All seen on a wonderful DVD called The Cineseizure.

Pièce touchée (1989) – girl is reading, guy walks in the door, they kiss, he crosses behind her, she gets up. But for 15 minutes, painstakingly and obsessively re-enacted, rewound, stalled and repeated. Arnold mirrors the shot about halfway in, and flips it upside-down towards the end. An intriguing start. The main fault with this one is the annoying machine-loop audio.

Passage à l’acte (1993) – looks like a dinner scene from To Kill a Mockingbird. Boy comes running in, tells girl to hurry up, “I’m trying to”, “come on”, they run out but she stops to kiss her dad first. But all one frame at a time, with the obsessive back-forth repetition. The sound from the movie is here, so this is much less annoying than Piece Touchee… a large step towards the Andy Hardy movie, which, even had I not been told before I saw it, would recognize as the masterpiece of this bunch.

Extras: Psycho trailer (just a shower head, no text, clever), Jesus Walking On Screen trailer (“master, give me sight”), another trailer (in a train station), and a relatively serene montage of old clips called Der Osterreichfilm.

Also rewatched Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy (1998) a couple times. I had very little to say about it back in September ’06.

I’ll bet the actors in these films would be horrified by what Martin Arnold does to them, calling attention to every single tiny expression and movement and gesture. Sure is fun/interesting to watch though. IMDB says he did one in 2002 called Deanimated and it sounds like he’s working with some new techniques.

Arnold: “The cinema of Hollywood is a cinema of exclusion, reduction and denial, a cinema of repression. There is always something behind that which is being represented, which was not represented. And it is exactly that that is most interesting to consider.”

Watched some of the earliest shorts I downloaded, over a year ago, and had never seen before.

The World of Stainboy (2000, Tim Burton)
Stainboy is a hero of sorts whose only power is creating stains. He takes on a giant darth bowling ball, a poisonous chemical hazard, a power-sucking robot, a girl with a hypnotic stare, and a match-prostitute, then in the final episode he flashes back to birth and the orphanage (where “boy with nails in his eyes” has a cameo). Pretty okay little show, short with funny bits.

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Breakfast (1976, Michael Snow)
Decided not to watch it because the quality is too low. Don’t know how I’m going to see the Michael Snow films, but not like this.

Vibroboy (1994, Jan Kounen)
Loud, cartoonish, full of threatened sexual violence, feels like taking a beating or watching the Shelly and Leo home scenes from Twin Peaks for a half hour. Explorers spirit away ancient statue from Mexico, it’s entrusted to transvestite Francesca, who comes home to his trailer park to find his pet murdered and his neighbors Leon and Brigitte fighting. Leon is a violent shit, and threatens both “women”, ends up shooting F. (not fatally), breaking the statue, retrieving the metal dildo within and turning into Vibroboy, who just goes on beating the two girls but with the dildo now. Stylishly shot, but why film such a piece of shit story? Real disappointing because Kounen is someone I’d decided I was interested in before seeing any of his movies, so now I don’t know what to do about Dobermann and Blueberry. (Update: a Kounen fan advises to check out the uneven Blueberry and the doc on psychedelics and skip Dobermann)

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Escargot de Venus (1975, Walerian Borowczyk)
Camera pans over color drawings of half-snail-half-women having sex with each other and themselves and various snaily men, while renfest flute music plays. Halfway in, a woman starts narrating in French, didn’t catch most of it except some of the dirty words. We actually see her flipping through the drawings, closes with her feeding a snail to an iguana. Nice, sexy images, liked it better than his DOM short. Internet says the woman is Bona Tibertelli De Pisis, and the drawings are hers.

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L’Amour monstre de tous les temps (1977, Walerian Borowczyk)
Close-up on a painter at work, nicely edited with music by Richard Wagner. Final painting involved a beast and human nudity, so right up Walerian’s alley. A good one. Can’t find who the bearded painter was.

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Lapis (1966, James Whitney)
finely detailed geometric images (points of light?) falling inwards and outwards to and from the center into infinity. Sound (indian music) didn’t play right on my copy, but when it did, it adds to the trance effect. Would be pretty awesome to see this in a theater. Apparently used motion-control camera (“analogue computer equipment”) and the circular shape is a mandala, “a Tibetan Buddhist spiritual meditation aid”. Director’s brother designed the motion-control for the title sequence of Vertigo!

