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 ... 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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