Dog Star Man

Aug 04, 2010

(Stan Brakhage, 1961-64, USA, 16mm, 75 min)

Co-presented by The Sprocket Society and Third Eye Cinema

Join us for a rare screening of an essential film of the 20th century avant garde. This will be a brand new print in its original 16mm format and shown silent, as intended by the filmmaker. 

Four years in the making, this influential and much-revered abstract work is widely regarded as the masterpiece of legendary filmmaker Stan Brakhage, who made more than 350 films over 50 years.

A psychedelic freakout, mytho-poetic dissertation and aesthetic shot- across-the-bow all in one, Dog Star Man is an unforgettable work of high artistry, as challenging as it is rewarding.

Unlike Brakhage's later and better-known painted films, Dog Star Man draws mainly on filmed actualities. Its components are all contained in the stunning Prelude. Over the next four parts these elements are fragmented, manipulated and recombined in a mosaic of increasing complexity.

On one level it depicts an intensely mythic spiritual quest, a deeply personal farago informed by Brakhage's lifelong study of poetry and symbolism. On another level it is a purely visual tour de force of editing and composition that can be experienced solely on its own (or your own) terms.

For Brakhage himself, Dog Star Man represented an artistic rebirth, moving past the psychodramas he was already respected for into the visually tactile, abstract poetry of his mature years. 

To the world at large, the film was a landmark that proclaimed the new vibrancy of experimental cinema, both by its length and through its radical departure from (most) prior experimental film aesthetics. It influenced - and often divided - the discussion, creation, and very conception of experimental cinema for decades to come. 

Even after 46 years, Dog Star Man remains an evocative, controversial, and powerful experience.

Time Magazine, 1967: "Stan Brakhage, 37, a husky hypochondriac who lives with his wife and five children in a log cabin in Colorado, has radically rewritten movie grammar. By fragmenting his films into frames, Brakhage has established the frame in cinema as equivalent to the note in music; whereupon he proceeds to make films with frames the way a composer makes music with notes."

Fred Camper: "More than any other filmmaker, he defined the cinema as a visual being, liberating if from non-visual considerations, and as visually useful for expressing a totality of thought."

Jake Euker, "Dog Star Man [is] a 74-minute epic on what Brakhage calls 'the big daddy' theme, or man in his natural state as father, husband, lover, and provider, pitted against nature, and seen from the atomic to the astral levels. ...[It] is a work of realism into which abstraction intrudes. It was in this film that he first scratched and painted designs directly onto film, and his use of such devices as under- or over-exposing film or experimenting with focus, not only render much of Dog Star Man truly abstract, but signal the full acceptance by the filmmaker of those methods which bloom so magnificently in his later work."

"I wanted it to be as real from the very beginning as life happening." —Stan Brakhage 

Plus, opening the program is: Legendary Epics Yarns and Fables, Part 2: Stan Brakhage (1969), a short sound interview film with no interlocutor by Stephen E. Gebhardt.


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