On March 9, avantgarde filmmaker Stan Brakhage died of cancer at the age of 70, the maker of over 380 non-narrative films. Some of these he hand painted in the tradition of early experimental filmmakers at the turn of the century. His mentors include the Italian neo-realists and Jean Cocteau and as a struggling artist he often spent the night on the couch of his older colleague Maya Deren and was influenced by her carefully planned film poems of dance and ritual. When his first daughter was born in 1959 he made Window Water Baby Moving
(1959). In 23rd Psalm
(1966) he contrasted his life in rural Colorado with scenes of WWII, fulfilling at least in part the prescription for the use of intellectual editing theorized by the turn of the century Russian silent director Sergei Eisenstein. This film caused one to ponder the ramifications of war at a time when the unpopular Vietnam War was in motion.
Dog Star Man
(1964) was Stan's most popular film, and the one we remember him most for. Here through the use of color and painting on film he made a psychedelic film that included inserts of his wife giving birth to another child. George Lukas was inspired by his work. Kind of makes you wonder when you look at the 'Star Wars' trilogy ( and prequels).
Stan Brakhage, a professor at University of Colorado was frequently invited as a guest to other universities and art schools to speak about the power of seeing, and how to deepen the faculties of sight in visual creation. He taught a 2-unit class in experimental film at University of California Riverside at a time when my eyes first opened to the creative possibilities of film. Accessibility and the creative use of the camera and editing were two inroads I received then into a field where we are spoon-fed on scarcity and preconceived ways to make movies. I am glad I had these threads of vision for my work. An upcoming DVD from Criterion will be soon available for those of us who can not get to on-theatrical screenings of Stan's work.
For Movie Magazine, This is Moira Sullivan, Stockholm SWEDEN
© 2003 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 3/03
Stan Brakhage, Creative Filmmaker