Stan Brakhage II

film 26 of 27

Scenes from Under Childhood, Section One

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 18, 2015

Another soundtrack! Its hum is very suggestive, somewhere between looming and threatening. Womb noise, we assume, going considerably against the grain to suggest something we might not often think about. We know about Lacan and maternal plenitude and all. But what if fetal existence were also terrifying? Brakhage has stated that this film seeks to evoke the mental states and physical sensations of childhood, and of his own children particularly. As generally, he eschews literalism, and certainly any kind of cliché or platitude. Modernist tropes are operating, however, and they can suggest interpretive or at least intertextual possibilities. These solid colour fields, for instance, perhaps offsetting the anxious subjectivity just mentioned with some Rothko-like serenity, or certainty.

The saga continues, and the baby emerges. Now joy and sorrow are suggested by recognizable objects and settings. Which are still or further distorted, jeopardized or enhanced beyond their familiar dimensions or aspects. Again, always, subjectivity. Speaking of which, here’s what I, myself am feeling. The estimable Fred Camper effuses, as do so many effective and helpful Brakhage apologists. I’ll join them, sometimes. This one? I may be lapsing into an inappropriate literalism, but I’m taken by, maybe disappointed in the way this section of this bigger work merely or mostly muddies this clearest, brightest and most light-filled of subjects. There’s a disjunction here. Though he’ll frequently plumb the depths, so much of Brakhage’s cinema, his film writing, so much of his life too, shows children in so much brighter a light. Subjectivity means, demands even, that an immediate moment can be rendered with totalizing intensity. Could it be that his most totalizing treatise on childhood could end up so very dispiriting/ly?

Or, I think I better think it out again…