Re: Dog Star Man and L. L. Bean

From: Fred Camper (email suppressed)
Date: Fri Dec 18 2009 - 13:13:48 PST

Quoting Chuck Kleinhans <email suppressed>:

> U.S. Frameworkers might have the same reaction I did to the new L. L.
> Bean Christmas commercial on TV.

Chuck, I know you weren't claiming that this commercial was any good,
and I thank you for calling it to our attention. Intrigued by your
post, I found the commercial online at I assume this is the one? It's also on Bean's own

The first few shots don't look "handheld" to me. Am I missing
something here? In pre-steadicam days, I would have assumed they laid
tracks in the snow to get those smooth movements, and maybe that is
what they did. Also, the very first shot is not only neither a man nor
a dog, but the tritest subject of them all, a cute little girl, and it
has a symmetry, and cloying cuteness, that is, to quote Brakhage in
another context, "everything I have opposed in my 50 years of
filmmaking." Actually, the whole commercial is that too. It has a
predictability, and a mechanical slickness, that is the complete
opposite of Brakhage's imagery, in which you can feel every surprising
quiver of his nervous system, body, and mind.

I found a short bio of the director of this ad at Based on the
bio, it seems possible that he never saw a Brakhage film. Of course
it's also possible that he did. But something like the final credits
of "The Jacket," which whatever you think of them are an obvious
Brakhage homage, are quite a different matter from this commercial.
Family in snow is a pretty obvious image for winter, and the three
images showing man and dog together are followed by an obnoxiously
"well-composed" image of man, woman and dog, which, despite Brakhage's
alleged celebration of the nuclear family, is a kind of shot he would
never use -- except perhaps as a "horror" image in a found footage
(and never made) "sequel" to "Murder Psalm."

The larger point is that Brakhage's whole aesthetic, the
unpredictability of each moment in his work, the constructions of his
films as self-questioning paradoxes, the way his films seem to consume
themselves in the process of their unfolding, is completely opposed to
the object-centered possessivenes of our culture, and its commercial
products. The idea that Brakhage's work is apolitical is totally
wrong, if "political" is understood in a larger sense: Brakhage's
entire oeuvre critiques mainstream culture's way of seeing, and being.

Fred Camper

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