Stan Brakhage: Arabic 12 (1982) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Stan Brakhage: Arabic 12 (1982)

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Many of Stan Brakhage's films are available for viewing in multiple venues.  You can watch Arabic 12 here.

Arabic 12 - 1982It was bound to happen at some point.  After a few dozen Stan Brakhage films I looked at part of the description, saw, "...part of a 20 film series," and felt myself deflate a bit.  Assuming that each film in the Arabic series is around 14 minutes long as well the entire run of Arabic would take almost five hours to watch.  Setting aside the endurance I would need to watch the entire series, what can I really glean from watching one film out of twenty?

I say this because I want to try to be evenhanded with the difficulty of slicing Arabic 12 away from the rest of the series while balancing my indifferent reaction.  Part of Brakhage's technique is to play with the way his films leave an after-image on the eye.  There are some notable examples where this isn't the case, but it's the technique that gives his work that unique feel.  Arabic 12 seems to abandon the after-image aspect of his work and presents lights and colors reflected directly on the human eye.  If it's not an eye, which is possible, the extreme closeup of whatever reflective surface he is using is uncannily like the eye.

Arabic 12 is pleasing as different colored lights interact on the surface of the "eye".  The accompanying description says that Brakhage was creating music with the compositions here and the images do have a certain "pleasing background music at the grocery store" vibe.  Unlike Black Ice, which had a similar emotional impact with more striking use of color and stronger outlines for the images, Arabic 12 is so hazy and indistinct with the borders of each light that the experience blended together.  I don't feel as though I could skip between different parts of other Brakhage films and have a cohesive experience.  In the case of Arabic 12, I was able to watch minute four followed by nine then jump back to two without feeling disoriented.

I left Arabic 12 feeling like I'd watched a sub-par screen saver for about fifteen minutes.  It's relaxing, but never engaging, and trekking in visual dimensions that Brakhage has done in better ways.  If I'm missing critical context by not watching the other nineteen or so parts of the Arabic series then I am happy to be pointed to where I can watch them.  Otherwise, this is one of the weakest entries in Brakhage's filmography.

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Brakhage with text

Posted by Andrew

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