Stan Brakhage II

film 3 of 27

Window Water Baby Moving

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 18, 2015

A unique and striking title. The four words are separate, or sequential. They trip off the tongue too, like “look/listen/vibrate/smile.” They are something in the order of chapter titles. Or named musical motifs, because the sections do intertwine some. There’s something of a joyous pun on the last two words that is especially apt, and beautiful.

As grateful as one is for All My Babies or The Miracle of Life, this birth film is something else altogether. Or, it’s really something else! Adam and Eve are back in their garden, and the effects of the Fall are temporarily revoked. (Note that this reference to that myth assumes that sexual consummation was not the transgression that A&E ousted from Eden.) Could that be the eventual effect of loving marital union, the greater communion for which we so devoutly wish? Redemption! You can see and feel it here. They were not ashamed.

The question has been raised, and it should be. Should this material have stayed between Stan and Jane Brakhage? It sure is explicit; it sure isn’t pornography. It is probably more than anything an act of courage and generosity by these young Principals, and by Jane especially. The close ups combine with the quick/back and forth cutting to make for a really effective, a really overwhelming subjectivity. Did I say they were not ashamed? Make that “she.” And yet that subjectivity is finally male: Window Water Baby Moving expresses a rapt, overwhelmed gratitude for the most sacred of vessels, for the centre and origin of the world (cf. Gustave Courbet, of course). How profound, and incontrovertible! How potentially, how ultimately tiresome for the ladies!

And yet, this infant! Its blessed advent sanctifies the collaboration that led to it, and reconciles the binaries surrounding it, and combines all the complements as well. Man and woman, love and pleasure, and pain, spirit and flesh, mercy and truth. We should return to the basic question, which will concern many viewers, notwithstanding my unmitigated enthusiasm. Is this appropriate? Well, this certainly is sensuality, lying comfortably and appropriately between the sensuous and the sexual. These components are operating within the context of a long term, committed and abiding relationship. (The future? Alas! And yet, it all worked out!) For me, indiscretion has nothing to do with it, nothing to do with anything. It’s all the world, both good and ill, happily subordinated to the culminating joyful event/advent. The thing that really puts the film over at/in the end brings us back to the “moving” part of its title. It’s the luminous image of Brakhage’s grateful countenance. You’ve given me a child!