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Thigh Line Lyre Triangular (1961)

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An experimental short film of flashing images made by Stan Brakhage.

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An experimental short film of flashing images made by Stan Brakhage.

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Spots before my eyes
1 January 2010 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

For Stan Brakhage, the birth of his children was not merely a joyous family moment, but also an opportunity for great art. While wife Jane did all the hard work, Stan danced around her with a camera, capturing the most explicit and intimate details of the occasion. 'Window Water Baby Moving (1959)' – which chronicles the arrival of the Brakhages' first-born, Myrrena – is the director's most moving film, an unadorned account of life's most natural "miracle." Most impressive, I thought, is how Brakhage was able to capture the sheer joy and love between husband and wife, and between parent and child, while also, through his documentary-like approach, reducing the human body to that of an animal (in that same way that 'Mothlight (1963)' reduced its audience to the level of moths transfixed by a flickering cinema screen). 'Thigh Line Lyre Triangular (1961)' was produced to record the birth of one of Myrrena's siblings.

Brakhage felt that 'Window Water Baby Moving' had inadequately communicated his emotions throughout what was undoubtedly a highly- emotional experience, and this later film attempted to rectify that. Brakhage wrote: "Only at a crisis do I see both the sense as I've been trained to see it (that is, with Renaissance perspective, three- dimensional logic, colors as we've been trained to call a color a color, and so forth) and patterns that move straight out from the inside of the mind through the optic nerves - spots before my eyes, so to speak - and it's a very intensive, disturbing, but joyful experience. I've seen that every time a child was born." In order to reproduce these pangs of emotion – these "spots before my eyes" – in visual form, Brakhage scratches the films' images almost beyond recognition. The viewer leans forward to discern details, but the truth is that, in moments of crisis, one doesn't discern such details. We have more important things to worry about.


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