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Spielberg Theater at the Egyptian
Los Angeles, CA
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Sunday June 20, 2010, 7:30 pm
Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian

Los Angeles Filmforum is the city's longest-running organization dedicated to weekly screenings of experimental film, documentaries, video art, and experimental animation.  www.lafilmforum.org

Among his more than 350 personal films, Stan Brakhage (1933-2003) produced only 27 works with soundtracks (a complete list appears below).  In this program, five of these sound films will be shown, representing a variety of approaches to what Brakhage referred to as "the 'sound problem' of motion picture aesthetic."  (We hope you had a chance to join us for two other Brakhage sound films  Visions in Meditation #3 and Scenes From Under Childhood, Section One  which were screened in our program on June 6, 2010.)

Brakhage created his own soundtracks for a number of the films (three of which are included tonight), but also worked with composers, who either created new pieces for him, or authorized existing pieces to be used.  Many of them were also friends, including James Tenney (Interim, Christ Mass Sex Dance, "..." Reel Five), Rick Corrigan (Visions in Meditation #3, Boulder Blues and Pearls And..., Faust 4, others), and Joel Haertling (I... Dreaming, Loud Visual Noises, others).

Although music and sound were of great significance to Brakhage, sound cinema was a problematic area that he felt would often create more unresolvable conflict in his work than the harmony of spirit that might be desired.  Brakhage approached the visual and rhythmic aspects of his films in such an intensely musical way, that any attempt at soundtrack might only create distraction, conflict, and competition between his visual music and its aural counterpart.  Nevertheless, he did work with sound on 27 occasions, sometimes to his great personal satisfaction (Passage Through: A Ritual), sometimes only to resigned tolerance (Scenes From Under Childhood, Section One).  

Program curated and introduced by Mark Toscano, preservationist at the Academy Film Archive.  Prints from the Academy Film Archive and Canyon Cinema.

Blue Moses (1962, b/w, sound, 10.5min)
Sound by Stan Brakhage.
"Blue Moses attacks the dramatic film as an untenable convention.  Brakhage temporarily accepts the principles of the realists of film theory who argue that cinema arises from the interaction of the artist with exterior reality in front of the camera.  But he rebuts them with a demonstration of how fragile their sense of exterior reality is." (P. Adams Sitney)
Restored print from the Academy Film Archive.

Day Break and White Eye (1957, b/w, sound, 9.5min)
Sound by Stan Brakhage.
"These two films investigate frustrations in loving, DAYBREAK with a girl as object, WHITEYE with the camera as subject." (Stan Brakhage)
"...I studied informally with  John Cage and Edgard Varèse and developed a friendship with them, they permitted me to sit in on sessions, overhear music lessons, and out of this relationship I came to understand that I was not obsessed with sound like I was with vision.  And so at times I certainly forced things, I have films that have whole soundtracks that were much struggled with and did have moments of obsession involved in the making.  For instance Day Break and White Eye, where the whole track was of the integrity of the image.  By integrity I mean where the film is integral unto itself, it has its own internal relationships which make it have a life in the world."  (Stan Brakhage, 5/19/73 at Millennium Film Workshop)

Christ Mass Sex Dance (1991, color, sound, 5.5min)
Sound by James Tenney: "Blue Suede".
"Because it is so highly edited, James Tenney's 'Blue Suede' is so meaningfully conjunctive with the possibilities of cinema.  Its editing is for the purpose of creating metaphor, so that whatever the words are of 'Blue Suede Shoes', recutting allows submerged grunts and vulgarities to emerge from the track.  And that's what compelled me to put imagery appropriate and meaningful to that and make Christ Mass Sex Dance.  It was an extremely complex work to make, but for me what it does very simply is give you something truer to a normal thought process." (Stan Brakhage, 2/6/93 at Millennium Film Workshop)

Fire of Waters (1965, b/w, sound, 6.5min)
Sound by Stan Brakhage.
"For years I had imposed the discipline on myself that if ever a single sound was needed anywhere on a track to go with an image I would put that sound in even if no other sound was needed in the whole film.  That permitted me when I felt the need of slowed-down bird sounds (that is a bird's cry slowed down so that it became like a western musical instrument), to put it in where I felt it was needed.  Then that caused me to feel the need of a sound of wind rising to a certain pitch at the very beginning.  At the end then the speeded-up sound of Jane giving birth to Myrenna occurs on two levels in the last shot of the house.  It definitely sounds like a dog in somebody's backyard in the drama sense of that scene, yelping in pain.  It does actually carry the sense of a terror beyond that.  That's how the sound came into it and balanced out." (Stan Brakhage, quoted by P. Adams Sitney in Visionary Film)

Passage Through: A Ritual (1990, color, sound, 49min)
Sound by Philip Corner: "Through the Mysterious Barricade (after F. Couperin) LUMEN 1 (for Stan Brakhage)".
"When I received the tape of Philip Corner's Through the Mysterious Barricade, Lumen 1 (after F. Couperin), he included a note that thanked me for my film, THE RIDDLE OF LUMEN, he'd just seen and which had in some way inspired this music. I, in turn, was so moved by the tape he sent I immediately asked his permission to 'set it to film.' It required the most exacting editing process ever; and in the course of that work it occurred to me that I'd originally made THE RIDDLE OF LUMEN hoping someone would make an 'answering' film and entertain my visual riddle in the manner of the riddling poets of yore. I most expected Hollis Frampton (because of Zorn's Lemma) to pick up the challenge; but he never did. In some sense I think composer Corner has - and now we have this dance of riddles as music and film combine to make 'passage,' in every sense of the word, further possible." (Stan Brakhage)
"Six years ago, my whole life collapsed and I experienced psychodramatic sound combinations.  I began working with composers again, and very rapidly came to a setting of picture to sound, so that in fact it was the sound then that would engender me to do pictures.  The happiest combination has been Passage Through: A Ritual set to music by Philip Corner." (Stan Brakhage, 2/6/93 at Millennium Film Workshop)

This screening series is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles.  Additional support generously provided by the American Cinematheque.

For the screenings at the Egyptian Theater:
Parking is now easiest at the Hollywood & Highland complex. Bring your ticket for validation. Parking is $2 for 4 hours with validation. Enter that complex on Highland or Hollywood. The theater is 1.5 blocks east.


Spielberg Theater at the Egyptian
6712 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
United States



Kid Friendly: No
Dog Friendly: No
Non-Smoking: No
Wheelchair Accessible: No


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