Re: Frampton's "Hapax Legomena" [Was: Frampton, Brakhage, RE:VOIR]

From: Mark Toscano (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Feb 16 2010 - 16:55:18 PST

I would also say that they grow in poetic ELUsiveness as the cycle moves on. Didn't Frampton talk about each film, but also the cycle as a whole, as being (in part) about an "emptying" of sorts?

I certainly don't think they're bad or uninteresting films by any means, and I do think the backlash against them has to do with their comparative lack of accessibility, but I don't think that's all it is.

I know Brakhage loved and spoke well about Traveling Matte, and although I even agree in principle about its conceptual beauty, the concept doesn't work symbiotically enough for me with the execution, or my own subsequent reception. The degree to which it's alienating is, well, alienating, and there's only so much sympathy I guess I'm then able to muster for the work. Frankly, it bores me after a fashion, but I've not seen it for several years and would love to look at it again, in context.

I enjoy Ordinary Matter immensely, partly because it's suddenly a very beautifully and lyrically different work from its immediate neighbors, and because it just simply says much more to me than its immediate predecessor. The unification of space is fascinating, and the movement through space is exhilarating, allowing for seemingly endless suggestiveness.

Remote Control does the same to me as Traveling Matte, although it's easily the film I remember the least, so I don't feel up to discussing it and should really see it again.

And at the very end, the visual and aural qualities of Special Effects, conceptually fulfilling and relevant, but also like a somewhat unwelcome mosquito, test one's patience and for me, close the cycle somewhat antagonistically.

I also found it interesting to discover, upon listening to the Binghamton intro/Q&A from Frampton that one can find on (courtesy of Anthology), that the cycle at that time was intended to be 6 films, with no Remote Control, and with the films in a somewhat different ordering. And Frampton was showing it in unfinished form. For me, this brings into question how rigidly the piece was conceived to begin with (i.e. not at all), and therefore how religiously we have to relate to it in its finished form as a whole work (i.e. not as much as one might think). Frampton also speaks of the yet-unfinished soundtrack for Ordinary Matter, which was originally completely different than what he ended up doing. The originally intended soundtrack was apparently going to consist of various people each trying to describe, succinctly and in their own terms, Duchamp's Etant Donnes... This idea of subjective experience and nomenclature for something purposely
 inscrutable maybe would have been too literal for Frampton, not sure. The soundtrack he ended up using, the vocalizing of the Wade-Giles syllabary, is ultimately weirdly hypnotic and reminiscent to me of the final section of Zorns Lemma - this idea of language which seeks to overcome obstacles of translation/explication that are ultimately at least partly insurmountable.

The first three films, plus Ordinary Matter, ultimately feel meatier to me in their multitudinous properties of thought process, space, time, film medium, cause/effect, and any number of other themes they touch on. Very elegant, incredibly brilliant, highly conceived and lovingly executed. The other three in the cycle then seem to me to be conceptually rich, but falling short in execution or in the degree to which they communicate with the viewer. I feel like they're not welcoming in the same way. But this is more my issue than the films', although I certainly don't expect everything to welcome me openly. Actually, one standout quality of all 7 films is the heavy-duty and diverse ways in which subjectivity is brought to the fore, and how we relate to that in each film is of great potential fascination.

The first three may be the easiest to parse, but the three I've singled out here as problematic (to me) strike me as more dogmatic, more closed off, and not as engaged with the viewer on as many levels as the others.

In the end, it could certainly be about accessibility, but I don't necessarily think that's lame or disappointing. Frampton's most accessible films (Zorns Lemma, (nostalgia), Gloria, Poetic Justice, Works and Days, Lemon, Surface Tension, many others) are so incredibly open and loving of the audience, so intellectually giving and moving. And this openness is often the key to at least partially unlocking some of the more obtuse works like Carrots and Peas or Palindrome, hence my earlier comments in another post about the joy of seeing many of the diverse works in a short period of time.

I do hope to see H.L. in its entirety again soon, and am especially eager to see the final four films, to see how they speak to me now. All above comments, though I stand behind them, are based on one full-cycle viewing in 2002, and are hardly definitive, even for me.

Mark T

--- On Tue, 2/16/10, Fred Camper <email suppressed> wrote:

> From: Fred Camper <email suppressed>
> Subject: [FRAMEWORKS] Frampton's "Hapax Legomena" [Was: Frampton, Brakhage, RE:VOIR]
> To: email suppressed
> Date: Tuesday, February 16, 2010, 4:00 PM
> I am very disappointed to hear from
> very experienced and knowledgeable viewers the standard line
> that the first three films in "Hapax Legomena"  are the
> best. This has been the consensus since the film's first
> release, and it is, in my view, just wrong. The first three
> are the most accessible, the easiest to parse, the easiest
> to talk about, and, I think, the simplest.
> But my more important point is that the seven films of
> "Hapax Legomena" should not *only* be regarded as separate
> films, which is how they are being discussed here. "Hapax
> Legomena" is both a film of seven separate films and also a
> single film. The effect and meaning of its parts changes
> hugely, at least for me, when seen in the context of the
> whole in a single projection. They grow in poetic
> allusiveness and become parts of a progression.
> If someone at Criterion reads FrameWorks and decides not to
> include all of this masterpiece as a result of the opinions
> expressed here, I will...oh, never mind.
> Fred Camper
> Chicago
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.


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