From a murky landscape, a wooded mountain emerges. We watch the sun. We see a bearded man climbing up the mountain through the snow. He carries an ax, and he's accompanied by a dog. His labors continue. There is no soundtrack. Images rush past - water, trees, and surfaces too close up to distinguish. He struggles. A fire burns. Nature, in long shots and magnified, is formidable and silent. It's tough going; he carries on. In a capillary, blood flows.Written by
With this 'first' part of Dog Star Man (I'd say you should watch the Prelude before this, but I don't buy that there's exactly a strong 'continuity' here, this isn't the Marvel universe or something), we get more of a narrative this time. By 'more' I mean that there is at least a character of a sort - a rugged man (Brakhage himself) climbing up a mountain. Ala that song by Chumbawumba (remember that one, yes I went there), he gets knocked down and then he gets back up again, and his visions won't keep him down. That is, if they are visions.
This time there are more steady shots that last longer than the half a second or less that we got in the Prelude section, and yet in a strange way I wish it was *more* abstract. Because of there being "character" or a person or whatever, there's some expectation set up, at least for me, for more to go on. What we get is the furious, rapid-fire and stream of consciousness approach to imagery, where things go by so far I visage about 100 images in 20 seconds, and then it goes back briefly to slow-motion shots of the man climbing ever so slowly up the mountainside. Sometimes the dog is there and sometimes not.
Maybe it makes the most sense as this section being like some abstract documentary of what it takes to climb up a mountain, and if you're in a mood that is rather infuriating your mind will go at a very fast clip across images and sights and things that may be unspeakable. That's what this series is strongest as it approaching things like red membranes where cells and tiny organs pulsate, and the sun, shot with a lens that makes it look up close and personal, is imposing in some way that is far off but close at the same time.
And yet for all of the strong passages, I think having the man going up the hill, for as long as this movie is (30 minutes), makes it more monotonous. At least with the Prelude you didn't know what to expect, and it's more of a journey through someone's subconscious or unconscious. Here it's a mix of both this less-than-bare-bones scenario of a man on the mountain (albeit personal to Brakhage, who was out of work at the time with kids and one on the way, and this feels like a battle to persevere), and the abstract stream. It works, but not to where it's as outstanding as the Prelude.
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