From: Fred Camper (email suppressed)
Date: Sat Mar 28 2009 - 13:38:15 PDT
The recent talk about who is "THE" (or was that "THEE") "Brakhage
expert" got me thinking. The world actually does not have the "Brakhage
expert" that the scope and importance of his work requires. There is no
"Brakhage expert" in the sense that in the academic community one can
find, for example, Ezra Pound experts, or, more recently and sad (for me
if not for others) to say, Bob Dylan experts and Madonna experts. I post
this in the hope of interesting a young scholar, or someone else such as
a film professor who might interest a young scholar, in taking on this
role. More than one person taking it on would be fine too!
Obviously, the expert has to be devoted, ready to spend a large part of
her or his career on this. What's needed is someone with a deep interest
in, love of, and understanding of both world cinema and Brakhage's work
in particular. But since a large part of this project would be a working
through of Brakhage's many influences and sources, this scholar should
have deep involvements with and understandings of modern poetry,
classical music from Bach to Webern to Messiaen, and Western painting.
The scholar should be an avid reader, and willing and able to travel to
various archives to track down Brakhage's voluminous writings, lectures,
and correspondence. The scholar should also be an extremely fine film
viewer, both open to multiple ways of seeing and capable of very careful
observation. I envision the results would be both a massive critical
biography and a shorter, book-length introduction. Several threads would
be present in both: Brakhage's complicated life story, his artistic
influences and the way they are reflected in his films, and examinations
of the films from varied perspectives.
Partly I write this out of regret at never having taken on this task
myself. (For various reasons, I never felt up to it.) Obviously, a
scholar who takes this on may have different ideas about what's needed;
these are just my opinions. I also write out of regret at never having
done the kind of massive, tape-recorded oral history I had thought of
when Brakhage and some of his associates were still living. But many who
knew and worked with him are still living, from a few of his high school
friends to the filmmakers who helped him in the making of his late
films. If an oral history is not done, the information lost will be
disputed at great lengths by scholars far into the future -- just as
scholars today are debating facts lost about arts from earlier centuries.
Brakhage has a particular importance, due not only to the quality and
scope of his work but to its, and his, vast influence, but there are
many other filmmakers worthy of study in depth. Interested film scholars
should, in my view, be devoting as much time to such projects, including
gathering facts from living people in the present, as is now devoted to
"theory," or to arguing about things that happened in 1897 that we will
likely never know about for sure. Sadly, though, in the current climate
the latter two options may be better career moves.
For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.