Saturday, November 5, 2011

Stan Brakhage, Persian Series, 1-5

1999. Courtesy of Italian Television, RAI3.

This 14-minute long video is consisted of the first 5 Persian films by great avant-garde cinema evangelist, Stan Brakhage. This poet of motions, shapes, and colors believes his ecstatic images come from human thanking, and then they take shape as glyphs or script like the alphabet and numbers and symbols and pictures. "They're imaginary series, but it's a thoughtful imagination, not just anything goes," says Brakhage.

Fred Camper explains "for Persian Series he studied reproductions of Persian miniature paintings, their decorative borders, Persian rugs, and the culture's calligraphy. And certainly the lush color schemes of Persian miniatures are reflected in these densely layered films. At one point in the second, a series of zooms in suddenly becomes a massive zoom out, creating the effect of a precipitous balloon ascent from the landscapelike shapes we've been seeing. Yet the "aerial" view that materializes is not fundamentally different from the "closer" images: on any scale, the imagery remains a skein of interconnected organic shapes worthy of nature's fractals."

"What's extraordinary about Persian Series, however, is the way it achieves an even greater dislocating and redefining effect than the other [Brakhage] recent films, with layering almost as complex as in Coupling and shapes and colors that are even richer. The eye is typically possessive: it wants to plumb the image, know it, catalog what it has to offer, and file it away. This is how we remember faces, landscapes, objects, and it's this kind of seeing Brakhage disrupts so profoundly. It's not simply that the viewer can't name what he sees — he can't fully see it, and in that sense can never fully understand or own it. By mixing shapes related to one another with a form that abjures predictability and repetition, by mixing order and apparent randomness (surely Brakhage can't control every tiny splotch), by using layers of images that prevent the eye from locking in to any one, he shifts the viewer from comprehending solid objects in the "real" world to a state of profound self-questioning: his real subjects are not specific objects or ideas but the kind of raw neural processes that underlie all sight and thought."

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