Four young men and a young woman sit in boredom. She smokes while one strums a lute, one looks at a magazine, and two fiddle with string. The door opens and in comes a young man, cigarette ...
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A collage of two-dimensional images of vegetation, each appearing only for a moment, sometimes as a single image, more often with other bits of stem, leaf, bud, or petal. Often we see only ... See full summary »
Images of two women, two men, and a gray cat form a montage of rapid bits of movement. A woman is in a bedroom, another wears an apron: they work with their hands, occasionally looking up. ... See full summary »
We see a film negative of a nude couple embracing in bed. Then, back in regular black and white images, we see them alone and together, clothed, at home. It's night, she sees his reflection... See full summary »
After the title, a white screen gives way to a series of frames suggestive of abstract art, usually with one or two colors dominating and rapid change in the images. Two figures emerge from... See full summary »
A stand of birches. Sunlight brightens and dims, revealing more or less of the woods. A little grass is on the forest floor. Is there a shape in the shadows? Something green is out of focus... See full summary »
Refracted images, not unlike those in a funhouse mirror, display two children playing in a backyard, a boy and a girl. There's a dog, a swing, a picket fence, a Big Wheels trike. The grass ... See full summary »
A visual representation, in four parts, of one man's internalization of "The Divine Comedy." Hell is a series of multicolored brush strokes against a white background; the speed of the ... See full summary »
Four young men and a young woman sit in boredom. She smokes while one strums a lute, one looks at a magazine, and two fiddle with string. The door opens and in comes a young man, cigarette between his lips, a swagger on his face. The young woman laughs. As the four young men continue disconnected activities, the other two become a couple. When the four realize something has changed, first they stare at the couple who have kissed and now are dancing slowly. The four run from the house in a kind of frenzy and return to stare. The power of sex has unnerved them. Written by
Stan Brakhage is best known for experimenting with the film medium itself--painting on film, gluing moth wings onto film, and other unusual cinematic techniques. Though he made Desist Film the old-fashioned way, with actors performing in front of a camera, it's just as inscrutable and bizarre as his other experimentations.
I don't remember everything that happens in the film, but it focuses on a group of burned out teenagers who entertain themselves in various ways (one of them practices lighting five matches at once, and another tries to build a structure out of various books). Like any good avant-garde film, the on-screen action can't really be understood as any kind of logical narrative. What matters is the feelings and moods and ideas evoked by the film, and Desist Film is a strangely unnerving, creepy movie experience. Though some of the editing is a bit too disorienting for its own good in my opinion, I don't think I'll ever forget the movie's very last shot. Even in a film where nothing makes sense, that last image is unspeakably chilling.
Highly recommended if you ever get the chance to see it (I saw it in a film class at the University of Colorado in Boulder).
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