Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Stan Brakhage, Persian Series, 6-7

For the second post on Stan Brakhage's Persian Series, I'll borrow some words and lines from Inez Hedges and her essay Stan Brakhage’s Film Testament: The Four Faust Films. My aim in Persian Series posts is to provide materials and share views that could open some of those closed eyes in Iran who have made some concerning statements about the issues beyond their knowledge. And since they have the tribune to speak their mind, their terrible mistakes can easily be taken for facts. So I'm here to clarify and with the help of other writers, do correct. 

Brakhage's filmic vision needs no clarifying and explanation. It is so pure and immediate that if you don't get it instantly, in another word, if you do not try to participate in his visual trip, it's hard to convince the viewer of something else, something quite opposite like this is cinema at its best: free, moving, colorful, poetic, abstract, ecstatic, swinging.

Inez Hedges traces the influences on Brakhage cinema via the interviews and writings of the filmmaker. When it comes to explaining himself and his cinema, and self-analysis, Brakhage is as great as Hitchcock, or even more attentive to what he was searching in this medium.

Gertrude Stein

"Film must eschew any easily recognizable reference. […] It must give up all that which is static, so that even its stillnesses-of-image are ordered on an edge of potential movement. It must give-over all senses-of-repetitions precisely because Film’s illusion-of-movement is based on shot-series of flickering near-likenesses of image. […] The forms within The Film will answer only to each other." (Brakhage, 1991)

Georges Méliès

Hedges names Méliès as another influence, and I believe this is probably the closest thing, within film history, to the cinema of Brakhage. Brakhage praises Méliès for being able to "exteriorize moving imagination" and also to discover an "alien world beneath the surface of our visibility" (Brakhage 1972). He praises the French filmmaker for borrowing "the trappings of all western man’s converse with demons".


Hedges argues that like the Surrealists, Brakhage relies completely on imagination and its untamed and powerful force when we are in our childhood. "He is most interested in recovering the freshness of visual perception before the developing child learns to categorize shapes and colors into named objects and qualities," Hedges says. In his writings and interviews, he opposes “open eye vision,” or what we are directly conscious of, with what he calls hypnagogic vision, moving visual thinking, peripheral vision, dream vision, and memory feedback. Brakhage himself writes:

"Hypnagogic vision is what you see through your eyes closed--at first a field of grainy, shifting, multi-colored sands that gradually assume various shapes. It’s optic feedback: the nervous system projects what you have previously experienced--your visual memories--into the optic nerve endings. It’s also called closed-eye vision. Moving visual thinking, on the other hand, occurs deeper in the synapsing of the brain. It’s a streaming of shapes that are not nameable--a vast visual song of the cells expressing their internal life. Peripheral vision is what you don’t pay close attention to during the day and which surfaces at night in your dreams. And memory feedback consists of the editings of your remembrance. It’s like a highly edited movie made from the real."

*  *  *

I dared to do an experiment myself. Hope Stan forgives me for that. I've added a musical score to this video. Original film is silent. Most of Brakhage films are silent. I'm not sure whether it's because he hadn't any money to do it, or intentionally, he wanted his films silent. While putting the audio track I noticed that rhythmicality of the shots and juxtaposing of them can create a "silent musical score," a musical score you can not hear, but you can see. They have the beat and harmony, though in silence. So in a way, I'll go for the idea that these Brakhage films really didn't need musical score. You can turn the audio track off and just watch the film, but if you keep it on, then it's not bad to know that you're listening to one of the masters of Persian music, the tar player Ostad Jalil Shahnaz.

Watching suggestion: switch is to full screen and focus on the middle of the screen!

1999. Courtesy of Italian Television, RAI3.


  1. دست کردم تو آرشيو مجلات فيلمم و شماره 285 اومد بيرون. همون شماره اي که پرونده محشر "تصوير اهل موسيقي در سينما" توش هست. جدا که محشر بود. اتفاقا ديشب داشتم اين مستند اخير اسکورسيزي راجع به هريسون رو مي ديدم و بعد هم که اين شماره 285 اومد جلوي چشمم و ياد وبلاگ شما افتادم. خلاصه ما که فيلم و 24 رو به خاطر مطالبي که مي نويسي مي خريم.


  2. بي نهايت ممنونم از اظهار لطفتان عليرضا


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