The city’s longest-running organization dedicated to weekly screenings of experimental film, documentaries, animation and video art.

January 11: Brakhage with Brakhage – Marilyn Brakhage introducing Films by Stan Brakhage


Sunday January 11, 2009, 7:00 pm

At the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood

Los Angeles Filmforum presents
Brakhage with Brakhage: Marilyn Brakhage introducing Films by Stan Brakhage
Marilyn Brakhage in person!

[left: Portrait of Stan Brakhage by Timoleon Wilkins] Filmforum is delighted to open its 2009 season with a marvelous program of films by the master avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage, hosted by Marilyn Brakhage in her first appearance in Los Angeles. Every show of films by Brakhage contains wonders of vision, color, and light. Some of tonight’s films haven’t been screened in Los Angeles in years, if ever. Not to be missed.

Tonight we’ll be screening:

Stan Brakhage, 1999. Photo by Timoleon Wilkins

The Machine of Eden (1970, 16 mm, silent, 11 min)
The Machine (of Eden) operates via “spots” – from sun’s disks (of the camera lens) thru emulsion grains (within which, each, a universe might be found) and snow’s flakes (echoing technical aberrations on film’s surface) blots (upon the lens itself) and the circles of sun and moon, etcetera; these “mis-takes” give birth of “shape” (which, in this work, is “matter” subject and otherwise) amidst a weave of thought: (I add these technicalities, here, to help viewers defeat the habits of classical symbolism so that this work may be immediately seen, in its own light): the “dream” of Eden will speak for itself.

“He was born, he suffered, he died”
(1974, 16 mm, silent, 7 min)
The quote is Joseph Conrad answering a critic who found his books too long. Conrad replied that he could write a novel on the inside of a match-book cover, thus (as above), but that he “preferred to elaborate.” The “Life” of the film is scratched on black leader. The “elaboration” of color tonalities is as the mind’s eye responds to hieroglyph.

Burial Path (1978, 16mm, color/silent, 15min (18fps))
The film begins with the image of a dead bird. The mind moves to forget, as well as to remember: this film, in the tradition of Thot-Fal’n, graphs the process of forgetfulness against all oddities of remembered bird-shape. The film might best be seen along with Sirius Remembered and The Dead as the third part of a trilogy.

Visions in Meditation #4 (1990, 16 mm, silent, 19 min)
I’ve made three pilgrimages in my life: the 40-some-year home of Sigmund Freud in Vienna, Emily Dickinson’s in Amherst, and the mountain ranch and crypt, would you call it?, of D.H. Lawrence, outside Taos. I keep returning to the Lawrence environs again and again; and this last time attempted photography in that narrow little building where his ashes were (or were not) deposited (contradictory stories about that). There is a child-like sculpture of The Phoenix at the far end of the room, a perfectly lovely emblem to deflate any pomposity people have added to Lawrence’s “I rise in flames ….” The building is open, contains only a straw chair (remindful of the one Van Gogh painted) and a broom, which I always use with delight to sweep the dust and leaves from this simple abode. I have tried to make a film as true to the spirit of Lawrence as is this gentle chapel in homage of him. I have attempted to leave each image within the film free to be itself and only obliquely in the service of Lawrence’s memory. I have wanted to make it a film within which that child-Phoenix can reasonably nest. – S.B.

(Bruce Elder sends me this quote from D.H. Lawrence, which may help to explain why Visions in Meditation #4 is subtitled in his name: “… there must be mutation swifter than iridescence, haste, not rest, come-and-go, not fixity, inconclusiveness, immediacy, the quality of life itself, without denouncement or close.” – “Poetry of the Present,” intro to the American edition of New Poems, 1918 )

Boulder Blues and Pearls and… (1992, 16 mm, Sound by Rick Corrigan, 23 min)
Music by Rick Corrigan.
Peripheral envisionment of daily life as the mind has it – i.e., a terrifying ecstasy of (hand-painted) synapting nerve ends back-firing from thought’s grip of life.

Persians 1-3 (1999, 16 mm, silent, 8 min)
Persian Series #1: This hand-painted and elaborately step-printed work begins with a flourish of reds and yellows and purples in palpable fruit-like shapes intersperced by darkness, then becomes lit lightning-like by sharp multiply-colored twigs-of shape, all resolving into shapes of decay.

