Download Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde, 1943-2000 PDF

TitleVisionary Film: The American Avant-Garde, 1943-2000
PublisherOxford University Press, USA
ISBN 139780195148855
CategoryArts - Film
Author
Languagerussian
File Size6.7 MB
Total Pages479
Table of Contents
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Document Text Contents
Page 1

Visionary
FILM

Page 2

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Page 239

222 visionary film

does not emphasize them with a montage of analogies. Thus this film,
which had made an equation among parades, victory celebrations, street
fights, and rallies, culminates in a cyclic vision and a discovery of the seeds
of war in the pastoral vision.24

Song XXVII: My Mountain follows the structure of the 23rd Psalm
Branch: a long abstract presentation in the first part, then a second part
of eight “Rivers” qualifying the first part in terms of the self. For approx-
imately the first twenty minutes of the twenty-six-minute-long first part,
Brakhage presents shot after shot of a mountain peak, snow-covered
throughout the change of seasons. Clouds and mists have a prominent role
in this film; they can completely obscure the peak, sweep over it in fast
motion, or begin a shot by blocking it, only to clear away, or the reverse;
sometimes the film-maker even veers from the mountain to show cloud
formations.

According to his statements, Brakhage was studying Dutch and Flem-
ish painting while working on this film. He singled out Van Eyck for his
attention to figures at the very edge of the composition. Brakhage did not
use a tripod to film any of the images in Song XXVII, he claims. The
laborious work of taking single frames of cloud movements must have
been done while he was steadying the camera in his hands. This method
causes slight movements on the edge of the frame which are almost un-
noticeable when the eye fixes itself on the centered mountain peak. The
illusion of fixity in the center and shimmering at the edges of the screen
creates a visual tension which the film-maker felt would be lost if the
viewer sensed the solidity of a tripod and the impossibility of variation.

If we recall that the lucid, even triumphal inwardness of the 23rd
Psalm Branch was exceptional within the Songs, we can see how the un-
easy relation with the natural world, more characteristic of the series as a
whole, reasserts itself in the first part of Song XXVII: My Mountain. With
the change of techniques and the shift of the center of attention at the end
of the film, Brakhage begins the undermining or subjectification of what
had been the most self-enduring natural image in the whole of Songs.

In Romantic poetry the image of the mountain has repeatedly initiated
a reaffirmation of the self and the imagination. In his study of landscape
in Romanticism, Paul de Man quotes passages from Rousseau, Words-
worth, and Hölderlin on Alpine landscapes. “Each of these texts describes
the passage from a certain type of nature, earthly and material, to another
nature which could be called mental and celestial.”25

The primary reflex of each of the “Rivers” is to move from an opening
shot of the mountain, or its clouds, to a more interiorized image. The eight
sections range between the explicit and the hermetic. In the first of them,
after a quick intercutting of the mountain and flames, Brakhage calls at-
tention to the mechanism of the camera through a variation on the jump-
ing image at the end of the first part. Here the distortion of the picture is
not complete; the loss of a loop in the camera resulted in a small fluttering,
a ghost-like flickering above a more solid form. With this technique he

Page 240

major mythopoeia 223

shows us parts of a small town: traffic lights changing color, a church
steeple. The section ends, without fluttering, in fast pans back and forth
over the mountain, undermining its presence and asserting that of the film-
maker.

In discussing the portrait “Crystal,” I made the point that Brakhage
uses the mediation of a smeared, streaked, or dimly-reflecting window
while recording an outside view, as a metaphor for the circumference of
the self. In “Rivers” he makes extensive use of this trope. The sixth section,
which like the first begins with an intercutting of mountain and fire,
quickly settles upon a long series of images of two horses in the snow.
They are seen through a window in which are reflected flames and some-
times shimmering patterns of light. The next part, another portrait of Jane
Brakhage, begins with her looking out of a window. The film-maker is
outside filming in. From this image we can trace the window trope back
to Maya Deren and Meshes of the Afternoon. Like the heroine of that film,
Jane Brakhage mediates a subjective reflection; with one splice we see her
younger, with much longer hair, sitting outside with her three daughters.
In the middle of the film a composite use of the window mediation appears
when Brakhage films his daughters, now older than when we first saw
them, looking out of the window; he is shooting from inside his car, whose
windshield wipers cross the image.

The most explicit of the sections, “River 4,” makes the fullest use of
the window. Shot from one of the upper stories of Denver’s largest hotel,
it shows the neon and white lights of the city at night while in the fore-
ground the standing nude body of the film-maker can be seen in the win-
dow’s reflection. He concentrates on the reflection of his palm which leads
immediately to shots of a frosted window intercut for several minutes with
aerial views of mountain ranges, as if arising in the metaphoric imagina-
tion as he contemplates the lines of his hand.

