Elementary Phrases | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Elementary Phrases

by

comment

Anyone familiar with Stan Brakhage's highly personal films of the last 40 years will be surprised by the credits of the new Elementary Phrases: by Stan Brakhage and Phil Solomon. Colleagues at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the two began with strips of film Brakhage had painted on by hand, photographing them frame by frame with Solomon's optical printer. They often printed two strips of film together, some of them containing images taken by Solomon, then chose from the images what Brakhage says "seemed to us natural phrases," which Brakhage arranged into the final form. The result is a 40-minute silent film in which occasional hints of photographic images sometimes seem to peek through largely abstract shapes. A swirl of red and blue forms congeals for an instant into a forest of blue trees; globules of paint ooze like lava; tiny multicolored spots on a black field suggest planets, comets, and stars. The film's ever-changing images renew themselves constantly, sustained by an almost musical organization that combines the short gliding movements of shapes in the frame with the staccato effect of rapid cutting. Brakhage describes his desire "to make films that are about nothing" as part of a "struggle to pry film loose from language." Despite an overall structure of individual "stanzas" separated by moments of black, this film is located in each of its instants. Every moment is unpredictable, many of the shapes look like nothing seen before, and every transformation is an almost magical surprise--a new word or phrase in the still-growing vocabulary of images that can't be translated into words. Also on the program is Solomon's poetic, evocative Clepsydra. Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division, Saturday, November 5, 8:00, 384-5533.

Add a comment