Brakhage | Chicago Reader

Brakhage

Jim Shedden's 1998 documentary offers an introduction to the life and work of Stan Brakhage, perhaps the most important figure in American avant-garde film. It shows Brakhage shooting, teaching, and answering questions, includes short interviews with his friends, family, and critics, and incorporates footage of him by Jonas Mekas, Willie Varela, and others. The film's best moment comes during an old interview, when Brakhage attacks conventional cinematography by trying to get the cameraman to move more rapidly in imitation of how we actually see. Shedden also includes many excerpts from Brakhage's films, but they're too short to give more than a superficial sense of his work. Perhaps the subject is too huge—Brakhage made some 300 films between 1952 and the year this was released—but Shedden provides only a glimpse of Brakhage's complex and multifarious achievement. The original score is by Brakhage's longtime friend, avant-garde composer James Tenney.

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