Brakhage subscribes to the belief, most forcefully put forward among
his contemporaries by Charles Olson, that the artistic sensibility has priv-
ileged access to a holistic vision. In the American Thirties Song he explores
the aerial view as a tool for discovering patterns not immediately visible
to the grounded observer. From the aerial perspective he records the shape
of farm lands and cities and the organization of residential blocks. From
the title and from his notes we learn that he associates these patterns with
American life in the 1930s, when he was born.

Before the titles, very fast blurred panning movements recall the open-
ing of the 23rd Psalm Branch. Out of these movements come quick, jittery
glimpses of the face of Brakhage’s father. The speed decelerates. An old
woman is hanging out her wash. We see the old hands of Brakhage’s father
inside an automobile. After the title the portrait shifts to the more familiar,
synecdochic style. In dim red outline we see the shape of the man’s bald
head, his shoes, his hands calling to mind the more sinister Song XXIX,
and another dim red portrait of the film-maker’s mother, who appears
almost androgynous in her old age.

Page 478

index 461

Oldenburg, Claes, 277
Olson, Charles, 209, 223
O’Neill, Pat, 431

Saugus Series, 432
Water and Power, 431

Pabst, G. W., Pandora�s Box, 387
Panofsky, Erwin, 380
Participatory Film, 179, 271, 305–6, 365
Penfied, Dr. Wilner, 251, 254
Peterson, Sidney, 44–54, 58–73, 76, 90,

137, 151, 156, 162, 231, 258, 347,
398, 410–11, 418

The Cage, 47–50, 53–54, 58, 61, 118,
303

A Fly in the Pigment, 49
The Lead Shoes, 47, 59, 68–71
Mr. Frenhofer and the Minotaur, 47, 61,

63–67, 70, 118, 414
The Petri�ed Dog, ix, 59–80, 62
The Potted Psalm, 44–50, 53–54, 57, 59,

62, 294, 414
Phillips, Stan, 394
Picabia, Francis, 43–44, 50–54, 60
Picasso, Pablo, 344

“Minotauromachie,” 63–66
Plato, 126, 384
Poe, Edgar Allan, 36
Pollock, Jackson, ix, 206
Pound, Ezra, 190, 198, 206, 208, 210, 369,

417
Gaudier Brzeska, 196–98

Preston, Richard, 329
Psychodrama, 14, 40, 58, 87, 89, 231, 309,

414

Quotidian lyrics, 422–31

Rainer, Arnulf, 288
Rainer, Yvonne, viii, 386–88, 411–12, 414–

19
Film about a Woman Who . . . , 387
Journeys from Berlin/1971, 415–16
Kristina Talking Pictures, 387, 411
Lives of Performers, 386–87

Rayns, Tony, 83, 92, 108, 117
Rebay, Hilla, 245
Reinhardt, Max, A Midsummer Night�s

Dream, 83, 92–93, 103
Rice, Ron, 73, 294, 300–303, 308, 310,

321, 327, 337
Chumlum, 338–39
The Flower Thief, 58, 300–301, 313,

318, 335, 339
The Queen of Sheba Meets the Atom

Man, 301–3, 323, 411
Senseless, 301–2

Richter, Hans, 233, 270–71, 273, 324, 327
Rhythmus 21, 44, 231, 239, 258

Rilke, Rainer Maria, 152
Rimbaud, Arthur, 324
Rogosin, Lionel, 327, 329

Romanticism, xiii, 41, 90–91, 97, 105, 114–
15, 150–51, 166, 205, 256, 290,
301, 303, 325, 327, 331, 347–48,
355, 370, 389

Rothko, Mark, 206, 208
Rousseau, Henri, 66
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 220, 389
Ruskin, John, 407–8
Ruttmann, Walter, 429

Sade, Marquis de, 324
Sanborn, Keith, The Deadman, 424
Satie, Erik, 43, 50–52, 54
Schneemann, Carolee, 176

Fuses, 424
Schreber, Daniel Gottlob Moritz, 254
Schreber, Daniel Paul, Memoirs of My

Nervous Illness, 254
Schwitters, Kurt, 274
Shakespeare, William, 75, 148, 179

Hamlet, 302
A Midsummer Night�s Dream, 103

Sharits, Paul, 347, 352, 360–63, 410
N:O:T:H:I:N:G, 360–62
Piece Mandala/End War, 361–62
Ray Gun Virus, 361–62
S:TREAM:S:S:ECTION:S:ECTION:S:S:

