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In 1965 the 22-year-old Stanton Kaye was living in New York and painting theater sets. He soon began his next film, "Brandy in the Wilderness," a dolorous autobiographical account of making a movie with Brandon French, a 21-year-old woman and fellow Angeleno who was also living in Manhattan when they met. "Stanton was a tzadik," says French, referring to the Hebrew term for a righteous person. "He was an evangelical but quixotic figure.
Kaye moved in with French and, she claims, initiated a combative love affair that was battered by his many side dalliances, most of which he didn't bother concealing from her. In the end it was the promise of a movie that bound them. "We decided the only way we could justify living together, was to make a film. I had an advertising job and he didn't work. I probably financed two-thirds of the film and probably half of Max's Kansas City donated the rest." Brandy, a playfully neurotic film full of inventive visual quirks and narrative ironies (Kaye's and French's alter egos are played by them), unwinds episodically and shows, mostly from Kaye's perspective but also from his co-writer French's, the vertiginous ups and downs of the couple's real-life, cross-country relationship, which began as a creative partnership and ended four years later with a completed film and a baby daughter. In perhaps the film's most prophetic line, Kaye says through his character, Simon Weiss, "When I was 19, I made a very successful film, but all that success just fucked me up. I got scared, I was afraid I couldn't do it again."
"Brandy comes out of the diary tradition," says director Paul Schrader, who wrote an admiring appraisal of the film in 1971 and remains a devoted fan. (He included Brandy in 2006's L'Etrange Festival in Paris.) "The form had been floating around in the underground for years, and its best-known example is Jim McBride's David Holzman's Diary. Stanton used the diary conceit and turned it into a terrific story." In 1969 Kaye won one of the initial 12 fellowships to the new American Film Institute Conservatory, then ensconced behind the walls of Beverly Hills' Greystone Mansion - Brandy had been his front-gate key. His colleagues at Greystone included Terrence Malick, David Lynch and Schrader, the program's lone film critic. Even among these and other strong-willed talents, Kaye projected a formidable persona - a freebase of East Village cool and Topanga weirdness. See more