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Stan Brakhage's History Lesson
July 22, 2008

Still from 23rd Psalm, Branch (Part II)

Still from 23rd Psalm, Branch (Part II). Courtesy of the Estate of Stan Brakhage and Fred Camper

Stan Brakhage's film, 23rd Psalm, Branch (Part I) from his Song series is forty-four minutes of war footage interspersed with images of the filmmaker's home town in Colorado. Brakhage made it in 1966 as a personal response to the Vietnam war. How was he or any young person at the time supposed to respond? The scenes from Colorado are for the most part calm and verdant landscape. The scenes from World War II are graphic, disturbing, hard to look at--and at the same time, they make it impossible to turn away. The body count grows while bombs keep exploding. 23rd Psalm is a silent film which makes the devastating explosions all the more eerie.

Brakhage was a painterly filmmaker in that he painted right on the eight-millimeter film, scratched its surface, and treated the celluloid like a canvas. You can't do this with digital. Always striking and often beautiful, the film presents the viewer with realities that alternate between a dreamscape and a world turned into a living nightmare.

Part II of 23rd Psalm, Branch will be shown at SAAM's McEvoy Auditorium on July 23 at 6 p.m. And looking ahead a bit, on Thursday August 14 at 6 p.m., SAAM presents a series of screenings of the works of both Stan Brakhage and Bill Viola.

Posted by Howard on July 22, 2008 in Post It


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