989 (121). Toute une nuit / All Night Long (1982, Chantal Akerman)

Screened November 29 on YouTube (thanks to Gina Telaroli for the tip) in Brooklyn NY TSPDT Rank #975  IMDb

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In a way it makes sense that Chantal Akerman's 1982 masterpiece is (for the moment) available on YouTube, because it resembles a fan video compilation of dramatic scenes from the movies, stitched together in one ecstatic montage.  Instead of ripping them from her DVD collection, she's reshot them in her own beloved Brussels. By my count we're looking at 55 dramatic encounters, embraces and separations involving 75 nameless characters, usually in couples, lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes, arranged in loose chronology from anticipatory dusk to weary dawn. It's a puzzle-form film that practically begs to be re-watched and broken down by geeks to find patterns and beguiling inconsistencies - like when a woman checks into a hotel in one scene only to be seen running into the same hotel a few scenes later. Many characters resemble each other in appearance and dress (women in blue dresses, men in white shirts) such that they all bleed into each other - only upon close observation does one realize that only a few characters reappear, and mostly near the end.

This convergence of the universal and the specific is but one of the film's several paradoxes. With it's actors' balletic movements, rushing up and down streets and stairwells, pushing and pulling their partners in bars and bedrooms, it's a musical, except  without music (save the recurring clacking of heels, as irresistible as fate). It depicts a city teeming with human life, energy, lustful passions, yet nearly every figure seems touched with lonely desperation even in their moments of consummation.  Or the way the characters move and speak like automatons following pre-programmed behaviors to express their most selfish desires. Love and lust, so exciting in an isolated moment, so banal in the context of human history, a script that essentially has never changed.

For me, this dialogue between love in the movies and in real life is the film's most beguiling paradox. These fleeting scenes of romantic union and dissolution somehow embody both the larger-than-life drama of movie climaxes (and cliches) and the quotidian pleasure of everyday people-watching. Because these sublime encounters are devoid of the larger narrative granted to movie characters, they become as anonymous as people embracing on the street. The thrill of the movies aren't just on screen, they're everywhere around us, if we have the eyes to see them. This movie grants us that gift.

PART ONE OF TEN:

WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE?

The following citations were counted towards the placement of Toute Une Nuit among They Shoot Pictures Don't They's 1000 Greatest Films:

Berenice Reynaud, Sight & Sound (1992) Helmut W. Banz, Steadycam (2007) Peter Korte, Steadycam (2007) Jim Jarmusch, Premiere: The 1980's Best (1989)

PART TWO OF TEN:

Chantal Akerman said good-bye to minimalism with this 1982 feature, which finds its model less in Michael Snow than MGM musicals. A hot summer night in Brussels is covered in brief narrative fragments centered on couples coming together or breaking up; as the film continues, it acquires an almost choreographic sense of rhythm and space. A real pleasure to watch, though Akerman doesn't skirt the darker implications of this dance of desire.

- Dave Kehr, The Chicago Reader

PART THREE OF TEN:

Chantal Akerman presents a structurally challenging, yet emotionally honest, understatedly humorous, and visually compelling choreography of motion, rhythm, and passion in Toute une nuit. Using short takes, minimal dialogue, and fragmented narrative, Akerman distills the visual narrative into the brief, yet essential moments that define the spectrum of human interaction: separation, attraction, reconciliation, reunion, intimacy, absence, rejection. Filmed as a narcoleptic journey through a sultry and languorous evening in summertime Brussels, Toute une nuit becomes a subtle and relevant validation on the singularity of human existence - a chronicle of the irrepressible passion and vitality that lay beneath the surface of an alienating urban landscape.

- Acquarello, Strictly Film School

PART FOUR OF TEN:

Akerman, the mistress of minimalism, has made her own midsummer night's sex comedy, with a superabundance of stories and a cast of (almost) thousands. The film shows an endless series of brief encounters that take place in Brussels in the course of one delirious, torrid June night, with the twist that each relationship is condensed into a single moment of high melodrama - the coup de foudre, the climax of passion, the end of an affair - with the spectator left to fill in the fictional spaces between scenes. Each couple compulsively plays through the same gestures, each mating rite is a variation on the same theme: repetitions which Akerman uses both as a rich source of comedy and as a device to show erotic desire as a pattern of codes and conventions. Marrying the pleasure of narrative to the purism of the avant-garde, this is her most accessible film to date.

- Time Out

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In Toute une nuit Akerman displays her precision and control as she stages the separate, audience-involving adventures of a huge cast of all ages that wanders out into Brussels byways on a hot, stormy night. In this film, reminiscent of Wim Wenders and his wanderers and Marguerite Duras's inventive sound tracks, choreography, and sense of place, Akerman continues to explore her medium using no conventional plot, few spoken words, many sounds, people who leave the frame to a lingering camera, and appealing images. A little girl asks a man to dance with her, and he does. The filmmaker's feeling for the child and the child's independence can't be mistaken.

- Lilian SchiffFilm Reference.com

PART FIVE OF TEN:

Toute une nuit continues the theme of solitude, as it follows the monotonous sexual encounters of one particular night, as sugested in the film's title. Couples do not get together in All Night Long. Marsha Kinder describes the challenges posed by this film:

"By denying us a single unifying story, by frequently pitting word against image and non-verbal sound, by discouraging us from identifying with any of the anonymous characters, by denying us a single unified subject position... Toute une nuit makes us change the way we read a film."

Gwendolyn Audrey FosterIdentity and memory: the films of Chantal Akerman. SIU Press, 2003. Page 3.

Chantal Akerman's work has a dry, cumulative intensity. Extended takes, fixed frames, and a resolutely frontal camera position efface the conventions of analytic editing; precise and repeated framings are coupled with a consistent focus on single characters and an insistence on time. In the 1970s films, single protagonists propel the narrative through visible displacements (Je tu il elle, 1974, Meetings with Anna, 1978) or increasingly charged stillness (Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai de Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, 1975). This premise is reversed in the '80s work - in Toute une nuit (All night long, 1982), for example, whre Akerman's narrative, though still predicated on accumulation, is spread over multiple episodic threads, as characters couple and decouple according to a logic of the romantic - through longing, sexual desire, boredom...

In Toute une nuit, Akerman passes from the minimalist narratives of her earlier films to her later, idiosyncratic use of the movie-musical form - a natural outgrowth of her attention to the rhythms of gesture and dialogue, and to her transformations of them into an antinaturalistic choreography of concreteness. "No links except a musical one, with recurrences and ruptures," says Akerman of Toute une nuit's fragmentary structure...

