Academic journal article Millennium Film Journal

Howard Guttenplan, September 2003

Academic journal article Millennium Film Journal

Howard Guttenplan, September 2003

Article excerpt

The first time I saw Stan Brakhage was at a Filmmakers' Cinematheque screening at the Astor Place Theater on Lafayette Street in lower Manhattan. I was a kid living in Brooklyn, coming in regularly to see "underground films" that I was reading about in the Village Voice. I was struck by this tall, unusual looking man wearing a flowing western-style shirt. He was standing in the hallway of the theater talking to someone while rubbing his eyes. Moving closer, I realized he was describing his theory of "closed-eye vision."

I remember his first show at Millennium in the 1970s, when we premiered his powerful film The Act of seeing With One's Own Eyes. It was crowded with filmmakers and others; the atmosphere was truly electric. His talk was fascinating and covered the gamut, from the making of the three films in the program to his theory of personal cinema. It was apparent that we had to have Stan Brakhage back, again and again, as these shows were so provocative and important to all concerned. He did come back, almost every year with his newest films until just before he died.

It's hard to believe that we won't be talking on the phone again and that there won't be any more letters about his upcoming shows. I won't be stepping over and through crowds of people to introduce him at the Millennium, nor see his hulking figure stride up to his seat in front of the screen, nor hear his booming voice, his words, his stones, and his provocative theories. He was the connecting tissue of postwar American avant-garde film, reaching back to Deren and Peterson and forward to the 21st century. He was incredibly prolific, not only as an extraordinary visual artist, but as a writer and talker. His films had an influence on my own film practice and photography. …

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