Re: [Frameworks] Letter to other Filmmaker Artists

From: Pip Chodorov (email suppressed)
Date: Fri Jul 23 2010 - 03:33:00 PDT

Hi Matt, I'll tackle that one!

Black Ice is a great example.

A) You know that Brakhage's hand-painted films at that time were
based on poetic visions of real-world inspiration: Chartres Series
was inspired by the stained-glass windows of Chartres and in their
particular blue color that he strived to remember ; Autumnal by the
colors and feelings of the season, etc. Black Ice was made after he
fell on black ice and the visions that gave him. Just like a poet
trying to communicate a deep feeling from one human to another
through the clunky words of everyday language, he picked up his film,
paints, brushes and tools, sat in the cafe in Boulder and scratched,
scraped and painted these visions onto pieces of film. The work was
physical, manual and it was about making an imprint and impression on
that solid material that would also be projectable as a visual,
meaningful, beautiful, communicative image in light. The first
impulse was then to make painterly gestures, not with a keyboard and
mouse, and those gestures, those imprints by those thumbs, are
visible on the screen today.

B) These sources of inspiration are about light (transparency and
opacity) and color: blue glass, black ice... Working with film
material and paint is also about transparency and opacity and color.
There is a direct relationship there, unlike the indirect
relationship of a computer emulating the way something could look
("virtual" is the term I think).

C) The painted strips were then used as a base to be optically
printed following a score. Brakhage himself did not do the printing,
but carefully noted his ideas for Sam Bush, the technician at Western
Cine. A fugue of rhythms and patterns were created from the painted
material. In the case of Black Ice, the image turning and zooming in
gives us the feeling of falling into the blackness. The black of
film, being a total absence of light, is really a black void compared
to the grey of the video screen which is illuminated even when there
is no picture. This gives Black Ice almost a 3D effect, pitching
forward and losing consciousness.

D) If you have only seen Black Ice on DVD, of course you won't have
the experience of these colors and this depth. As I wrote on
FrameWorks August 25, 2003, the MPEG2 file on the Criterion DVD
"contains less information about how the colors bleed and blend into
each other, in that particular way they do in Black Ice, for example,
when different hand-painted stocks are superimposed in the printer.
There are blues blending into whites blending into blacks, and these
subtle smooth gradations and grains seem to be reduced on the DVD to
fields of hues of delimited color, with shapes to them, shapes with
contours instead of hazy edges. There seem to be less of a range of
subtle colors, a reduced palette." And on 17 June 2005 I added "The
colors may look bright and beautiful but there is a lot of detail
from the film that is missing on the DVD. They used a clever
compression strategy that makes the work look good, but quite
different from the original. I suppose that is a matter of taste at
this point, the way things are going." I think, Matt, that you are
right when you say Brakhage could have made a film like that on
video, if you are refering to the DVD experience, but the film
experience is quite different and I don't think the particular
qualities of this film could be made on a computer as we know them
today. The algorythms that have been developed and the way in which
programmers and chip designers have chosen to manipulate pixels when
representing light have led computer graphics in a certain direction
from which there is little chance of return to that creative
experimental space where Vanderbeek, or Whitney, or Paik, or
Tambellini, found themselves in the 1960s, excited by what computer
graphics could become. Brakhage in 1994 was still excited by film
graphics, and Black Ice is a great example of a film that comes
straight out of an idea applied to a manual, painterly technology,
that would be hard to approach using information technology.


At 23:29 -0700 22/07/10, Matt Helme wrote:
>With technology being what it is,Brakhage could have made a film
>like "Black Ice " on Video .

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