Stan Brakhage: Stellar (1993) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Stan Brakhage: Stellar (1993)

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

Tail - Stellar (1993)Last week I watched Black Ice, which was the first Stan Brakhage film I have watched that credited collaboration on his film.  Black Ice was a different entry into Brakhage's catalogue as it was a more patient and less splashy, both in painting style and in editing speed.

Stellar (not to be confused with the Christopher Nolan Interstellar which releases this week) is another collaboration between Stan Brakhage and Sam Bush, the digital technician who assisted with Black Ice.  Curiously, the Criterion Collection programs Black Ice before Stellar in its listing when Black Ice was released in 1994 and Stellar in 1993.  So while I'm unfamiliar with the exact time that Brakhage and Bush began their collaboration, I can guess with some assistance from the style of Stellar that Stellar was toward the beginning of their work together.

I say this because Stellar is more like Brakhage's previous films than the patient Black Ice.  The beginning is much more like Black Ice with splashes of color and flecks of white appearing onscreen long enough to burn an imprint onto the viewers retina and then whisk away.  I loved this approach, as it gives the impression of a photographer trying to capture some fleeting beauty in the cosmos before it goes away.  The after-image bleeds into the next, as though the lens is constantly searching for that next source of wonder.

As Stellar continued though the images begin to have less time to imprint and the painting and editing style goes back to Brakhage's quicker, yet still meticulous, frames.  This approach still gives the feeling of discovery but it's less concerned with capturing fleeting wonder and more trying to cover as much ground as possible.  It disrupted the nice meditative state that the first few moments created and as the journey continued I found myself thinking more about the craft and less about feeling through the experience.

This isn't a bad film at all, and I love the way that a lingering green star system halts the forward momentum and leaves us on one last imprinted image.  Stellar isn't the achievement that Black Ice is, but is both a sign of the creative fruits to come and a relaxing experiment in its own right.

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Brakhage with text

Posted by Andrew

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