If Maya Deren invented the American avant-garde cinema, Stan Brakhage realized its potential. Unquestionably the most important living avant-garde filmmaker, Brakhage single-handedly transformed the schism separating the avant-garde from classical filmmaking into a chasm. And the ultimate consequences have yet to be resolved; his films appear nearly as radical today as the day he made them.
Working completely outside the mainstream, Stan Brakhage has made nearly four hundred films over the past half century. Challenging all taboos in his exploration of “birth, sex, death, and the search for God,” Brakhage has turned his camera on explicit lovemaking, childbirth, even actual autopsy. Many of his most famous works pursue the nature of vision itself and transcend the act of filming. Some, including the legendary Mothlight, were made without using a camera at all. Instead, Brakhage has pioneered the art of making images directly on film itself—starting with clear leader or exposed film, then drawing, painting, and scratching it by hand. Treating each frame as a miniature canvas, Brakhage can produce only a quarter- to a half-second of film a day, but his visionary style of image-making has changed everything from cartoons and television commercials to MTV music videos and the work of such mainstream moviemakers as Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, and Oliver Stone.
Criterion is proud to present 26 masterworks by Stan Brakhage in high-definition digital transfers made from newly minted film elements. For the first time on DVD, viewers will be able to look at Brakhage’s meticulously crafted frames one by one.
Artavazd Ashoti Peleshyan is an Armenian director of film-essays, a documentarian in the history of film art and a film theorist. However his work unlike Maya Deren’s is not avant-garde nor tries to explore the absurd, is not really art for the art’s sake like Stan Brakhage’s but should be rather acknowledged as a poetic view on life embedded on film. In the words of the filmmaker Sergei Parajanov, his is “one of the few authentic geniuses in the world of cinema”.