Ivone Margulies. Nothing Happens: Chantal Akerman's Hyperrealist Everyday. Duke University Press, 1996. Pages 171-172

PART SIX OF TEN:

Toute Une Nuit exemplifies her fairy tale wish granting on a grand scale. As in the other films, extremes of hunger and appetite, need and excess, too-much and not-enough retrain our senses. Avant-garde filmmaker Anne Severson once made a film of animals running, culled from archive footage, to satisfy her own childhood hunger to see more jungle every time the Hollywood camera returned to Ava Gardner, or some such colonial-abroad star, wiping sweat from her brow. I can imagine Akerman indulging the same hunger for the archetypical movie embrace, that mad dash into (or out of) each other's arms in the cathartic moment of numberless Hollywood or French movies of the thirties. Enter the fairy tale. Akerman stacks her film with these embraces - and virtually nothing else- so that they are totally stripped of psychological definition and narrative meaning. The embraces become, like many of the actions in her films, very nearly existential. They have no meaning beyond their visual literalization. And yet, having given up the expectation of emotional drama, the viewer is rewarded with a semblance of a post-modernist musical in which the tableaux, rhythm of shots, exchanges of looks, even falling of glasses, become a choreographed and scored performance played to the hilt. The film turns itself inside out, embodying a critique of romance and the musical genre all at once.

Akerman adds an extra layer to her metacinema by seeding her films with jokes and references to earlier work. In Toute Une Nuit, Akerman's own mother smokes a cigarette as her daughter cries "Mama on the soundtrack, in a simultaneous invocation of News from Home and Rendez-vous d'Anna's pillow-talk sequence.

B. Ruby RichChick Flicks: Theories and Memories of the Feminist Film Movement. Duke University Press, 1998. Page 172.

PART SEVEN OF TEN:

PART EIGHT OF TEN:

Another beautiful insomniac's journey from Chantal Akerman. Narrative is La Ronde fractured, spun out of dozens of fragments of personal dramas not quite intertwining over a humid, languorous night in oppressively impersonal Brussels. A woman meets her lover in a bar while another couple looks on from a nearby table, separated until a tentative embrace breaks through the symmetry of the frame; a trio splitting leads to another couple dancing around a jukebox in a deserted restaurant; another middle-aged couple decides to go out while a woman packs up her things and takes off while her husband sleeps, and so on into dawn. Huddling actors and non-professionals (the only recognizable one is Aurore Clément, Anna in Les Rendez-vous d'Anna), Akerman grids out a panorama of aching city dwellers stepping into and out of apartments, hooking up or barely missing each other, a rendezvous kept and then broken, each and every affair marinated in its own flavor of heartbreak. Her Brussels is a democratically alienated center, with young and aged, straight and queer, local and immigrant soaking in the heat and suffering through the mysteries of human interaction with delicate variations of an ongoing plaintive murmur ("Come with me. No? ... I don't think we still love each other ... Keep me from drinking. I am scared.") Akerman's framing and panning are as severe as in her previous films, yet the duration of her shots is lighter, more elastic, reflecting the ephemeral feel of the passing fancies she captures -- a notion expressed in the closing passage with sublime consequences for Tsai Ming-liang and Claire Denis, Clément dreamily swaying with her lover through a reverse tracking-shot down a corridor while in the soundtrack their romantic Italian chanson battles it out with the disembodied honking of cars implacably ushering in the early morning, and reality.

Fernando CroceCinePassion

Although Toute Une Nuit is not as personal as Akerman’s most powerful films, her methodic filmmaking, sly humor, and obsession with relationships is firmly on display in her pseduo-conceptual work.Toute Une Nuit, like most Akerman films, contains minimal dialogue, and slowly tracks over two dozen characters as they move around urban Brussels passionately connecting with one another, if only for brief moments. It is hard to imagine Richard Linklater’s great film Slacker working, or even existing, without Chantal Akerman. While Toute Une Nuit is still only available on VHS, it is worth seeking out (and can be found on Amazon for under $5!) It is a good introduction to Akerman’s work (although I think News From Home (1977) would be the best introduction) and has quietly thrilling aspects that have become part of Akerman’s signature voice.

James HansenOut 1

PART NINE OF TEN:

Instead of a safely potted narrative plant, Äkerman gives us a plethora of seemingly random narrative shoots. These bits of life reflect how we experience our own lives. Characters are let go of for a while and picked up again. While her husband soundly sleeps, a woman noisily packs her bag right on the bed and leaves him, goes to a hotel, but returns home at dawn defeated, gets back into bed just in time for the ringing alarm clock to presumably awaken her, as well as him. For years I took exception to this artificial aspect, this miniature story, but now I find that it underscores by contrast the different method of the rest of Äkerman’s formally rigorous yet open-ended film.

- Dennis Grunes

The odd adventure in filmmaking is worth savoring because of its uniqueness, its lingering hypnotic effect, the artistic way all the brief encounters reach a melodramatic moment and in the delicate manner Miss Akerman tells her amorous narrative in an experimental film style. Miss Akerman plays with the same theme for each couple, as the repetition offers both a mix of sad and happy moments. It's surprisingly an accessible film (at least for her), and combines a sense of absurd humor with the erotic. Not a great film, but one that catches your attention.

- Dennis Schwartz, Ozu's World Movie Reviews

PART TEN OF TEN:

The yearning for romance and for the romance of the ordinary is a central ingredient of her work, but the most remarkable moments in her films are those in which her other, demonic impulses rebel against this fantasy. Emblematic in this respect is the ending of Toute une nuit, an insomniac's movie about insomniacs, in which a couple's lovemaking is gradually smothered, and all but obliterated from our attention, by the hectoring sounds of early-morning traffic outside. The tortured aggressiveness of such a moment is finally what her filmmaking is all about--her cold, elegantly symmetrical compositions and brutal sounds being hammered into our skulls with an obstinate will to power that makes Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Peckinpah, and Clint Eastwood all seem like pussycats.

