Stan Brakhage, who died last March, was the greatest of experimental filmmakers, but many of his films have yet to be screened here. The centerpiece of this program of local premieres, “Trilogy” (1995), consists of three gorgeously sensual handmade films. By painting and scratching directly on celluloid strips and then duplicating each image for two or more frames, Brakhage produced a flickering cycle of abstract shapes that bespeak the restlessness of his own character and sensibility; the titles of the segments (which Brakhage also intended to function as freestanding films) further emphasize his rejection of collective thinking in favor of personal vision. The first, I Take These Truths, is a succession of patterns that seem to struggle with each other, though when sharp-edged white shapes near the end of the film sprout fine lines from their borders, the effect is rather like a halo. In We Hold These, the sense of conflict is more muted; some sections are characterized by even patterning whereby every part of the frame moves in concert–a “choral” effect appropriate to the first person plural of the title. The third and longest, I…, proposes an unstable image of the self with its centerless collisions of diverse imagery. Small black shapes are superimposed over diffuse colors, and each moment seems to consume and obliterate the last in an emotionally charged rush that suggests a consciousness terrified of stasis and perpetually seeking renewal. Also showing: the three-minute, hand-painted Dark Night of the Soul (2002), one of several late films Brakhage made in contemplation of death, in which areas of color surrounded by fields of darkness suggest a mind peering into an interior, bottomless abyss. 60 min. Columbia College Ferguson Theater.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Estate of Stan Brakhage.