed by Brakhage, this hand-painted series of four linked pieces is a deeply moving work that draws its inspiration from the Passion and concludes with a striking meditation on death.

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May 16 (Friday) 9 pm
May 18 (Sunday) 7 pm

BRAKHAGE SHORT FILMS:

Cat’s Cradle

Directed by Stan Brakhage
US 1959, 16mm, color, silent, 6 min.

This early work presents a lyrical vision of the intersecting lives of two couples and the mediating force of a feline presence.

Night Music

Directed by Stan Brakhage
US 1986, 16mm, color, silent, 30 sec.

Originally painted on IMAX-gauge film, this small work attempts (according to its maker) "to capture the beauty of sadness, as the eyes have it when closed in meditation on sorrow."

Rage Net

Directed by Stan Brakhage
US 1988, 16mm, color, silent, 30 sec.

Another of Brakhage’s works of "moving visual thinking," Rage Net harks back to the vibrant pioneering experiments of European animators Oskar Fischinger and Viking Eggeling.

Window Water Baby Moving

Directed by Stan Brakhage
US 1959, 16mm, color, silent, 12 min.

Perhaps the best known of Brakhage’s films, Window Water Baby Moving captures the birth of Jane and Stan Brakhage’s first child in a home-delivery that paralleled the film’s own resolutely independent, homemade form.

The Garden of Earthly Delights

Directed by Stan Brakhage
US 1981, 35mm, color, silent, 3 min

This cameraless collage work is composed entirely of montane-zone vegetation applied to the filmstrip. It presents a double homage: to Bosch’s celebrated canvas and to the flower paintings of Emil Nolde.

Creation

Directed by Stan Brakhage
US 1979, 16mm, color, silent, 17 min.

One of Brakhage’s most stunning landscape films, Creation is set in a far north wilderness during the transition between the seasons and the surge of life being renewed.

Short Film #1

Directed by Stan Brakhage
US 1975, 16mm, color, silent, 3 min.

The first in a series of untitled short works, this film attempts to visualize Jane Brakhage’s memories through a haunting series of family photographs.

Hymn to Her

Directed by Stan Brakhage
US 1974, 16mm, color, silent, 2.5 min.

A hymn of light, this lyric portrait focuses on "Her" (a reference to both Jane Brakhage and the goddess Hera) and in the process sings "of and to itself."

The Riddle of Lumen

Directed by Stan Brakhage
US 1972, 16mm, color, silent, 17 min.

Brakhage’s version of a structural film, The Riddle of Lumen is constructed as a series of uncanny object lessons on the nature of light.

Blue Moses

Directed by Stan Brakhage
US 1962, 16mm, b/w, 11 min.

This unique work within Brakhage’s oeuvre features the artist in confrontation with the camera eye as he presents a philosophical investigation of the nature of the medium.

Fireloop

Directed by Stan Brakhage
US 1986, 16mm, color, 2.5 min.

Originally created as a special-effect element for a stage production, this hand-painted film presents one of Brakhage’s most vivid "closed-eye envisionments"—here, of "a fire in the mind."

Loud Visual Noises

Directed by Stan Brakhage
US 1986, 16mm, color, 2.5 min.

This vibrant hand-painted film attempted to create a mode of optic feedback generated by the filmmaker’s response to sound.

I . . . Dreaming

Directed by Stan Brakhage
US 1988, 16mm, color, 8 min.

This beautiful film marks a rare use of both music and language to explore aspects of the melancholic and of what Brakhage termed the "senses-of-love as children know."

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May 17 (Saturday) 7 pm

Dog Star Man

Directed by Stan Brakhage
US 1961–64, color, silent, 78 min.

Brakhage’s early masterpiece and an epic of mythopoeic cinema, Dog Star Man is a five-part work that has evoked comparison to Whitman’s Leaves of Grass for its joyous affirmation of life and to the work of the Abstract Expressionists for its painterly handling of movement, light, texture, and form. Brakhage works both behind and in front of the camera, where he periodically appears in the titled role as an Adam in a post-Edenic realm.

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