Jonathan RosenbaumThe Chicago Reader, January 26, 1990

ABOUT CHANTAL AKERMAN

IMDb  Wiki

The following quotes are found on the TSPDT Profile Page for Chantal Akerman:

"At the age of fifteen Chantal Akerman saw Godard's Pierrot le fou and realized that filmmaking could be experimental and personal. She dropped in and out of film school and has since created short and feature films for viewers who appreciate the opportunity her works provide to think about sounds and images. Her films are often shot in real time, and in space that is part of the characters' identity." - Lillian Schiff (The St. James Film Directors Encyclopedia, 1998)

"Belgian-born director who makes long, often tedious, but sometimes hypnotically watchable arthouse films in which the camera's concentration on scenes for a long period of time can turn the viewer's pleasure into discomfort, interest into boredom or disinterest into perception. A unique film-maker, she continues to alternately baffle and fascinate her audiences." - David Quinlan (Quinlan's Film Directors, 1999)

"Independent filmmaker noted for her minimalist narratives and static visual style...Her films, often dramatically vague and nearly plotless, typically seek to explore human emotion and character through unorthodox cinematic means. Although she is admired by serious critics, her films are barely accessible to general audiences.." - (The MacMillan International Film Encyclopedia, 1994)

On one hand, the films of the 39-year-old Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman are about as varied as anyone could wish. Some are in 16-millimeter and some are in 35; some are narrative and some are nonnarrative; the running times range from 11 minutes to 205. The genres range from autobiography to personal psychodrama to domestic drama to comedy to musical to documentary to feature-in-progress--a span that still fails to include a silent, not-exactly-documentary study of a run-down New York hotel (Hotel Monterey), a vast collection of miniplots covering a single night in a city (Toute une nuit), and a feature-length string of Jewish jokes recited by immigrants in Brooklyn exteriors (Food, Family and Philosophy), among other oddities.

On the other hand, paradoxically, there are few important contemporary filmmakers whose range is as ruthlessly narrow as Akerman's, formally and emotionally. Virtually all of her films, regardless of genre, come across as melancholy, narcissistic meditations charged with feelings of loneliness and anxiety; and nearly all of them have the same hard-edged painterly presence and monumentality, the same precise sense of framing, locations, and empty space. Most of them are fundamentally concerned with the discomfort of bodies in rooms. (Akerman is basically geared toward interiors, which may be one reason her latest feature, Food, Family and Philosophy, set mostly in exteriors, is not one of her strongest. The fact that virtually all of Window Shopping, her musical, is set inside a shopping mall sets up an interesting ambiguity about whether one is inside or out--until the shock of the ending, when the film finally moves out into the open air.)

If I have a reputation for being difficult, it's because I love the everyday and want to present it. In general people go to the movies precisely to escape the everyday.

--Chantal Akerman

A yearning for the ordinary as well as the everyday runs through Akerman's work like a recurring, plaintive refrain. It is a longing that takes many forms: part of it is simply her ambition to make a commercially successful movie; another part is the desire of a self-destructive, somewhat regressive neurotic--Akerman herself in Saute ma ville, Je tu il elle, and The Man With a Suitcase; Delphine Seyrig in Jeanne Dielman; Aurore Clement in Les rendezvous d'Anna--to go legit and be like "normal" people. Je tu il elle and Les rendezvous d'Anna both feature a bisexual heroine who wants to either resolve an unhappy relationship with another woman or to go straight; in Saute ma ville, Je tu il elle, Jeanne Dielman, and The Man With a Suitcase, the desire to be "normal" is largely reflected in the efforts of the heroine simply to inhabit a domestic space.

- Jonathan Rosenbaum, The Chicago Reader, January 26, 1990

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Akerman's defiance of cinematic conventions - not just the faster takes but the intrusive soundtracks, the constant visual fidgeting, the tendentious editing - has something liberating about it. Her approach, characterized by extreme restraint, makes you aware of just how manipulative, even bullying these conventions can be, though we rarely give them a second thought.

Her own slow style discourages the suspension of disbelief, allowing the mind time and space to roam, to contemplate, to question. Of course, her style can also frustrate. Akerman toys deliberately with our desire to know more, to see more, to glean a plot or grasp what is going on. Her strategy can make you resentful, but it also creates tension.

- Sebastian Smee, The Boston Globe, June 8 2008

What has made Chantal Akerman such an important part of world cinema has been her ability to raise, across a wide variety of forms, common questions that touch the core of both cinematic aesthetics and feminist political practice. The flexibility she has exhibited over the years should confirm her status not as a progressively more compromised filmmaker, but as an artist committed enough to ask questions in different idioms, instead of piously relying on one (supposedly) politically or aesthetically purified form, as so many members of both the political and romantic avant-gardes have.

- Jerry White, "Chantal Akerman's Revisionist Aesthetic." From Women and Experimental Filmmaking, edited by Jean Petrolle, Virginia Wright Wexman. University of Illinois Press, 2005. Page 47.

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959 (101). The Hart of London (1970, Jack Chambers)

screened Thursday March 11 2009 on DVD via fileshare in Weehawken NJ TSPDT rank #511  IMDb Wiki

While the link between experimental and horror filmmaking remains largely under-examined, there's no question that some of the great works of experimental cinema could double as outstanding horror films: Peter Tscherkassky's Outer Space (which commits unspeakable acts on footage from the 80s horror flick The Entity), numerous titles by Stan Brakhage (i.e. The Art of Vision; The Act of Seeing with One's Own Eyes), even Michael Snow's Wavelength exudes an existential nausea in stillness that anticipates Kiyoshi Kurosawa by a few decades. While horror films typically depict violence in cinema, these avant-garde works, especially Jack Chamber's deeply disturbing 1970 film, commit violence on cinema, doing things to the celluloid medium that can leave both the viewer and the art form traumatically transformed. In The Hart of London, the horror erupts from the clash of human civilization and the great unknown that envelops it: an endless, brutal battle waged on multiple fronts: past vs. present, man vs. animal, wilderness vs. domesticity, surfaces vs. essences.

The film kicks off with a beautiful slow-mo shot of a hart deer leaping out of a forest into the town of London, Ontario, where most of the film's footage was shot. It's capture and killing at the hands of the locals sets off a snowstorm of archival photos and film footage, a cinematic blizzard superimposed double exposures, horizontal flips and negative inversions. Chambers' achievement here is in making the most innocuous footage of small town Canada seem foreign and menacing, a frontier past whose contentious relationship with its environs belie the civic aspirations of its archival imagery. This maelstrom is set to a relentless soundtrack of crashing waves whose initial aural violence gradually settles the viewer into its steady rhythm.

The surf sounds eventually give way to the gentler but no less incessant gurgle of tidepools, introducing the film's singularly most disturbing passage, where images of  children alternate with footage of sheep being slaughtered, a stunning juxtaposition of humankind's aspiring mastery over life and death. Chambers orchestrates these dual modes into a flow made possible by the tidepool soundtrack and liquid superimpositions of body parts, vegetation and bodily fluids. A recurring theme of cutting recurs through footage of an infant circumcision, shrubbery being trimmed by giant scissors and a slaughterhouse worker sticking his blade through the necks of sheep, which segues to more brutal, bloody footage of an infant child yanked from a womb. Children frolicking in a too-blue swimming pool interspersed with blood red footage of aborted sheep fetuses (some indiscernible from human counterparts) and a heap of freshly-disemboweled sheep intestines still writhing in digestive activity.

