Wednesday, January 23, 2013

DocPoint Vanishing Point: Stan Brakhage 2: The Pittsburgh Trilogy

DocPoint Vanishing Point, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 23 Jan 2013
Stan Brakhage 2: The Pittsburgh Trilogy.
Curators: Mika Taanila, Sami van Ingen.

Introduced by Sami van Ingen.

eyes. 1971. 16 mm; 35’00
Deus Ex. 1971. 16 mm; 33’00
The Act of Seeing with One’s Own Eyes. 1971. 16 mm; 32’00
All silent.
Total screening time: 100 min, source: Canyon Cinema.
Rated 18.

The Pittsburgh Trilogy: three films about the raw immediacy of perception.

Stan Brakhage's police film called eyes introduces interestingly features that have become part of the language of television's police series and police films (first cutting edge, then even mainstream) - including the recent End of Watch which incorporated mobile phone video footage. The handheld look, the blurred vision, the lights at night, the theme of surveillance, the lack of a point of reference in many shots, ocean waves and neon waves, factual footage shot in a way that borders on abstraction. The police team faces people in calamity, in extremis.

Deux Ex is shot at different departments of a hospital, including the emergency room and the maternity ward, and shows surgeons at work. We see fragmented images of patients, surgeries, people in wheelchairs, reflecting surfaces. These films are about limited vision, partial views, changes of perspectives. Babies are born and put on special care. A patient is operated on, and details are seen in extreme close-up.

The Act of Seeing with One's Own Eyes is shot at the morgue. Unceremoniously we get to see autopsies, much of it in extreme close-up. These people have reached the end, the final destination, the spirit is no longer there, the vibrant quality of life is gone. Corpses are turned, the heads and the stomachs are opened, the brains and the intestines are removed, the skin of the face is peeled. The corpses are nothing but lifeless bundles. Also the exposed sex organs are dead. Only the shells remain, only the peels of the human being. The subject-matter is the same as in splatter films, but there is no shock, no frisson here. These are images about professionals at work, it's all matter-of-fact. The concepts of "beauty / ugliness" have no relevance here, and neither has the concept of "sublime" (in the meaning of something that overwhelms or transcends our capacity of perception). It's about something basic, primordial about the physical existence. Seeing the physical body without life makes me think differently about life.

Common to these studies of perception is that there is a sense of learning to see for the first time, like a little child.

All films were seen in good prints from Canyon Cinema.

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