The speed of fade and the time length of the black
reminds us that movies aren’t moving pictures only: structurally,
they’re time-based graphics (like a black screen), some
of which aren’t pictures at all.
(Ray Durgnat: A Long Hard Look at Psycho, BFI, 2003)
Stan Brakhage (1933-2003) is most well-known for the development, from the late 1950s onwards, of a cinema (he made over 450 films) in which the camera replaces the protagonist, freeing it from conventional positions and hence engagement with both subject and the viewer. His work is characterized by images where variations in exposure and focus, handheld camera movement, light flares, refractions and flashes are in a constant state of flux and interplay.
This program, however, focuses on some of his less well known and more unusual works, most notably Passage Through: A Ritual (1992), a 50-minute response to a soundtrack sent to him by the composer Philip Corner. Among other things, it is one of only a small handful that have soundtracks - Brakhage maintained that sound films divide the attention of the viewer. Passage Through: A Ritual finds a novel and extreme solution to this problem and becomes a perfect vehicle for attending to the soundtrack.
The Roman Numeral Series (1979-1981) are among some of Brakhage’s most ineffable and abstract works. Mostly in high-key, brilliant colour, single frames and short bursts of black are deployed to generate a variety of functions and effects. Sometimes a black frame is simply an all but invisible way to disguise a cut-an-eye-blink but at others a black frame is placed next to an over-exposed flash-frame, serving to emphasise the disruptive flash by a process of contrast. Black frames also punctuate the longer shots, and dynamise the relationship between longer and shorter ones. Because the longer shots are often very similar to each other, the black frame serves to indicate the end of one shot and the start of the next by a clear and emphatic pause. The black frames also generate rhythm, or in some cases augment an existing one. They have a mildly disruptive effect, without creating pauses, as longer sections of black would. This disruptive effect can also be seen as an anti-montage device: once shots are separated, even if only by a blink of black, montage is frustrated, the clash of the cut which generates Dziga Vertov’s essential interval, is disabled.
- Nicky Hamlyn
Introduction, by Nicky Hamlyn (Cinema Parenthèse)
- Crack Glass Eulogy (1992, 16mm, color, sound, 6'00)
Music by Rick Corrigan
A nostalgic envisionment of city living – the potential shards of memory seen as if always on the verge of cutting the mind to pieces … “Nostalgia is the most dangerous thought process” – (poet Charles Olson, mid ’60s) – Stan Brakhage
- Roman Numeral Series V (1980, 16mm, color, silent, 3'30)
The Roman Numerals are nine films, commonly described as "abstract," which explore the possibilities of making equivalents of "moving visual thinking" - that pre-language, pre-picture realm of the mind which provides the physical grounds for image making (imagination). Thus the very substance of the birth of imagery. – Stan Brakhage
- Passage Through: A Ritual (1990, 16mm, color, sound, 50'00)
Music by Phillip Corner
When I received the tape of Phillip Corner’s ‘Through the Mysterious Barricade, Lumen I (after F. Couperin)’ he included a note that thanked me for my film ‘The Riddle of Lumen’ he’d just seen and which had in some way inspired this music. I, in turn, was so moved by the tape he sent I immediately asked his permission to ‘set it to film’. It required the most exacting editing process ever, and in the course of that work it occurred to me that I’d originally made ‘The Riddle of Lumen’ hoping someone would make an ‘answering’ film and entertain my visual riddle in the manner of the riddling poets of yore. I most expected Hollis Frampton (because of ‘Zorn’s Lemma’) to pick up the challenge, but he never did. In some sense I think composer Corner has, and now we have this dance of riddles as music and film combine to make ‘passage’, in every sense of the word, further possible. (To be absolutely ‘true to’ the ritual of this passage, the two reels of the film should be shown on one projector, taking the normal amount of time, without rewinding reel 1 or showing the finish or start leaders of either – especially without changing the sound dials – between reels.) – Stan Brakhage
- Roman Numeral Series VI (1980, 16mm, color, silent, 10'30)
The Roman Numerals are nine films, commonly described as "abstract," which explore the possibilities of making equivalents of "moving visual thinking" - that pre-language, pre-picture realm of the mind which provides the physical grounds for image making (imagination). Thus the very substance of the birth of imagery.– Stan Brakhage
Approximate time 70'00
Entrance: 4€/6€ (cash only)
Cinema Parenthèse is a collective of writers, programmers and filmmakers that organizes experi-mental film screenings and dialogues in Brussels. Current members are Wendy Evan, Els van Riel, Nicky Hamlyn, Daniel A. Swarthnas and Arindam Sen.