The film's last movement seems satirically vicious with its leering portrayals of domestic life: Canadians engaged in idiotic lawn games like barrel boxing; posing with their gardens or with a trespassing wolf they've killed; pointing at family photos and showing off caged canaries. Despite all the brutality that Chambers has envisioned up to this point, he seems to find these images of safe human home life just as horrifying in their own, somewhat lobotomized way, and in no way reassuring from what lurks beyond their papered walls. The final images of Chambers' own children approaching wild deer at the edge of a park, as their mother repeatedly hisses "You have to be very careful," leaves the viewer hanging in a tense, perpetual stalemate between mankind and the world around him.

THE HART OF LONDON is viewable in its entirety on YouTube

THE HART OF LONDON PART ONE (scroll down for other parts)

WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE?

THE HART OF LONDON PART TWO

This rarely screened 1970 film by Jack Chambers is one of the cinema’s strangest masterpieces, mixing poetic and documentary footage to ponder the clash between nature and civilization. With its raw nervous energy, its juxtaposition of color with black and white, and its peculiar array of imagery (the birth of a baby, the slaughter of sheep, the filmmaker mowing his lawn, a field being plowed, dense superimpositions of images that sometimes bleach to near white), The Hart of London recalls an earlier oddball masterpiece, Christopher Maclaine’s The End (1953). Chambers’s film begins with news footage that shows a hart prancing through backyards in London, Ontario, in 1954; its pursuers capture and kill it, and that disturbing scene echoes throughout. In the first half, poetic superimpositions of London create an odd mix of seduction and rebuff, and in the second, Chambers mixes his own footage with news cinematography, suggesting that we’ve reduced both ourselves and nature to images not unlike store-window displays. Chambers, who was diagnosed with leukemia the same year he began the project, once said that the film was about “generation,” and the cycles of life and death are ever present.

- Fred Camper, The Chicago Reader

THE HART OF LONDON PARTS THREE AND FOUR

The Hart of London combines archival newsreels with original footage while adding an undercurrent of simmering violence to the mix. Superimposing found images of a deer being trapped and killed in downtown London with antiquated images of the city in industrial transition (trolleys and automobiles share the street with horse-drawn carriages), Chambers re-creates an urban history that is original, expansive, and severe. As a parallel to the thematic motif of the persecuted deer, Chambers introduces chilling colour footage of lambs being slaughtered (photographed on a return visit to Spain) at the film's midway point. Chambers writes, "In the second part of the film [these slaughterhouse] images become symbolic of the pursuit and death of the deer. This theme is repeated again and again in the real images of everyday life."  These "real images" include several staged, mechanical spectacles (a teenager diving into an icy river, crowds gathering to observe a brush fire), as well as repetitive, banal daily activities (a man trimming his hedges, Chambers cutting his lawn). The consistent tension generated and sustained over the course of its demanding length, without the aid of musical cues or voice-over exposition, demonstrates why The Hart of London is considered Chambers' greatest cinematic achievement. Fred Camper, for instance, identifies The Hart of London as "one of those rare films that succeeds precisely because of its sprawl."  Stan Brakhage, meanwhile, has described The Hart of London as one of "the few GREAT films of all cinema - 'great' in the meaning of the word which suggests the breadth and depth it contains within the length it supports."

Brett KashmereSenses of Cinema Great Directors biography
THE HART OF LONDON PARTS FIVE AND SIX
The Hart of London combines archival newsreels with original footage while adding an undercurrent of simmering violence to the mix. Superimposing found images of a deer being trapped and killed in downtown London with antiquated images of the city in industrial transition (trolleys and automobiles share the street with horse-drawn carriages), Chambers re-creates an urban history that is original, expansive, and severe.
Through the course of the film, man encroaches on nature from every angle. People emerge from underground transport, parachutes fall from the sky and bridges cross water. Even children make sand castles on the beach preparing for the next image of concrete buildings. In the final analysis, nature seems to confront London’s inhabitants as an enigma or threat. At the film’s very end, children (Jack Chamber’s own) approach a hart with food, and their mother whispers warnings; the animal as object, filmed from afar, suffers from a perceptual uncertainty. In the case of a dead wolf, its hunters turn it into their image and have it wave and greet their woman at home, like a man returned from the woods.
While man thrusts himself on the environment, containing it and turning it into his image, Chambers treatment of the filmed image creates a fracture between the filmed and the ‘film’. His jarring superimposition of positive and negative creates particularly interesting deployments of light. In the case of newsreel footage of a horse and cart ploughing the field, he overlays a positive and negative of the same image, and only a small time displacement between the images makes the superimposition readable.Whilst light in cinema creates image and thus life, here Chambers acknowledges this but pushes further asking what it is interpret and recognize, unlike the objective view as propagated by the newsreels he uses and subverts to this end.
THE HART OF LONDON PARTS SEVEN EIGHT AND NINE
Speaking to writer Avis Lang (whose article is reprinted in a 1984 issue of the Capilano Review), Chambers said that The Hart of London is about “generation.” The filmmaker was diagnosed with leukemia in 1969, the year he began work on the film, which might explain its numerous disasters and frequent juxtapositions of life and death. But there are other major threads as well. Like many avant-garde films it explores objective versus subjective perception, and Chambers also suggests that all things are mystically unified by light. His theme that we’re alienated from nature is hardly novel, but it’s intertwined with a brilliant analysis of how news cinematography caters to the viewer’s voyeurism.
Every other major sequence in the film recapitulates the opening’s tension between nature and humanity. About midway through, Chambers juxtaposes two aerial shots: the first shows a few swimmers dispersed across a body of water, the image crisp and high contrast; the second, clearly news footage shot from a passing airplane, records a catastrophic flood, homes surrounded by water in lower-contrast gray. Later in the film, possibly staging a publicity stunt for news cameras, a young man swims across an icy river in winter, until he’s forced out and hustled into a van by police, captured just like the hart. Next Chambers shows victims of some sort of bombing or mine collapse being led from a hole in the ground, the newsman’s lens treating them not as humans but as just another parade for the viewer’s entertainment. In yet another sequence an extremely lush close-up fills the frame with leaves before a focus change reveals a pair of metal clippers trimming the plants; they emerge so gently that one has to wonder if our very conception of nature is shaped by our desire to alter it for display. Near the end of the film Chambers appears trimming his lawn with a power mower, and the rectangular lawns stretching out behind him remind us that we all play a role in carving up nature.
As part of his attempt to deal with the unruly sprawl of life, Chambers embraces contradiction. Perhaps the most dramatic example occurs when he cuts from black-and-white footage of a baby being born to color footage of lambs being slaughtered, the latter shot during a return visit to Spain. The Christian symbolism may seem blatant, yet by juxtaposing color with black and white Chambers startles the viewer, short-circuiting the most obvious interpretation. Writing in Artscanada in October 1969 and December 1972, Chambers described his work as “perceptual realism” and later “perceptualism”; his writings are dense and theoretical, but apparently he wanted to prolong the moment of perception before a person interprets what he sees, placing him in “a state of receptive passivity that somehow releases a higher...sense.” By opening himself up to such “wonder,” a viewer might be able to “perceive the Invisible Body ‘behind’ the world.”
An early script for The Hart of London included images of Christ descending from heaven, yet Chambers’s work also seems related to gnosticism, a connection one might infer from his statement that reality is “an invisible pattern of energy which in its attenuated, material form becomes trees, river, people, sky.” The Hart of London seems to set up a similar dialogue between objects and light: dense superimpositions occasionally bleach almost to white, which contrasts image as the container of a recognizable object with image as pure light. Many of the images are of London, including a man with a rifle (echoing the capture of the hart) and an imposing grid of windows from a downtown building. Trees may “attenuate” reality, but human constructions are even more severe.
Chambers aggressively managed his own medical care and lived until 1978, yet The Hart of London reveals a heightened awareness of human vulnerability in the face of nature—the sequence of Chambers cutting his lawn is followed by an aerial shot of stone ruins. And in the film’s penultimate scene, home-movie-style footage that Chambers shot himself, two deer stand by a fence in the London zoo; they aren’t wild, but Chambers’s two young sons approach cautiously while on the sound track their mother repeatedly whispers, “You have to be very careful.” They succeed in feeding the deer, and afterward Chambers pans from a river up to the sky, ending with a view of pure natural light. While Avis Lang takes these last two scenes as optimistic assertions that “the world is a miracle,” the whisper hints that the deer may be dangerous, and more than once the film’s editing has transformed benign activities into disasters. The world may be “full of wonder,” in Chambers’s phrase, but it also has the potential to kill us.
- Fred Camper, from his feature review for The Chicago Reader.  An even longer review exists on Camper's website.

