Stan Brakhage: Desert (1976) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Stan Brakhage: Desert (1976)

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

Desert - 1976Like all other art, movies should be read along the culture that produced them.  Objective readings are impossible because everyone is going to be approaching each film with their own set of expectations.  I like to try and isolate myself from as many other opinions as possible before I sit down to write but there's always the off-chance that something I caught barely a glimpse of weeks ago suddenly starts blaring at the center of my mind.  Nothing is produced in a cultural vacuum, so it should be impossible to read something in that way.

That said, what to make of Desert, the Stan Brakhage film for today?  It seems to be a relatively simple production where Brakhage captured different parts of his desert journey in 8mm and blew the print up to 16mm.  The resulting images are incredibly grainy, like the desert Brakhage is filming, and the colors are blown out to the point where each image seems to bleed into the next.  The effect is one of heat and oppression that extends from the harsh images of the desert to the uncomfortable closeups of what look to be human skin.  We gradually feel the heat on our bodies from the images and when civilization seems to be in sight it just fades back into the distortion of the desert.

This is all Desert is, and all it really seems to be.  Even when asked for a more detailed explanation of the meaning behind the film Brakhage merely provided the title.  Sometimes his movies engage in conversation with other works of art, others push what film can accomplish to new frontiers, and on occasion he makes me feel things I never thought I could.  This time, the world outside Desert doesn't have much to add and neither does Brakhage.

So, Desert is an effective film for conveying a precise sensation of heat and sometimes despair in nature.  Nothing more, nothing less - and that's ok.  Deeper meanings and close scrutiny are nice, but sometimes I enjoy something that sets out on a simple quest to make me feel and calls it a day when the task is accomplished.

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Brakhage with text

Posted by Andrew

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