ANNOTATING BRAKHAGE: Sunday I commented that "a film shouldn't require an external annotation to have its effect." Now Little Fyodor writes to object. "Why not?" he asks. "I'd dare say it's rather arbitrary and constraining to insist that any work of art CANNOT be enhanced by information outsided the direct experience."
I agree. Indeed, I have a hard time thinking of a film that couldn't be "enhanced by information outside the direct experience." But it shouldn't require such information, and I think the work in question, Stan Brakhage's Self Song & Death Song, does just that. This film doesn't have any impact unless you know what you're looking at, and I didn't know what I was looking at until I read the program notes.
Fyodor goes on to relate an anecdote about the director. "Back in the '80s, I hung with a crowd that was in with Brakhage, and so I sometimes attended get togethers at his domicile where he would show films and accept the worship of his followers. One film of his that he showed he introduced by saying that it depicted the history of England. It turned out to be brief, blurry images of some castle or somesuch in England interspersed with periods of blackness that lasted longer than the blurry images. Now, I hate it when people dismiss something 'weird' out of hand, but suffice to say I found myself no more edified on the history of England after this viewing!
"Probably the best part of the experience was hearing Stan describe how people on the street in England where he shot this film came over to ask him if he were okay, due to the way he was leaning over at various angles while shooting. Now THAT was charming!"