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Chinese Series (2003)

Stan Brakhage's final film, made shortly before his death by wetting a filmstrip with saliva and using his fingernail to scratch marks into the emulsion.


Stan Brakhage




Stan Brakhage's final film, made shortly before his death by wetting a filmstrip with saliva and using his fingernail to scratch marks into the emulsion.

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Stan Brakhage created this film by moistening the film emulsion with his saliva and scratching it off with his fingernails. See more »

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Final Dedication to Vision
26 September 2003 | by SqurpleboySee all my reviews

The story of Stan Brakhage's CHINESE SERIES is both a somewhat sad and yet an incredibly beautiful one. After having retired from teaching and moving to Vancouver, Canada, Brakhage began work on a "dream-project" of sorts, a series of film's to be made completely by scratching into the film emulsion, as he had successfully done so many times previous with eloquent and visually captivating results; this was to be the CHINESE SERIES. But the filmmaker was taken once again by his battle with debilitatingly-painful terminal cancer and, as such, was unable to complete the film by the time of his death. As a final wish he asked his wife to release whatever he had as that fore-titled film.

Whether Stan chose the following method in pre-illness, or he adapted to continue making the film given that he was side-lined as to his normal techniques, the remarkable thing is that he created the entire film by wetting the emulsion of black 35mm film with his own saliva, and scratching out "images" with his fingernails! Pure dedication. And with remarkable results. CHINESE SERIES recalls Len Lye's final film, PARTICLES IN SPACE, in both it's starkness and yet wonderful interplay of light and dark (white light through black surround) and the pacing and movement of filmmakers' who knew the pulse of the medium like their own heartbeats. Whereas previous scratched-on-film work by Brakhage was beautifully crafted and reworked through optical printing to achieve arresting beauty, with this film we are given a "bare-bones" approach; just abstract jabs, jolts, sparks and tears of white following each other out of the darkness of blackened celluloid. Free and easily delivered, given over as naturally as the maker intended. Probably the most remarkable aspect for me upon viewing CHINESE SERIES is that this is not a digressive work, as one might assume given the circumstances of it's creation. It is subtler but really just as fully realized as many of Brakhage's other similar pieces early on. I would not suggest that Stan Brakhage was desperate in the sense of agony or striving for legacy with this film, but desperate to put all that he was as a human being and a filmmaker literally "into" the medium. That goes beyond passion. 7/10. Visceral and fulfilling; a self-made tribute done right.

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May 2003 (USA) See more »

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