Stan Brakhage: Eye Myth (1967) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Stan Brakhage: Eye Myth (1967)

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Many of Stan Brakhage's films are available for viewing in multiple venues.  You can watch Eye Myth here.

Eye Myth - 1967The last time I watched a Brakhage short I watched as a moth flew toward the inevitable graveyard.  With Eye Myth, I watched a universe explode into color which surrounded and emboldened a human figure.  The pure subjectivity of the former made me feel a lot more objective in analysis, "Here is the perspective of a moth, soon it will die."  But Eye Myth is much more tantalizing in the possibilities in interpretation, from that evocative title to Brakhage's decision to include humans in its precious few frames.

Eye Myth took Brakhage almost a year to make.  I watched Eye Myth five times - three at a normal speed, once at a 1/10 playback rate, at once again at normal speed - and this puts the time he needed to construct the film in beautiful focus.  Each frame in the short is lovingly painted with a dense layering that is usually reserved for proper canvasses.  It's not just a splash of paint and then off to the next frame.  The colors are carefully chosen to work as a single evolving entity, breathing brief existence to the human figures, then leaving just as quickly.

This evolution from one brief stage to the next is what made me appreciative of that title.  Our eyes deceive us, and the way that the paint is layered on the frames makes me think of those spots that you can see when there's pressure on the eye or when you focus for too long on a single item.  The rest of the world fades out and there is only what you observe.  Eye Myth doesn't treat this as a cause of concern, instead letting the color hint at the life that is present in our everyday vision even if it's not immediately clear.  People come and go, but there's always the chance for a surprising connection to emerge from the ocean of life.

I was downright jubilant after my first viewing, and the slow playback helped me realize how certain stills of Eye Myth could easily be works of an expressionist painter.  This, of course, is what Brakhage sometimes acts as for these movies, but it is a wonderful reminder of the possibilities of film as a medium and Brakhage's quest to find more uses for it.  That restlessness is beautiful this time in a movie of precise craft that has so much life.

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Brakhage with text

Posted by Andrew

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