Thursday, August 6, 2009

Avant-Garde: Night Music (1986, Stan Brakhage)

Night Music (1986)
USA, 30 sec
Directed by: Stan Brakhage

One can't critique a Stan Brakhage work the way one does an ordinary film. I'm not entirely convinced that the director had anything specific in mind when he created Night Music (1986), but, whatever he was going for, it was something subliminal. Though running for a mere thirty seconds (making this, I believe, the shortest film I've ever seen), the eye is greeted with dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of individual hand-painted images, each shimmering from the frame like searing patches of napalm. What Brakhage is showing us is unclear, but probably irrelevant – more important is what we actually see. Me? I saw the vastness of outer space, glittering with blazing nebulae of dust and flame. I saw a frantic oceanic battle, with ships floundering in the waves. I saw a village disappear in an explosion of fire. Then I watched Night Music again, and again, and saw something different every time. The human brain is a brilliant if peculiar interpretor of visual information, and Brakhage taps into the mind's inherent subjectivity. With this goal in mind, he produced a series of silent hand-painted short films, the most impressive of which is The Dante Quartet (1987), a six-minute adaptation of Dante's "The Divine Comedy."

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