ABOUT JACK CHAMBERS

Wiki

Jack Chambers is one of Canada’s most famous and greatest living painters. Why then have his films been as neglected as they have been? I feel that it is because his films do not arise as an adjunct to his painting (as is true in the case of most other painter film-makers) but that, rather, Jack Chambers has realized the almost opposed aesthetics of paint and film and has created a body of moving pictures so crucially unique as to fright paint buffery: thus his films have inherited a social position kin to that of the films of Joseph Cornell in this country. The fact is that four films of Jack Chambers have changed the whole history of film, despite their neglect, in a way that isn’t possible within the field of painting. There are no ‘masters’ of film in any significant sense whatsoever. There are only ‘makers’ of film in the original, or at least medieval, sense of the word. Jack Chambers is a true ‘maker’ of films. He needs no stance, or standing, for he dances attendance upon the coming-into-being of something recognizably new: (and as all is new, always, one must question the veracity of all works, whatever medium, which beseem everything but that truth).”

- Stan Brakhage

Jack Chambers is a renowned realist artist, whose notion of perception as a synthetic experience was formally expressed in a distinctive collage style of filmmaking. Through this style, he influenced the development of the diary and landscape film. In 1969, his aesthetic manifesto, Perceptual Realism, affirmed his belief in art as an intuitive but mediated response to the unity underlying all things. It also confirmed his preference for the photograph as a memory-aid as it preserved the original image without distortion.

Chambers, as a painter, was formally trained in traditional art making. From 1954 to 1959 he attended Madrid’s Escuela Central de Bellas Artes de San Fernando where he excelled as a student, winning the state prize for painting and the Paular Scholarship for landscape painting. He chose to study in Europe because he felt constrained by London’s conservative environment and the inadequacies of his local technical school, H.B. Beal. In his 1978 autobiography, he wrote, “I could only go so far with what I was doing... coming to the same deadend again and again.”

Spanish culture exerted a major influence on Chambers, and many aspects of his work reflect this influence: the preoccupation with death and recollection, the surrealist challenge to the normality of surface reality, an appreciation for light’s revelatory power and references to Catholic iconography. Other influences include mysticism, especially the writings of Saint Teresa of Avila; the occult and parapsychology, where notions of an underlying life force or energy binds all things together. All of these ideas contributed to Chambers’ belief in the visionary nature of the artistic experience. For him, the moment of individual self-awareness when “our souls and the souls of things become present to one another” encompassed myriad associations, past and present, which took the form of temporal and spatial disruptions in his artwork.

Chambers might have settled permanently in Spain, but he returned home in 1961 because of a family illness. His encounter with the landscapes of his youth and the memories it engendered had a powerful effect on him: “The memory of such places multiplied the longer I remained so near them, and the images wedded to their presence surfaced in me like the faces of long lost friends.” He realized his representations of Spanish culture would never possess the same resonance, and so he returned to London.

Collage artist Greg Curnoe, Chambers’ closest friend, recalled that Chambers started using a 16mm camera in 1964 to explore the London landscape. In an interview with arts reporter Lenore Crawford in 1969, Chambers remarked on how film was a liberating influence: “After I shot hundreds of feet of film and then edited it to eliminate the non-essentials, I realized what I needed and what I could leave out of a painting.... A painting doesn’t need to tell a story of any kind. It can be appreciated for what’s in it. There doesn’t even have to be relation of objects.” This statement describes his films equally well.

Chambers’ reputation as a film artist is based on the five works he completed between 1966 and 1970: Mosaic (1964–1966), Hybrid (1967), R34 (1967), Circle (1968–1969) and The Hart of London (1968–1970). A mixture of newsreel footage, home movies and photographs, these films reject the notion of linear time, characteristic of popular cinema, because Chambers thought the narrative illusions that resulted misrepresented the true character of human perception.

Using various montage strategies — semantic and formal — his films invest the viewing experience with a sense of “presentness,” so that individuals undergo the same process of self-awareness as Chambers (confrontation of the fragility of domestic happiness, the brutality of human nature, the challenges of artistic ambition, the inevitability of death).