ECTIONED, 362
T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G, 362–63

Shelley, Percy B., 327
Prometheus Unbound, 97, 150, 325

Sims, Jerry, 318–19, 322
Smart, Christopher, 426
Smith, Harry, 235–41, 243–58, 293, 326,

410
No. 1, 235, 237–40, 243
No. 2, 235, 237, 239–41, 246
No. 3, 235, 237, 239–40
No. 4, 235, 237, 243–44
No. 5, 235, 237, 244–45
No. 6, 235
No. 7, 235, 244–46
No. 8, 236, 246
No. 9, 236, 246
No. 10, 236–37, 246–51
No. 11, 236–37, 246–51
No. 12 (Heaven and Earth Magic), ix-x,

109, 205, 236–37, 243, 249–57
No. 13, 236, 258
No. 14 (Late Superimpositions), 236–37,

257, 338–39
The Tin Woodsman�s Dream, 237, 258

Smith, Jack, 139, 315–20, 322–26, 330–38,
349, 410

Flaming Creatures, 135, 325, 332–37,
422

No President, 333–37
Normal Love, 136, 337–38
Scotch Tape, 323, 325, 329

Snow, Michael, 226, 326, 347, 350, 352–
59, 380, 383–86, 388, 411–12, 414,
430

Page 479

462 index

Snow, Michael (continued )
↔ (Back and Forth), 356–59, 383
The Central Region, 356, 358–59, 383
New York Eye and Ear Control, 357–58
One Second in Montreal, 356
Presents, 411–12, 422
Rameau’s Nephew . . . , 383–87, 411
Wavelength, 352–57, 383, 401

Solomon, Phil, 431
Sonbert, Warren, viii, 339, 410, 425–29

Carriage Trade, 426, 428–29
The Cup and the Lip, 425
Divided Loyalties, 428–29
Friendly Witness, 427–28
Noblesse Oblige, 428
Rude Awakening, 428–29
A Woman’s Touch, 428

Stanislavsky, Constantin, 327
The Actor Works upon Himself, 329

Stauffacher, Frank, 54, 241
Stein, Gertrude, 163, 171, 225, 391
Steiner, Ralph, H2O, 22
Sternberg, Josef von, 123, 333–34
Stevens, Wallace, 166–67, 206

“Notes toward a Supreme Fiction,”
194

“An Ordinary Evening in New Haven,”
167

Still, Clyfford, 60, 208–9
Structural Film, 27, 152–153, 179, 226,

271, 285, 288, 305–6, 320–21, 343,
347–70, 374, 377, 399, 417

Surrealism, 3, 11, 39, 137, 232, 238, 275,
281, 329

Symbolism, 331, 355, 406

Tenney, James, 176, 424
Thomas, Dylan, 74
Thoreau, H. D., 325
Thornton, Leslie, 419, 421

Peggy and Fred in Hell, 421
Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Thodol),

226, 228, 261, 364
Tinguely, Jean, 277
Trance Film, 1–11, 14, 17–18, 20, 58, 87,

89, 93, 109, 128, 131, 160, 231,
305, 308–9, 318, 365

Tyler, Parker, 9, 55, 68, 70, 74, 325, 431
The Three Faces of the Film, 17, 29,

431, 436

Valéry, Paul, 405
Vanderbeek, Stan, 327, 329

Warhol, Andy, 149, 225, 238, 326, 349–
52, 410, 434

Beauty # 2, 350
The Chelsea Girls, 349–50
Eat, 350
Empire, 350
50 Fantastics, 225
Haircut, 351
Harlot,350
Hedy, 350
Henry Geldzahler, 142, 225
Poor Little Rich Girl, 350
Sleep, 349–50
13 Most Beautiful Boys, 142, 225
13 Most Beautiful Girls, 142, 225

Watson, J. S., and Melville Webber
The Fall of the House of Usher, 43
Lot in Sodom, 43

Weiland, Joyce, 347, 410
Weine, Robert, The Cabinet of Dr.

Caligari, 18, 22, 97, 129, 181
Weinstein, Donald, 129
Wellek, René, 114–15
Welles, Orson, Citizen Kane, 13, 123
Whitehall, Richard, 182, 229
Whitman, Walt, 36, 206, 398
Whitney, James, 259–60

Lapis, 259–60
Yantra, 259, 265

Whitney, John and James, 241
Five Film Exercises, 241–43

Wiley, William, 307
Williams, William Carlos, 206
Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 173
Wordsworth, William, 155–56

The Prelude, 167

Youngblood, Gene, 260–61, 264–65

Zukofsky, Louis, 206, 218–19

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