Combustible Celluloid
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With: Stan Brakhage, Jane Brakhage, A. Austin, Bob Benson, Yvonne Fair, Larry Jordan, Walter Newcomb, James Tenney
Written by: Stan Brakhage
Directed by: Stan Brakhage
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 243
Date: 03/18/2013

By Brakhage: An Anthology (2003)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Act of Seeing

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

One of America's foremost "experimental" or non-narrative filmmakers, Stan Brakhage (1933-2002) created something like 400 films during his career. One of the most famous, the 75-minute Dog Star Man (1964) is included in this new 2-disc collection of 26 films, which runs a total of 243 minutes. Dog Star Man was among the first films to be selected by the Library of Congress's National Film Registry.

Brakhage often writes about getting viewers to see things with new eyes, and one must adopt that notion before watching his films. The viewer must let him or herself go and watch the images without trying to connect them to things known. I was able to do that for just a fleeting moment during Dog Star Man, but it's asking a lot to keep that going for 75 minutes. Another of the 26 films, Black Ice (1994), runs just 2 minutes, and it's a beauty. Most of the other films were almost indistinguishable from each other or did absolutely nothing for me. One little number called The Act of Seeing With One's Own Eyes is simply 31 minutes of real-life autopsy footage.

Without Fred Camper's helpful notes including in the booklet, most of these films would be even more difficult.

Still, Brakhage is worshiped and adored by most of film's elite, and the most dedicated film scholars might be willing to work with this collection, watching the films again and again, to unlock their magic.

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