Persian Series #2: Multiple thrusts and then retractions of oranges, reds, blues, and the flickering, almost black, textural dissolves suggesting an amalgam approaching script.

Persian Series #3: Dark, fast-paced symmetry in mixed weave of tones moving from oranges & yellows to blue-greens, then retreating (dissolves of zooming away) to both rounded and soft-edged shapes shot with black.

Chinese Series (2003, 35mm, silent, 2 min) [left: Chinese Series stills, courtesy of the Estate of Stan Brakhage and Fred Camper]
“This film was made on 35mm whereby Stan scratched off the emulsion of the film using his fingernail. The original was stepped printed by Mary Beth Reed. This film is available is both 16mm and 35mm and is in black and white.”-Dominic Angerame

“Stan Brakhage had been planning a film inspired by Chinese ideograms for years; he made his unfinished Chinese Series in his dying months, scratching its marks on black 35-mm film. In its two haunting minutes, exploding lines flirt with the depiction of recognizable objects.” – Fred Camper, from the Chicago Reader, September 12, 2003.

Scratching on spit-softened emulsion with bare fingernails,” Stan completed this work — all that he could manage of his long dreamed-of Chinese Series — in his bed, a couple of months before his death. Printed by Courtney Hoskins, who has written that: “On the negative, it seemed to have the essence of Chinese characters — “strokes” and blocks, etc. In motion, it seems almost like running through a humid bamboo forest . . . green and yellow stalks create these glowing shadows as they cut across the sunlight.

Marilyn Brakhage is a graduate of the Motion Picture Studies and Art History departments of Ryerson and York Universities (Toronto). She has worked as a film distributor, programmer, freelance writer and home educator, and is currently managing the estate of her late husband, filmmaker and theoretician, Stan Brakhage (1933-2003). Published articles include “Frames of Mind: Stan Brakhage’s Thot Fal’n” (to accompany the RAI DVD of The Cut-Up Films of William Burroughs), “Rhythms of Vision in Stan Brakhage’s City Streaming” (Canadian Journal of Film Studies, Spring 2005), and “On Stan Brakhage and Visual Music,” (vantage point on-line magazine,, 2008). Marilyn Brakhage currently lives in Victoria, British Columbia.

Stan Brakhage, 1933-2003
Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1933, Brakhage moved to Denver, Colorado at the age of six. He sang as a boy soprano soloist, dreamed of being a poet, and graduated from South High School in 1951 with a scholarship to Dartmouth. After one semester, he left to pursue a life in the Arts, returning to Denver to make his first film in 1952.

As a young man, Brakhage lived in San Francisco and New York associating with many other poets, musicians, painters and filmmakers, including Robert Duncan, Kenneth Rexroth, John Cage, Edgard Varese, Joseph Cornell, Maya Deren and Marie Menken. A youthful “poet-with-a-camera,” Brakhage soon emerged as a significant film artist, evolving an entirely new form of first person, lyrical cinema.

Brakhage married Jane Collom in 1957, and from the early 60s they lived in Rollinsville, Colorado, making films and raising their five children. Brakhage also continued to travel around the country and abroad becoming a leading figure of the American avant-garde film movement. He lived in Boulder from1986, and in 2002 moved to Canada with his second wife, Marilyn, and their two children.

Before his death in March, 2003, Brakhage had completed more than 350 films, ranging from the psycho-dramatic works of the early 1950s to autobiographical lyrics, mythological epics, “documents,” and metaphorical film ‘poems’ — variously employing his uniquely developed hand-held camera and rapid editing techniques, multiple superimpositions, collages, photographic abstractions, and elaborate hand-painting applied directly to the surface of the film. A deeply personal filmmaker, Brakhage’s great project was to explore the nature of light and all forms of vision – while encompassing a vast range of subject matter. He frequently referred to his works as “visual music” or “moving visual thinking.” The majority of his films are intentionally silent.

Brakhage taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and as Distinguished Professor of Film Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The recipient of three Honorary Degrees and numerous prestigious awards, he lectured extensively on filmmaking and the Arts, and is the author of 11 books – including his seminal 1963 work, Metaphors On Vision, and his more recent series of essays, Telling Time.

Marilyn Brakhage
Victoria, BC Canada
December 2007

SPECIAL THANKS to the Academy Film Archive, Mark Toscano, and Fred Camper for assistance with this program.