Re: Brakhage expert needed

From: Ted Sonnenschein (email suppressed)
Date: Mon Mar 30 2009 - 03:19:39 PDT

I thought it a credit to Brakhage that no one has yet to take this on. But,
I also can't imagine many people have even seen even 75% of his output. When
I was at SFAI around '90-'91, I was shocked at how negative so many people
were towards Brakhage. I mean, viciously negative. Even Keith Sanborn,
leading the intro class would take potshots. One time I recommended to Ernie
Gehr that we watch 'Anticipation of the Night' when the film we shot for the
class wasn't back from the lab (Gehr had asked what he thought we should do
instead). A few from the class started to get pissed off and saying all this
crap against Brakhage. Something I was, at that time, used to hearing. Gehr
just smiled and decided that this was a good idea after all. Well, when that
film ended, it shut them up. There was an air in the room that is hard to
describe. My gut was just sore from all that weight. Gehr called for
thoughts and impressions and looked at me. I had nothing to say. I don't
think anyone did. I was glad to see that there is a new generation that
seems more respectful and interested.

I had recently gone to look up some information on his 70s period and
realized then that in the dozen or so years since I looked, there wasn't
much new out there. Still, the only thing that bothered me is the work isn't
regularly out there to see and would I ever get to see much works from this
period. I think more important than scholars, would be someone coordinating
touring programs of his work, ideally programmed by period. Has anyone tried
to do anything like this? Well-programmed, I think, could really get the
ball rolling and possibly even finding people who would be into taking on
the study of Brakhage's work. Plus, I am sure Brakhage has fans all over the
world that could help get such a project rolling but I am sure most of the
major film art screening houses would support such a project.


On Mon, Mar 30, 2009 at 8:23 AM, Marilyn Brakhage <email suppressed> wrote:

> Well, as to Mason suggesting 'his wife': Not sure which wife you're
> meaning. I am Stan Brakhage's second wife -- but, regrettably, not the
> scholar Fred describes. Nevertheless, I have several comments:
> 1) Bruce Elder has written an impressive book that addresses some of these
> towering ambitions (The Films of Stan Brakhage in the American Tradition of
> Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and Charles Olson), and of course there are a
> number of others, beginning with P. Adams Sitney, from whom we also have
> important parts of this envisioned massive undertaking. But yes, something
> more, something along the lines that Fred describes, is definitely needed.
> 2) I wholeheartedly agree that "more than one person taking it on" would
> not only be fine, but probably essential.
> 3) Though it may be true that it's important to be gathering information
> now, while people are still around who knew Stan, I can also guarantee that
> even doing that will lead to "information" being "disputed at great
> lengths." Stan was many things to many people, full of apparent and
> sometimes rather dramatic contradictions, his "complicated life story" is
> inextricably bound to his work, other people have their own subjective
> experiences, subject to the vagaries of memory -- and there is already a lot
> of "information" floating around that I (for one) know to be untrue and/or
> would interpret quite differently than someone else might. Therefore (and
> because the sheer amount of information is so huge),
> 4) Well, to do it well would take someone who is also very brave, wise,
> comprehensive in approach, sensitive and subtle in their writing . . .
> BUT -- no need to wait for the perfect human being! Anyone who takes on
> even part of this project in good faith -- bravo!
> Marilyn Brakhage
> On Sunday, March 29, 2009, at 08:00 PM, Mason Shefa wrote:
> His wife?
>> On Mar 28, 2009, at 1:38 PM, Fred Camper wrote:
>> 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.
>> Fred Camper
>> Chicago
>> __________________________________________________________________
>> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.
>> _____________________
>> Mason Shefa
>> email suppressed
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.