- Kathryn Elder, The Film Reference Library

Elder is the author of The Films of Jack Chambers. Published by Indiana University Press, 2003

The paltry critical recognition afforded Jack Chambers' films in the '60s and '70s by Canada's film intelligentsia is typical of the avant-garde's marginalised status during its formative period. It should not be surprising, therefore, that most of the criticism of Chambers' film work of that time was published in visual art periodicals such as Canadian Art, artscanada and Artmagazine, and usually integrated with commentary on painting. Barry Lord, writing in artscanada, suggests that Chambers' films have "begun to recapitulate the development of his paintings." Gene Youngblood, also in artscanada, states that "Chambers, in my estimation one of the most important painters at work today, manages to invest his films with that special quality of 'cosmic fantasy' that characterizes his paintings." Mario Amaya, in a review of Chambers' paintings published in Art in America, observes that Circle "approximates the analysis of changing light on a particular subject that so obsessed Monet." ) The expansion of Chambers' formal and thematic concerns from painting into filmmaking is also the theoretical underpinning of Bruce Elder's detailed analysis of Circle. His essay "From Painting into Cinema" is the most thorough and convincing example of this approach so far. By expounding on Chambers's period of silver paintings (1966/67) as a key transitional passage in the development of his cinematic interests, Elder cogently traces the artist's preoccupation with light and time as manifested in Circle, and investigates the Romantic character of Chambers' ideas about art, nature and perception, as set out in his artistic manifesto "Perceptual Realism," showing how these ideas, too, find a precise articulation in Circle.

Jack Chambers' position in the Canadian avant-garde cinema of the 1960s can be assessed by reference to the changing contours of Canadian cultural policy around the time of Expo 67 (held in Montreal). Other factors, such as the Canada Council's financial commitment to experimental film beginning in 1967, the emergence of the campus underground as a viable alternative exhibition network, the establishment of Canadian Artists' Representation (CAR), also in 1967, and the development of independent film distribution cooperatives in Toronto, London, Montreal and Vancouver late in the '60s, all helped to determine the practical conditions necessary for a sustainable Canadian avant-garde cinema.

Since the avant-garde cinema was proposing a new kind of film, a new kind of viewing environment was also necessary. The 16mm projection equipment that had been integrated into schools and universities during the 1950s helped to provide an exhibition and distribution network for the Canadian avant-garde in the 1960s: college campuses essentially began to function as a ready-made parallel theatre chain. Chambers' primary motivation for forming the London Film Co-op in 1968 was to get his films distributed. In the 1960s, thanks in part to the New American Cinema's breakthrough success (not to mention Andy Warhol's international celebrity), screenings of avant-garde films on Canadian university campuses became quite common. Through these screenings, Canadian film experimentalists such as Chambers had an opportunity to network with and gain knowledge from their American opposite numbers. Chambers was especially influenced by Stan Brakhage's work; Brakhage's Window Water Baby Moving (1959) has been cited as a primary inspiration for Chambers' first film, Mosaic. Brakhage was also instrumental in getting Chambers' films some distribution in the United States, initiating Chambers' first American screening, held on November 15, 1977 at Pacific Film Archive. However, because Chambers was unable to travel due to his deteriorating health and myriad artistic commitments, his films were, even then, seldom noticed beyond the occasional passing references in film festival or visual art overviews. The contrast between Brakhage's ubiquitous presence and Chambers' near absence (except close to home) on the late '60s university circuit helps explain why Chambers' films were not more widely seen and, therefore, written about.

The emergence of the campus underground, coupled with the establishment of film co-operatives like Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre, London Film Co-op, the Intermedia Film Co-op (Vancouver), and the Independent Film Makers Co-op (Montreal), allowed an effective system of distribution to develop; this network of parallel co-ops also helped to establish lines of communication between filmmakers in different parts of the country who would otherwise not have had means of contact. Jack Chambers' pioneering involvement with CAR, a national arts service organisation founded on Chambers belief in "fair exchange: payment for services," assured that filmmakers would eventually be compensated for the exhibition and reproduction of their work. It was within this cultural-historical milieu that Chambers worked to unite the various aspects of what remains Canada's experimental film apparatus.

His most decisive contribution to the development of a sustained, alternative Canadian cinema, however, was in the films he made, expanding on his own artistic strategies and concerns. As an early predecessor of subjective autobiography, Chambers' work anticipates the first-person, diary strain that surfaced in Canadian avant-garde film during the 1960s and '70s, emerging simultaneously in films such as Chambers' Mosaic and Circle, Watersark (Joyce Wieland, 1965), and personal documentaries made by the NFB experimentalist Derek May. (21) The traces of this impressionistic diary mode can be located in a wide range of later films including House Movie (Rick Hancox, 1972), The Art of Worldly Wisdom (Bruce Elder, 1979), The Road Ended at the Beach (Phillip Hoffman, 1983), Was (Mike Hoolboom, 1989), and You Take Care Now (Ann Marie Fleming, 1989). And the integration of quotidian subject matter and amateur tactics into film texts and formal repertoire, by, respectively, Chambers and Wieland, effaced the boundary between avant-garde film and "home movie." Films such as Nursing History (Marian McMahon, 1989), Girl from Mouch (Gariné Torossian, 1993), Zyklon Portrait (Elida Schogt, 1999), and What these ashes wanted (Phillip Hoffman, 2001) testify to the enduring influence of Chambers and Wieland on the fusion of art and life in Canadian first-person cinema.

- Brett Kashmere, Senses of Cinema Great Directors biography

942 (84). The Art of Vision (1965, Stan Brakhage)

screened December 22 2008 on 16mm at the MoMA Media Study Center TSPDT rank #677 IMDb

In some ways, Stan Brakhage's 4-plus hour magnum opus isn't so much an epic of experimental cinema as the most intensely comprehensive horror movie that hardly anyone has seen. It's a horror of metaphysical proportions: its five-part structure takes universal elements of existence and renders them into a symphony of shock visuals inducing a state of alienated perception.  Brakhage's exhaustive vision summons a bracing repertoire of filming and editing techniques, including whip pans, color tints, lens distortions, and scratched and painted frames. Assaulting and enthralling, this technique calls attention to the celluloid medium existing almost independently of the real world, and impels an ethos of seeing for seeing's sake.

The Prelude launches a barrage of images of the natural world chopped and decontextualized into a stream of organic gibberish. It's a ruthless effort to deprogram viewers from their anchoring in narrative and divorce vision from cognition, replacing meaning with the sheer sensory power of image-in-itself.  It's somewhat puzzling that he follows this brazen opening with Part I, which teases a basic narrative of Brakhage arduously scaling a snowy mountain, suggesting a symbolic struggle of everyday life. Part II returns to a more abstract representation, intercutting shots of an infant with flashes of the world around it: the bewilderment of childhood, naked and exposed to a fearsomely vast universe.

Part III, the most wildly sensual section, can stand on its own as one of the longest and strangest sexual acts ever committed to celluloid. Sex is conveyed not through literal intercourse but through lingering close-ups of skin and hair, lurid orange and blue tinted glimpses of naked flesh writhing in fluid, and nauseating shots of guts being torn apart, conveying both a physical and emotional rending of self in the throes of erotic passion.  It's charged with both excitement and dread, horrified and inflamed by sex as an act of both love and violence.

