Brakhage in Pieces
I have a new piece on occasion of Light Industry and Anthology Film Archives’ crucial re-publication of Stan Brakhage’s Metaphors on Vision. The careening text is effectively doubled in this new edition, first as a facsimile, reproducing George Maciunas’s eccentric design, and then as a corrected text amply footnoted by P. Adams Sitney (who edited the first version as a teenager). Among these appendages is a bit of social history that helps square the book’s polemical energy. It’s clear throughout the book that Brakhage, whose bold forays into first-person filmmaking marked a new turn in the New American Cinema, looked to poets as his elders. The book recoups lessons learned when Brakhage, himself a teenager, boarded at Jess and Robert Duncan’s place in San Francisco, and concludes with an incantatory recitation of a meeting with Charles Olson. Back to that footnote: in number 192, Sitney observes how among other sources of tension between Brakhage and Duncan was Brakhage’s frustration that an advanced poet could hold such hidebound views of film art, which practically meant championing the work of Ingmar Bergman and expressing the view that Brakhage might hope to make it big in Hollywood. In the event, Brakhage took his vow of poverty and, one imagines, drew on Duncan’s dismissiveness of his medium of choice as so much fuel for the fire.
The Brakhage screening mentioned in the article plays as part of the LIGHT FIELD festival which runs through the weekend and in its second iteration is rare good news.