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PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2011 6:23 pm 
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zedz wrote:
All of these different reactions are fascinating, since in some respects it's one of Brakhage's most straightforward films, formally.

That makes a lot of sense given the title's stress on the viewer's own eyes, on a personal act of vision. So the less Brakhage's own idiosyncractic manner of sight intrudes, formally, on the picture, the more the audience's "own eyes" can function. Hence the varied reactions.

Although it's reputedly the most difficult to watch, it may be the easiest of Brakhage's films to discuss, because while the experience is very personal, the images are concrete and identifiable enough that you can point to this or that bit and other people will know what you're talking about. And of course because the subject matter is so provocative and extreme that discourse follows pretty easily.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2011 7:44 pm 
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It may be a relatively straightforward Brakhage film in the sense that there is less uncertainty on the part of the audience about what they're seeing, but it's still quite complex and mediated by the way Brakhage processed and presented it. The effects of the close-ups, tracking, zooms, edits, and changes lighting, focus, and types of film stocks become increasingly disorienting, as the film progresses, which, to me at least, conveys Brakhage's growing unease and anxiety over what he was witnessing as the autopsies went on.

I don't think the act of seeing in the title is at all specific to the audience's seeing. The "act of seeing" extends not just to what the audience ultimately sees but also the very different experiences of the coroner whose interest of course was in "seeing" the evidence of the causes of death, and of Brakhage himself, whose choices in filming and editing I think, in a sense, reflect more than "document" his experience of witnessing something like this. Despite the intimacy of the encounter, Brakhage and his viewers are outsiders to what is taking place, and just as Brakhage himself probably felt uncertain about what exactly was happening at certain moments, there are times when the way something is filmed makes it unclear what we are seeing at first, and then it is revealed. This is remarkable. I guess I'm thinking that the film makes it easy to miss or deemphasize the ways in which the film is not straightforward at all. It is time for me to see this again, so maybe my thoughts on it will have changed since the last time.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2011 10:17 am 
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I think that is part of what makes it so queasy for me as Brakhage and the camera's 'witnessing' (the perfect word) of the autopsy returns the emotion to a clinical act as well as bringing along with it an overwhelming sense of powerlessness in the face of death and the routine dissection of the body. Some of the painted films I find have the same effect of creating an almost physical reaction from overpowering imagery - this just does it in a more 'classical, understandable' way.

And the film feels as if it is also all about absences - the empty shell of the body, the professional manner of the doctors. And especially the mediation of the camera between the act and the audience, a disconnect which I feel can only increase the more time that passes.

Here's a nice article from the Only The Cinema blog on The Wonder Ring, Reflections In Black and Sirius Remembered.


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 Post subject: Re: Criterion on Hulu
PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 5:46 pm 
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Oh look, an animated film already in the Criterion Collection (on Blu-ray, no less).


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 Post subject: Re: Criterion on Hulu
PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 5:47 pm 
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For some weird reason a lot of people don't consider Brakhage animation.


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 Post subject: Re: Criterion on Hulu
PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:09 pm 
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Because it's not really animation? He's generally not trying to create an illusion of the movement of an object. Yes, his films are built frame by frame, but to call them "animation" is to ghettoize them.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:11 pm 
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Well now I look like a crazy person.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:12 pm 
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You did before, too. I had no idea what you were referring to.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:13 pm 
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By that suggestion aren't you ghettoizing animation? Animation is just a sub medium within the medium which refers to painted frames (I'll admit I'm using painted very loosely with that).


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:14 pm 
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Matt wrote:
You did before, too. I had no idea what you were referring to.

I made some reference to Dumbland being the possible first Criterion animation film. Not wanting a pile-on, I edited it out.

So there we are.

*Doesn't consider Brakhage animation either*


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:18 pm 
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knives wrote:
Animation is just a sub medium within the medium which refers to painted frames (I'll admit I'm using painted very loosely with that).
Then which medium accounts for stop-motion animation?


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:21 pm 
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That's why I admitted that I was using painted is a very loose sense, though I do consider what Brakhage is doing closer to 'classical' animation in terms of tools if not content. I think it is fair to call the painted films avant garde animation in the same way that Maya Deren is avant garde live action.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:28 pm 
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I think you're making up genres to fit your argument.