Part IV seems to end over and over in a relentless loop, repeatedly showing Brakhage hacking away at a tree with an ax, existence as a restless cycle of debilitation slowly winding down to death, while flashing to distorted shots of body parts, landscapes and scratched and painted celluloid. In the end, there is only the work as a remnant of life's toil and suffering, whose value amounts to nothing more than fiery embers eagerly consuming its own existence.

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The following citations were counted towards the placement of The Art of Vision on the TSPDT list of 1000 Greatest Films:

Annette Michelson, Sight & Sound (1992) Jonas Mekas, Sight & Sound (1992) Michael Tolkin, Sight & Sound (1992) Paul Arthur, Village Voice (1999) Yoel Meranda, The Cinematheque Top 10 Project (2007) They Shoot Pictures Recommended Films

Stan Brakhage, 37, a husky hypochondriac who lives with his wife and five children in a log cabin in Colorado, has radically rewritten movie grammar. By fragmenting his films into frames, Brakhage has established the frame in cinema as equivalent to the note in music; whereupon he proceeds to make films with frames the way a composer makes music with notes. His Art of Vision, an attempt to do for cinema what Bach did for music with his Art of the Fugue, is an ambitious example of what Brakhage calls retinal music. One problem: to watch the violently flickering flick for 4½ hours, a spectator would require steel eyeballs.

- from "Art of Light & Lunacy: The New Underground Films," Time Magazine, February 17, 1967

The Art of Visionis a film that can change our whole ideas about the relationship of seeing, perception, and emotion with the preoccupations of the mind and the subconscious. The immediate effect of seeing the film for the first few times is to discover oneself infinitely more sensitive to the meanings inherent in our perceptions of the physical qualities of everyday objects. To put it bluntly, Brakhage has shown the value and meaning of real seeing. The manner in which we perceive the physical structure of the world around us determines our view of that world. This is the principle on which all great films have been based. But it has never been clearer than in The Art of Vision.

- Fred Camper, from his indispensible introduction to The Art of Vision, first published in Film Culture 46, Autumn 1967

The Art Of Vision, which is made up of Dog Star Man , has a rather elaborate structure of relationships, and it is these interrelationships that make up the content of the film. The basic action is Brakhage himself portraying a woodsman with an axe, climbing a mountain with a tree, followed by his dog. He plants the tree, then tears it down and chops it up. But the things that are filmed mean far more to Brakhage. He has said, "I saw the whole forest in relation to the history of architecture, particularly religious architecture, at least in the western world. Sensing structure, architecture, history of the world emerging, I began seeing prismatic happenings through snow falling, etc., and in relation to stained glass windows, for one example." Another example of symbolism is the white tree, of which Brakhage said: "There are other kinds of white trees (there can be a silver tree) but if it's a white tree, then in the mind it's a dead tree." During the film, Brakhage journeys up the mountain, this is another gesture of symbolism, perhaps of conquest or exploration. His battle with the dog possible represents man coping with beast. The man is Brakhage himself-- he is his own alter ego. This symbolic complexity, of which Brakhage has a reason for every fragment, is combined with an attempt to illustrate the dream process. Apart from the natural abstraction of hand painting, everything else in the film is "hyperconscious." In essence, "The Art of Vision" is composed of the sum total of Brakhage's own accumulated experience from what he sees and how he lives, to what he has read.

- Pip Chodorov with quotes from Film Is by Dwoskin pp. 150-151, posted by Roger Raymond Jr.

Really when I had the sense of being finished with this work was when the four and one-half hour work got a title separate from the seventy-five minute Dog Star Man composite. That happened when I visited the Kellys. We looked at all that material in order I had given it. The morning after we had seen the whole thing, [Richard] Kelly said at breakfast: "It seems to me you ought to read a life of Johann Sebastian Bach." We took another couple of sips of coffee, and I thought, "Un-humm, well, that would be a good thing to do." Then suddenly he came out with: "Well, to get that sense of form whereby a whole work can exist in the center of another work, or spiral out into pieces in another work, as in Baroque music, and that second arrangement be another piece entirely." I said: "Well, you mean like - but that isn't exactly what happens in The Art of the Fugue, but something like that." Suddenly he came out with: "Why don't you call it The Art of Vision?" Immediately that seemed to me a completely perfect thing to do.

- Brakhage, interviewed by P. Adams Sitney. Published in Sitney, Visionary Film: The American Avant-garde, 1943-2000. Published by Oxford University Press US, 2002. Page 204.

An art of vision possible in a medium that has dominated our century and that herewith frees itself from dependence on all other art forms. Film has tended, even in the most experimental contexts, to be a composite of literary and plastic arts, dance and music, the eye at the mercy of intention, culture, pretense, and imitations. Now Brakhage's Art of Vision exists utterly free of all that. It is a totality of making so intense it becomes a systematic exploration of the forms and terms of the medium itself. To explore the form without exhausting the form: A definitive making in any art is the health of the whole art, of the arts. Art in its oldest sense is skill, skill of making; The Art of Vision is the skill of making seeing. The Art of Vision, The Art of The Fugue, a presumptuous comparison only so long as we accord film only evidential value. This film makes immediate the integrity of the medium. Climax of the edited film, a new continent of the eye's sway. Mind at the mercy of the eye at last.

- Richard Kelly, "On the Art of Vision." From Stan Brakhage: Filmmaker. Edited by David E. James. Published by Temple University Press, 2005. p. 32

What interested me most about "The Art of Vision" was the effect the repetition of the images had on my mind. It was, in itself, a metaphor for seeing.

When an image is repeated many times, superimposed with different shots, and each time put into a totally different "context" by the shots preceding them, it is impossible to not realize how our seeing is affected by the state of our brains. The experience of the image is completely different each time it is shown and to realize of our ability to experience such different feelings towards the same "thing" is simply mind opening.

"Dog Star Man" is one of my favorite films, although I have seen it only on DVD. I also had the chance to inspect it frame by frame many times, which I'm sure added a lot to its pleasure. Watching "The Art of Vision" was completely different partly because of what I have mentioned above.

Also, I knew a bit about the film's structure but for some reason I thought the last reel of "Dog Star Man" would climb to a climax at the end, the individual rolls followed by more and more complicated superimpositions. I was wrong, of course, Brakhage knows much better than that. The sense of that amazingly beautiful 4-reel superimposition decomposing helps the film blend into the daily life, something very rare in cinema.

