Stan Brakhage: Lovesong (2001) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Stan Brakhage: Lovesong (2001)

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

Love Song - 2001When I'm watching a Stan Brakhage film I don't usually think of darkness.  I think about the splashes of color, the after-images burned onto my eyes, the occasional use of sound and words, or the tumultuous emotion underneath.  But rarely does the thought or image of darkness cross my mind, and now with Lovesong it's impossible for me to ignore.

Lovesong was one of Brakhage's last films.   Though this is still Brakhage we're talking about and Lovesong is one of thirty-four films Brakhage made between 2001 and when he died in 2003.  He wasn't someone to rest on his past success and faced the darkness ahead with the same creative zest for his work that he had as a young man playing around with film in the '50s.

But death is still near, emerging as darkness from Lovesong's relatively muted color palette.  Roughly 10 minutes long, Lovesong runs in separate movements where the darkness exists first as intermingling dark lines that dance together and ending as the darkness starts to take over the frame like a spider web.  When the web begins to grown Brakhage brings the film back to the solid lines of darkness by making white light course through the film - not unlike a defibrillator shooting electricity through a body to restart a dying heart.

The darkness is not a constant menace in Lovesong.  For a long stretch of the film the various strands mingle with each other and the background painting like bodies engaged in a heavenly orgy.  When the darkness subsists those same bodies are free to roam the landscape and Lovesong floods with earth tones, deep foliage greens, and the red and orange of the sun slowly giving way to a purple sky.  As the darkness begins to streak across the film the palette becomes more muted though utilizing the same base colors.

Life and death intertwine in Lovesong, and much like the film fades in from a brilliant light it ends on the same light overtaking the frame.  The love of Lovesong is of a man who is facing the end of his life through his work and is not ready to let his tools go.  Darkness, which sustained him early in life, will meet him at the end and he will return to the same unknown he came from.  It's not comfort, nor despair, but simple loving gratitude at the life he had.

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Brakhage with text

Posted by Andrew

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