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Adequate, unduly rushed documentary
3 September 1999 | by (toronto) – See all my reviews

The movie does a serviceable job of setting out the broad trajectory of Brakhage's career and the development of his interests (although relies too much on archival PBS and such footage in which Brakhage is apparently dumbing-down his theories for mass consumption), but seems unduly rushed; when it's asserted at the end that Brakhage stands as one of the two or three most important filmmakers of all time, it's impossible to agree on the basis of the evidence that's been presented. This gets especially difficult in respect of the later work, which looks here like a resort to primitivism and abstraction based on sheer exhaustion as much as on anything more cerebral. On a more straightforwardly curious level, one wonders about such missing elements as Brakhage's early life, or how he managed to finance what looks like a reasonably comfortable life out of such commercially marginal endeavours. Brakhage looks now like an avuncular figure, lumbering around with his (grandkids?), open about his bladder problems, at one point singing Old Man River - it's all pleasant enough but seems distinctly incidental, and the movie shows too little of the younger and allegedly edgier, more difficult Brakhage. The film whets the appetite reasonably well, but ultimately one can't help but think it would be a more appropriate metaphorical tribute to his work if it wasn't itself so conventional and straightforward.


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