Stan Brakhage: Glaze of Cathexis (1990) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Stan Brakhage: Glaze of Cathexis (1990)

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

Glaze of Cathexis - 1990Speaking as a long-time fan and infrequent consumer of psychoanalytic texts - Glaze of Cathexis is one hell of a title.  Put simply, cathexis is focus, a focus so strong that it collects associated experiences that take place around that object or sensation and give the ego something to reach for.  Blocking the cathexis is potentially unhealthy for the ego, leading to a regressed state where the subject expends energy in ways related to but not necessarily toward the object or experience that the cathexis has fixated on.

I'm likely butchering some of the application of cathexis, but anytime psychoanalysis enters the discussion the peril of miscommunication comes along with it.  Stan Brakhage invites the issue directly via that great title and the subsequent film.  I love that it's a glaze of cathexis, as if its possible to get the slightest glimpse or taste of your fixation and find satisfaction with just that bit.  Like a potato chip or doughnut, if you come into contact with something that has the whiff of your obsession, chances are you're going to want more.

Repressing this longing can lead to formless sensations that exist only for themselves as the repressed desire is misplaced from its cathetic focus.  Brakhage's film takes place at this level.  The structure is similar to Rage Net in that once the painted world begins to collect itself or seems to form an object there is a process of awakening, represented here by a bright exposed beam on the film, that starts the colors and designs over.  The seemingly dreaming viewer continues to awaken, it's not to a displaced or torn off sensation, but to a blank slate to try and rediscover he trigger to make the film start over again.

I loved the layered effect of the film here with the painting always at the forefront and the lights come screaming from behind when the trigger for transition is hit.  The variations in the color schemes and patterns don't play off of each other directly but they recall bits and pieces of all the arrangements with each section.  Brakhage's attempt at making a film that's entirely unto itself, a film without referent, is an impossible task but the idea plays out nicely in the structure of awakening into a world trying to recall its past focus.

Creating something without referent is to essentially create something without precedent or knowledge.  Interestingly, Brakhage's direct attempt at doing so ended up recalling one of his previous films, whereas something with a more concrete subject like Window Water Baby Moving came close to creating that sensation.  Glaze of Cathexis is a wonderful attempt that was sure to fail due to its deliberate aims, but works well all the same.

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Brakhage with text

Posted by Andrew

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