The debate about whether life imitates art, or vice versa, comes to the fore in this intriguing documentary about one of the most important filmmakers of the avant-garde: Stan Brakhage. Since 1952, Brakhage has created more than three hundred films, ranging from several seconds to several hours. This film explores the exquisite splendor of his films and the intersection of Brakhage’s art and life.
Brakhage’s filmmaking has been personal, often made with only himself as cameraman, engaging with the world around him. Sometimes controversial, the films have raised questions regarding the use of spouses and children as subject matter. In Brakhage, Stan’s first wife, Jane, and children speak with frankness of his filmmaking and their relationship to him. Is being the subject of a film the same as being an object of affection? The film also explores Brakhage’s second marriage to Marilyn, a woman who refuses to be photographed. Life and art intersect again when, following a period in which he hand-painted films, Brakhage is diagnosed with bladder cancer and suspects the colors he has been using as a carcinogen.
In addition to candid interviews with his friends, family, colleagues, and critics, Brakhage combines excerpts from his films, as well as those of his contemporaries, including George Kuchar, Jonas Mekas, Willie Varela, and Bruce Elder. The original score is by James Tenney, a longtime collaborator.
Brakhage is a compelling examination of his art, personal charm, aesthetic influence, and position within the avant-garde world. It is also a fascinating portrait of an artist who
continually reinvents himself.
Jim Shedden, Director
Jim Shedden has been programming and writing on film since 1985. He coordinated the 1989 Internatinal Experimental Film Congress and worked at the Art Gallery of Ontario from 1989 to 1998. In 1994 he completed his first video documentary, Michael Snow Up Close. Brakhage is his first feature film.