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SPECIAL SCREENING

Brakhage Movies at Filmforum

November 07, 1988|KEVIN THOMAS

Filmforum will present a program of films by Stan Brakhage, the master of cinematic stream-of-consciousness, at LACE at 8 tonight. For more than 30 years Brakhage has been creating meaning from a flow of highly eclectic images that seem to be linked only by free association. What in lesser hands would result only in a rag-tag, home-movie jumble emerges in his films as an intensely rhythmic vision of the universe as powerful as it is personal. Brakhage has a special gift of bringing us in touch with nature and, therefore, ourselves.

The centerpiece of the evening is the 50-minute, two-part "23rd Psalm Branch," shot in 8-millimeter in 1966 and blown up to 16-millimeter in 1978 and quite possibly never before screened in Los Angeles. Featuring Brakhage's usual free-moving superimposed images, it contrasts scenes of Brakhage's serene domestic existence in rural Colorado with often solarized World War II archival footage as a way of expressing Brakhage's consideration of how the artist and the individual are to respond to war--specifically, the Vietnam War, then raging. The quick cuts of the first part, depicting a world menaced by chaos, give way to the more contemplative passages of the second, filmed largely in Europe and suggestive of a quest for the roots of war.

In a sense, "Oh Life, a Woe Story, the A-Bomb Test News" (1963) and "The Dead" (1960) anticipate "23rd Psalm Branch." In the first, Brakhage turns his camera on a TV set, and the resulting collage of images not only evokes the pervasiveness of the media but also a world heading toward self-destruction. With very simple means Brakhage captures the frenzy of modern life much as the far more elaborate "Koyaanisqatsi" does. In "The Dead," Brakhage juxtaposes swirls of solarized black-and-white superimposed shots of Paris' famed Pere Lachaise cemetery with beautiful flowing color passages of a trip down the Seine to create a direct and kinetic expression of the forces of life and death. (If you're paying close attention you will catch a glimpse of the young Kenneth Anger.) Information: (213) 276-7452 or (714) 923-2441.

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