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Recreation (1956, Robert Breer)
extremely rapidly edited shots of objects on plain backgrounds, a little animation, some guy talking in French, FIN.

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A Man And His Dog Out For Air (1957, Robert Breer)
flowing line drawing animation forming many abstract shapes but nothing quite recognizable until right before the end, when they form a man and his dog out for air. Neat.

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A thorough viewing of the second disc of my favorite DVD set in the world this weekend. Some thoughts:

I do not know how to talk about Brakhage. Mostly on this site I talk about story, quality of performance… how do I talk about a non-narrative motion painting? Don’t have the background or vocabulary for that.

Cat’s Cradle and Window Water Baby Moving are early ones with actual camera shots of actual things. The editing of Window Water is entrancing.

Mothlight will be great forever. I’ve watched it twenty times now.

Then, chronologically, came Dog Star Man and Act Of Seeing, which I haven’t watched yet because I am afraid of them. The scariest nightmare I’ve had in a decade resulted from falling asleep during my only attempted viewing of Dog Star Man, and if Window Water is so attractive and disturbing, I can just not imagine how my stomach will feel after viewing The Act Of Seeing.

Eye Myth (a nine-second film) took a year to complete because Brakhage had to convince himself that it could be done, had never done a hand-painted film before. Mothlight was almost a decade earlier, but I guess Eye Myth was a big step. I’ve watched it a ton of times just because I can.

I’m not so wild about the visuals of The Wold Shadow (painting on glass over a view of the forest) or The Stars Are Beautiful (creation myths with shots of home and chickens with sync sound) or Kindering (kids at play), but then The Dante Quartet and Rage Net hit hard… some of my favorites of the painted films.

Black Ice and Delicacies and Study In Color are creepy. The screen shots below reveal nothing about those two. The Dark Tower is always a favorite. And I don’t remember ever seeing Commingled Containers before so I watched it three times. Can’t understand what it is, what those things are, what is happening. Something in a stream? What are “containers”? Beautiful, of course. That applies to all of the above… beautiful, beautiful, blah.

Need to read Brakhage’s book(s), to read Fred Camper’s writings, to read the DVD liner notes again and listen to the interviews with Brakhage on the discs. But I don’t expect to learn much that will gain me a deeper appreciation of the films… they need no explanation.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker were Brakhage’s students. He acted in Cannibal the Musical and loved the South Park movie. Incredible.

Katy did not watch it. I’m afraid to show her any Brakhage. What if she doesn’t love it? How will I explain or convince?

A barrage of screen shots.

Cat’s Cradle
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Window Water Baby Moving
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Mothlight
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Eye Myth
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The Wold Shadow
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The Garden of Earthly Delights
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The Stars Are Beautiful
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Kindering
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I… Dreaming
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The Dante Quartet
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Nightmusic
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Rage Net
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Glaze of Cathexis
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Delicacies of Molten Horror Synapse
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For Marilyn
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Black Ice
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Study in Color and Black and White
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Stellar
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Crack Glass Eulogy
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The Dark Tower
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Commingled Containers
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Love Song
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Amphetamine (1966)
Where Did Our Love Go? (1966)

Warren Sonbert started his career just like Stan Brakhage (Desistfilm) – sitting around his apartment, shooting his friends doing daily stuff. But where Brakhage used camera tricks and crazy editing, Sonbert (12 years later) relied on his friends’ outrageous antics (drug use, homosexuality, knowing Andy Warhol) to make his movies interesting. It didn’t work for me, but the mid-60’s pop songs he strung together on the soundtrack made for good listening.

Honor and Obey (1988)
Friendly Witness (1989)

Then Sonbert travelled the world for a number of years, reviewing operas and shooting everything he came across with his portable Bolex. And like the dude who did “Ashes & Snow”, he one day sat down and edited all his stuff through the years into some movies. Unlike “Ashes” though, it’s quickly and intuitively edited, the shot order making sense only to the director, if anybody. “Honor and Obey” is completely Brakhage-silent, and Friendly Witness starts with the same 60’s pop songs from before, then uses opera over the second half. Slightly more excitingly edited than “Honor” and would’ve been preferable anyway if only for the pop songs. Completely wonderful films, great color, great framing, lots of animal shots, shots from planes, on water, on children. Loved ’em. Didn’t understand ’em, of course, but didn’t have to.