Stan Brakhage: Rage Net (1988) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Stan Brakhage: Rage Net (1988)

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

Rage Net - 1988In the commentary which accompanies Rage Net on the Criterion Collection release, Stan Brakhage says that he made Rage Net when his first wife, Jane, was divorcing him.  Rage is communicated efficiently with the first frame which sees Brakhage's normally charming hand-sculpted title replaced instead with a harsh, brown scrawl.  This image has more in common with the chapter titles that separate sections of Lars von  Trier films than Brakhage's steady craftsmanship.

Whatever darkness he was battling with his wife comes across in Rage Net as a similar fight against the complacency of his recent work.  Released in 1988, Rage Net comes after the beautiful The Dante Quartet in 1987, which Night Music preceded in 1986.  Brakhage flexes his painterly technique more in The Dante Quartet, but certain sections of the film appear so aesthetically similar to Night Music that they could be mistaken for the same film.  Different film ratios and stocks are used between the two, and The Dante Quartet is unmistakably the more experimental and evocative of the two, but there's a redundancy to parts of both if watched in rapid succession.

Rage Net tears that complacency apart with harsh and strongly defined scratches which appear on the screen when the film returns to the colorful swirls of those two earlier films.  In the beginning there is only the scratches, the rage, and gradually it builds back into those rainbow puddles before being violent thrown back into the stony green scratches that cut through the beautiful arrangement.  It is a transformative journey which ends in failure as the frustrated Brakhage tries to mold his rage back into beauty but once he comes close to attaining it is pulled violently back into his darkness.  Even that brief glimpse back into the nicer spaces of his emotions clouded extra layers of black, more than his usually colorful arrangements can spare.

Brakhage's struggle with reclaiming whatever beauty he has left makes for a spectacular short.  His work takes such a long time to produce that this rage that made its way to the screen still needed careful consideration with each slash through the frame.  It takes a remarkable talent to so clearly see your own shortcomings and project that journey for all to see.

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Brakhage with text

Posted by Andrew

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