- Yoel Meranda, posted on a_film_by

About Stan Brakhage

The center of Brakhage's theoretical discourse was always the poetics of vision. In his later formulations, he used the phrase "moving visual thinking" to denote the incessant moiling of the optical matrices that ground all acts of seeing (even in sleep), which he repeatedly insisted are prior to and beyond the reach of language. His first dramatic act of artistic self-incarnation, at the age of seventeen, was to throw away his glasses. Here's what he told interviewer Scott MacDonald:

One time, an optician, on looking into my eyes, said, "Well, by your eyes, physically, you shouldn't even be able to see that chart on the wall, let alone read it. But, on the other hand, I have never seen a human eye with more rapid saccadic movements. What you must be doing is rapidly scanning and putting this picture together in your head." ... I wasn't trying to invent new ways of being a filmmaker, that was just a byproduct of my struggle to come to a sense of sight.

- P. Adams Sitney, from his eulogy for Brakhage, Artforum, 2003

Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception. How many colors are there in a field of grass to the crawling baby unaware of "Green?" How many rainbows can light create for the untutored eye? How aware of variations in heat waves can that eye be? Imagine a world alive with incomprehensible objects and shimmering with an endless variety of movement and innumerable gradations of color. Imagine a world before the "beginning was the word."

To see is to retain- to behold. Elimination of all fear is in sight - which must be aimed for. Once vision may have been given - that which seems inherent in the infant's eye, an eye which reflects the loss of innocence more eloquently than any other human feature, an eye which soon learns to classify signts - an eye which mirrors the movement of the individual toward death by its increasing inability to see.

But one can never go back, not even in imagination. After the loss of innocence, only the ultimate of knowledge can balance the wobbling pivot. Yet I suggest that there is a pursuit of knowledge foreign to language and founded upon visual communication, demanding a development of the optical mind, and dependent upon perception in the original and deepest sense of the word.

- Brakhage, from "Metaphors of Vision." Published in Religion, Art, and Visual Culture: A Cross-cultural Reader, edited by S. Brent Plate. Published by Macmillan, 2002. Page 46.

Brakhage's great subject was light itself, its infinite varieties seen as manifestations of unbounded and unrestricted energy and its concretization into objects representing the trapping of that energy, and his great desire was to make cinema equal to the other arts by using that which was uniquely cinematic — by organizing light in the time and space of the projected image — in a way that would be worthy, structurally and aesthetically, of the poetry, painting, and music that most inspired him. The subtleties of his work, the intricacy with which he used composition and color and texture and rhythm, resulted in films that

Chartres Series
strip from Chartres Series courtesy: The Estate of Stan Brakhage and Fred Camper (www.fredcamper.com).

virtually demand multiple viewings. The best known and most important of avant-garde filmmakers, he was also in my estimation among the half-dozen greatest filmmakers in the history of the medium — and, as I believe time will establish, one of the very greatest artists of the 20th century in any medium.

His central achievement is often seen as the personalizing of the medium, his transformation of the projected image away from the relatively neutral record of the world to which documentaries aspire to an expression of an individual's emotions, ideas, dreams, fantasies, visions, eye-music, closed-eye seeing, and nightmares. To achieve this transformation he marshaled — and in some cases pioneered — a daunting panoply of techniques, from out of focus and over and under exposure to rapid editing to painting directly on the film strip to anamorphic distortion to collaging objects directly onto celluloid to heating raw stock before exposure. Hand holding his camera allowed him to transfer his own physiology to film, through a controlled use of jiggle that suggested his pulse and heartbeat.

But "personal" cinema is in some sense too easy: almost any film student can figure out how to use imagery and editing to express an emotion, and Brakhage always meant to present much more than the affections. More significant is the way that his films elude predictability. There is, of course, none of the arc of anticipation created by conventional narrative, but his films are also less predictable even than those of most of his colleagues. At the moment that a few seconds of a Brakhage film appear to be establishing a pattern, he breaks the pattern, and his purpose in doing so was not simply to be contrary. At the center of his ethos is a desire to create a filmic parallel to what Gertrude Stein, a major influence, called the "continuous present." His films don't present themselves as a mappable terrain each part of which helps one understand the other — and in that sense his work is the antithesis of Peter Kubelka's, though they admired each other's achievement — but rather they continually locate, and relocate, the individual viewer in the perceptual instant. While the paragraph about trying to imagine childhood vision that began his first book, Metaphors on Vision, is his most-often quoted statement, less often mentioned is the desire, expressed in that same paragraph, to try to experience everything in life as "an adventure of perception." But "adventure of perception" is what his films aspire to: his avoidance of predictable forms places the viewer at the center of a figuring-out process that will not only be different for each viewer but is never intended to lead to a fixed conclusion.

One small detail of Brakhage's work that all too often gets left out is that his films are stunningly, even ravishingly beautiful. It's no easy or static prettiness that he was after, but the kind of beauty that cleans out one's sensorium, that seems to scour one's sight all the way from the cornea to the optic nerve, that reorients the very way one sees. Brakhage's films serve as eye-training, both for seeing other films and as an opening onto more imaginative ways of seeing the world. If I had a friend who wanted me to teach him how to look at films, and unlimited access to an archive of world cinema, I'd begin with a couple of months worth of Brakhage.

- Fred Camper, Senses of Cinema

Brakhage has moved... through the climate and space of Abstract Expressionism, severing every tie to that space of action which Eisenstein's montage had transformed into the space of dialectical consciousness. Brakhage posits optical space as the "uncorrupted" dwelling of the Imagination which constitutes it. Dissolving the distance and resolving the disjunction Eisenstein had adopted as the necessary conditions of cinema's cognitive function, he proposes, as the paradigm of contemporary montage style, an alternative to Intellectual Cinema: the Cinema of Vision.

- Annette Michelson, "Camera Lucida/Camera Obscura." From Stan Brakhage: Filmmaker. Edited by David E. James. Published by Temple University Press, 2005. p. 32 p. 36

One result of superimposition, collage, painting, negative imagery, fast cutting, anamorphic photography, and swish panning was the flattening of the visual field. In demoting photographic depth from the norm to the exceptional instance, Brakhage pushed the filmic image in the direction of the most ambitious painting of his older contemporaries, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Clyfford Still, and others without yet embracing their commitment to abstraction.

- Ted Perry, Masterpieces of Modernist Cinema. Published by Indiana University Press, 2006. Page 107.

Brakhage recounts his disastrous encounter with Andrei Tarkovsky at the 1983 Telluride Film Festival

Brakhage in conversation with painter Philip Taaffe

Lloyd Kaufman of Troma Studios shares the influence Stan Brakhage had on his studio and filmmaking

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