The art and legacy of a towering figure in the independent film movement

Stan Brakhage


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edited by David E. James

"The scant attention given Stan Brakhage's one-man reinvention of motion pictures is a scandal of academic cinema studies. This generous collection of essays and appreciations, contributed by a wide variety of poets, critics, scholars, and fellow filmmakers, is most illuminating-it beams a welcome light on the terra incognita of Brakhage's accomplishment."
J. Hoberman, Village Voice film critic

Stan Brakhage: Filmmaker is a collection of essays, photographs, personal statements, and reminiscences about the celebrated avant-garde filmmaker who died in 2003. The director of nearly four hundred short films, including Dog Star Man, Parts I-IV, and the Roman Numeral Series, Brakhage is widely recognized as one of the great artists of the medium. His shorts eschewed traditional narrative structure, and his innovations in fast cutting, hand-held camerawork, and multiple superimpositions created an unprecedentedly rich texture of images that provided the vocabulary for the explosion of independent filmmaking in the 1960s.

Stan Brakhage: Filmmaker chronicles both the director's personal and formal development. The essays in this book—by historians, filmmakers, and other artists—assess Brakhage's contributions to the aesthetic and political history of filmmaking, from his emergence on the film scene and the establishment of his reputation, to the early-1980s. The result is a remarkable tribute to this lyrical, visionary artist.



Read the Introduction (pdf).



"Stan Brakhage: Filmmaker contains arguments and perspectives on Brakhage's work I've not seen before. The combination of academic perspectives and those of filmmakers is an especially original and appropriate way to treat Brakhage, who always hoped his films would inspire new ways of seeing and making, and is a major strength of this fine book, which offers a variety of new and interesting ways of thinking about Brakhage's films."
Fred Camper, independent film scholar

"To sing in praise of Stan Brakhage is to sing in praise of cinema—daring us to see as we have never seen before. These wonderfully diverse essays take the measure of one of cinema's great visionaries."
Bill Nichols, author of Introduction to Documentary and editor, Maya Deren and the American Avant Garde

"A pity that Brakhage did not live to see the book, because the essayists listed in the table of contents read like a Who's Who of the avant-garde... All these folks came to praise Brakhage, not to bury him. Contemporary film student need to know that such an abstract visual talent as Brakhage could succeed in the US, and therein lies the book's value. Recommended."

"An anthology praising perhaps the best-known and most widely-celebrated American avant-garde filmmaker."
Communications Booknotes Quarterly

"[A] remarkable-and remarkably compelling—portrait of Brakhage as artist, theorist, and friend.... The highlight of this collection is the selection of reminiscences by Brakhage's friends, artists and filmmakers."
Senses of Cinema



1. Introduction: Stan Brakhage: The Activity of His Nature – David E. James
2. Stan Brakhage – Parker Tyler
3. Brakhage. Breer. Menken. The Pure Poets of Cinema – Jonas Mekas
4. Brakhage and Rilke – Jerome Hill
5. On The Art of Vision – Robert Kelly
6. The First Time I Heard the Word "Brakhage" – Edward Dorn
7. Camera Lucida/Camera Obscura – Annette Michelson
8. Brakhage Memoir – James Tenney
9. Amateurs in the Industry Town: Stan Brakhage and Andy Warhol in Los Angeles – David E. James
10. It Is Painting – Carolee Schneemann
11. Brakhage: Poesis – R. Bruce Elder
12. Recollections of Stan Brakhage – Jonas Mekas
13. The Roman Numeral Series – Nicky Hamlyn
14. Letter re: Stan – Bruce Baillie
15. Stan Brakhage, Agrimoniac – Craig Dworkin
16. Brakhage Package – Chick Strand
17. Brakhage's Faustian Psychodrama – P. Adams Sitney
18. Stan Brakhage: American Visionary – Willie Varela
19. Brakhage's Occasions: Figure, Subjectivity, and Avant-Garde Politics – Tyrus Miller
20. Notes on Sincerity and Irony – Abigail Child
21. Becoming Dark With Excess of Light: The Vancouver Island Films – Paul Arthur
22. As I Am Writing This Today – Phil Solomon


About the Author(s)

David E. James is Professor in the School of Cinema-Television at the University of Southern California. He is the editor of The Sons and Daughters of Los: Culture and Community in Los Angeles (Temple) and author of The Most Typical Avant-Garde: History and Geography of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles.

Contributors: Paul Arthur, Montclair State University; Bruce Baillie; Abigail Child; Edward Dorn; Craig Dworkin; R. Bruce Elder; Nicky Hamlyn, Kent Institute of Art and Design; Jonas Mekas; Tyrus Miller, University of California, Santa Cruz; Carolee Schneemann; P. Adams Sitney, Princeton University; Phil Solomon, University of Colorado, Boulder; Chick Strand; James Tenney, California Institute of the Arts; Willie Varela, University of Texas at El Paso; and the editor.

Subject Categories

Cinema Studies
General Interest
American Studies

In the series

Wide Angle Books, edited by Erik Barnouw, Ruth Bradley, Scott MacDonald, and Patricia Zimmermann.

The mission of Wide Angle Books is to document, chronicle, and honor those institutions that have worked effectively to maintain a public presence and public spaces for alternative forms of media. These books recognize that institutional support of media happens at a variety of levels in a film series, in a video distribution organization, in a transnational digital network, in a grassroots production organization and in locations across the globe. Individual volumes in the series focus on such forms of primary documentation as letters, institutional records, and oral histories, presented and contextualized by leading media history scholars.



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