At any rate, the painted films were only part of Brakhage's work (though they seem to get the most attention). The only genre Brakhage fits neatly into is the "Brakhage" genre (and I consider "avant-garde" an almost useless term. It's basically an appropriated art-historical term used as a fancy way to say that something is "weird" or "abnormal").


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:37 pm 
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I agree with you, but I don't see how and don't consider animation to be a genre. It is a medium.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:45 pm 
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Mmmmm. I'll meet you half-way and say it's a manner or a method. But very few people working in animation have worked directly on film. Most (before digital) are photographing some other medium frame by frame (painted cels, drawings, clay figures, etc.)


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:47 pm 
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I agree with your halfway. Though as a last note Norman McLaren who without question worked within animation often painted directly on film.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:55 pm 
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Len Lye is considered animation too and his work is mostly painted on film. I'll call some Brakhage films, such as Black Ice, animated. Anyway there's the Painlevé stop-motion film and A Chairy Tale on Mon Oncle Antoine disc. And the opening credits of The Lady Eve !


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 10:14 pm 
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Also like five seconds of Summer Interlude and Zero de conduite.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:06 pm 
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As the guy who will be responsible for enforcing genre definitions for the Animation project: fuuuuck, what have I let myself in for


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:12 pm 
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Just imagine all of the people trying to weasel Russian Ark in.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:13 pm 
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Just go with the "Vote for It" rule.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:15 pm 
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Wouldn't The Magic Treasure (extra on Equinox) and Bluebeard (on Science is Fiction) count? Not to mention the Akira laserdisc.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:57 am 

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Matt wrote:
Mmmmm. I'll meet you half-way and say it's a manner or a method. But very few people working in animation have worked directly on film. Most (before digital) are photographing some other medium frame by frame (painted cels, drawings, clay figures, etc.)

But so are Brakhage's & Lye's hand painted films. The painted original isn't projected, except in the projector element of an optical or contact printer. More often an optical printer, as they tended to shoot each source painted frame onto 2-4 "camera" side frames for the new negative used for the film. Brakhage, at least, often then edited the films. But he made over 400 films, so he did everything multiple times, even just 1 to 1 reshooting.

I consider a lot of this using the methods of animation, frame-by-frame construction of the film, but with a very different intention from most animation. In the same way that other experimental films use the same methods as, say, live-action filmmaking using actors, but toward a very different end. I don't consider him an animator, but I think he definitely sometimes used techniques that people whom I would consider animators used.


Last edited by Adam on Mon Sep 17, 2012 1:12 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:08 pm 
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I don't think of Brakhage as an animator in the usual sense of the word. When there's the occasional illusion of movement and continuity in his hand-painted films, that doesn't seem to be a core element of what he's doing, as it is in Lye or Fischinger. He never used any of the fundamentals of animated motion in his work, at least not that I can recall. In the photographed works, when he shot frame-by-frame (as in The Text of Light) it wasn't "stop-motion" animation or applying animated movement to photographed subjects as in McLaren's pixilation. I consider it a form of time-lapse filmmaking rather than animation.

He did animate in the sense of bringing things to life, I think. He observed this himself in the case of Mothlight (see (hear?) the audio interview on the Criterion set). Rather than filming live moths, he took the dead moth parts and used the movement of them through the film/projector to "give them life again, to animate them," as he put it.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:07 pm 
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Gregory is onto it: animation is about creating the illusion of continuity, whether it's with drawings of human figures or abstract shapes, and whether it's with scratches on film, plasticine models, or human figures striking a pose in a landscape. That's not something that Brakhage is generally aiming for at all, though the aesthetic effect of his painted films (and other experimental works like Iimura's White Calligraphy or Sharits' T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G) in large part depend on our brain's dogged attempts to create continuities out of discontinuous streams of imagery. Mothloop is a great example of this: frame by frame, there's no continuity, and no attempt to create the illusion of naturalistic movement, say, or progressive metamorphosis, but as an artistic whole, the film evokes a fluttering, scrambling metaphor for organic life.


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