Even in Stan Brakhage's most abstract films, I've usually been able to discern some degree of comprehensibility from his images – subjective, peripheral glimpses of shapes, shadows, memories and emotions. 'Prelude 1 (1996),' the first in a series of 24 short films, left me feeling nothing. One online source (possibly the director's own words, but I'm not sure) succinctly describes the three-minute film as follows: "Turquoise and maroon-toned thin lines of paint are interspersed with variously toned circular "water-marks" of blotched paint giving-way to multi-colored brush strokes and finally fulsomely darkened and thickened brush-strokes which then thin to something akin to the beginning." That's more concise a synopsis than I could ever have offered, but – and this is the problem I had with the film – that really is all there is to it. 'Prelude 1' does have a certain aesthetic value, as do all of Brakhage's films, but there didn't seem to be anything below the surface – no subtext, and no emotion. In any case, I'd certainly like to hear the director's own motivations in producing the film, and I'm still interested in finding out if the many "sequels" clarify this intention. Brakhage fans, by all means check this one out, but I don't consider it one of his better efforts.
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