By Brakhage



 Today Criterion made official (at least the type of official that comes with bells and whistles) what many had been patiently waiting a considerable amount of time for, the release date of the upcoming By Brakhage Vol. 2, which will be released simultaneously with a three-disc Blu-ray version containing all of the films included on the previous By Brakhage Vol. 1 on the 25th of May.  As mentioned elsewhere the films that will be included in this second volume are as follows:

The Wonder Ring (1955)
The Dead (1960)
Two: Creeley/McClure (1965)
23rd Psalm Branch (1966-1967/1979-1980)
Scenes From Under Childhood [Part One] (1967)
The Machine of Eden (1970)
The Process (1972) 
Star Garden (1974)
"He was born, he suffered, he died" (1974)

 Desert (1976)
The Domain of the Moment (1977)
Burial Path (1978)
Murder Psalm (1980)
Duplicity III (1980)
Unconscious London Strata (1981)
Arabic 12 (1981)
Visions in Meditatiion 1-4 (1989-1990)
Boulder Blues and Pearls And… (1993)
The Mammals of Victoria (1994)
From: First Hymn to the NIght – Novalis (1994)
I Take These Truths (1995)
The Cat of the Worm's Green Realm (1997)
Yggdrasill: Whose Roots Are Stars in the Human Mind (1997)
Ellipsis Reel 5 (1998)
Persians 1-3 (1999)
Chinese Series (2003)

Extras that will be included are:

- Brakhage on Brakhage, a collection of video encounters with the filmmaker
- For Stan, a short film by Marilyn Brakhage
- Excerpts from a 1990 interview with Brakhage
- Footage from Brakhage’s salon at the University of Colorado
[[thanks Phil!]]
- Audio recordings of two lectures by Brakhage
- A booklet featuring a foreword and program notes by Marilyn Brakhage, as well as write-ups of the films and an essay by Brakhage expert Fred Camper

If am being entirely honest there are some mixed feelings that come along with this announcement.  It’s no doubt exciting news, it is clear that there was a concerted effort to include a broader range of films, allowing for the viewer to get some sense of the artistic progression that took place over his fifty plus year career.  Like volume one, it also offers the opportunity for greater in-depth personal study of each of the films, which will surely be enhanced by the increased clarity that comes along with Blu-ray (I suppose if there ever was a an occasion that warranted the purchase of a blu-ray player it would be this).  My main concern though is that once again these films will end up on YouTube or some like minded sight and be taken completely for granted, a prejudice that I have encountered repeatedly in my attempts to gain financial support for film screenings.  The availability of these films on a more convenient format SHOULD NOT take the place of FILM viewing opportunities (though I think this tendency will be tempered somewhat by the wise decision to include only single parts of larger series), the ephemeral mingling of light and emulsion with which these were obviously meant to be experienced.  Nevertheless the positives FAR outweigh any minor apprehensions one might have, after all, it was a fortuitous encounter with the first volume that got me started down this path I’m now walking, and the best that can be hoped for is that this new offering will have a similar impact on others.

The releases are available for pre-order through the Criterion website...

(((Now what are these whispers I hear of a Frampton volume in the works?...)))


Anonymous said...

Perhaps some additional consolation can be found in the fact that, despite the DVD availability of these 56 films, there are still over 300 others that are NOT available on DVD (!) and therefore easy fodder for screenings that ideally seek ot be oriented around showing the hard-to-find.

Jacob W. said...

Yes, a very wise statement indeed (and that which I had only hinted at). Thanks for the words...

Paul Taberham said...

Waiting "patiently" is right! I just want to know why it took them 7 years before getting round to this.

Also, this may not go down well, but I would wholeheartedly welcome a complete Brakhage back-catalogue release on blu-ray.

Blu-ray capable home projectors are available now, and I gather blu-ray is supposed to carry about the same amount of visual information as 16mm. Also, prior to the availability of VHS tapes, Stan said that the home is an ideal place to view his films. Now we can. (VHS brutalises his work, but I think blu-ray will be OK)

If public screenings (i.e. universities and film clubs) stopped using the celluloid, that would be a problem. But as far as I'm concerned, the more of Stan's work is made commercially available, the better. I want as home of it as possible, so I can watch, re-watch and study...

Paul Taberham said...

that's: as much of it at home as possible....

Jacob W. said...

Yes, I certainly understand and perhaps even share the sentiments; my ire was primarily directed at YouTube rather than the actual Blu-ray releases. Multiple times I’ve encountered potential sponsors who’ve told me that they’ve seen some of the work online and were not “taken with it” (which I suppose in the end has more to do with their general prejudices than the format on which they viewed it, but I still think that YouTube fosters a flippant attitude towards these works). They don’t seem to be able to understand that if it is available online or on any other format of similar convenience than it is still vital these works be made available for public screening on film.

Nevertheless I too am very much looking forward to having the ability to study these in detail, indeed I’ve read from multiple sources Brakhage’s past hopes of films being available for private use like books or records (in regards to 8mm, but I suppose this would be the modern equivalent (no doubt superior in some ways, inferior in others)).

Forest said...

As wildly excited as I am for this release, there's still a part of me irked by DVD release of films like this. The anonymous user above is correct -- there are still over 300 other films NOT available on DVD -- but the rentals of those 300 other films will continue to tank.

When a university can purchase & show a $40 DVD set as opposed to paying $40 to rent Brakhage's shortest film (and I'm not sure how kosher it is for an institution to do so but it IS happening), it's going to cripple the distribution system. And has. I think it was Film Comment that had a fairly lengthy article about experimental film distribution and the damage done by DVD sets (as welcome as they really are by you or I).

And Jacob, re: blu-ray player, I completely echoed your "if there ever was a an occasion..." when I heard about the forthcoming edition.

Paul Taberham said...

Yeah, it's messy. I'm at the tail-end of my doctorate and with any luck, once I start lecturing I'll get to run a course which includes Brakhage.

It would obviously be preferable to screen material on film. But I suspect even if I did so, I would show them something I've already seen on the DVD sets so that I can talk about it beforehand and afterwards. It can also be looked at in seminars, right?

Makes perfect sense to discuss films that you know intimately, right?

Best case scenario (as far as I'm concerned), some inspired soul transfers the whole Brakhage back-catalogue to blu-ray. He's widely recognized as an important figure.

.... I realize it's hundreds of hours. But I can dream, can't I?

I'm not sure that having two box-sets is going to do a whole lot less damage than his complete output being transferred.

Jacob W. said...

With the current lack of film viewing opportunities, it does seem to be something of a catch twenty-two. If you're looking to familiarize yourself with a film through multiple viewings, the discs seem to be the most feasible way to do so, but then consequently your chances of using the knowledge in film situations will be diminished as the demand inevitably decreases as a result of the discs.

I still have a tendency (whether justified or not) to romanticize the film experience and all that comes along with it, so I suppose for now that is where my allegiance will continue to remain, though again, I'm extremely grateful for/looking forward to these releases...