Stan Brakhage’s Fire of Waters and sculpting in sound

Fire of Waters (1965) is one of Stan Brakhage’s more elusive films, even though it enjoys quite a good reputation among those familiar with it.  Its extremely striking, minimal, black and white imagery and very atypical and unusual use of sound make it fairly memorable, and yet it doesn’t seem to be as well recognized as one would expect.

Brakhage would continue to make films for another four decades, but Fire of Waters is actually one of his final black and white films, followed only by Song 12 (also 1965 and generally printed on color stock) and the even more elusive Sluice (1978).  The film’s overall comparatively spare minimalism prefigures some later works such as The Wold Shadow (1972) and Passage Through: A Ritual (1990), but it’s curiously out of step with the semi-maximalism of his other work of the early-mid ’60s (coming as it does right on the heels of Dog Star Man (1961-64)).

Continue reading “Stan Brakhage’s Fire of Waters and sculpting in sound”

Advertisements

out of sync / kinescopes / War is Hell

Picture/track synchronization is usually pretty important.  Even when a film doesn’t have actual recorded lip-sync dialogue, most films have a correct sync in their finished form, and obviously it’s an important thing for a preservationist to maintain and be observant of.  There’s a ton I could write about synching and sync problems, individual examples of weird or variable synchronization, or just the different ways we deal with sound sync in general, but for the time being, I’ll give this example, which is slightly atypical (at least in the world of experimental film – I have a feeling some TV archivists have seen this plenty of times!).

Many of you reading this probably know that usually, in film, sound and image are not only recorded separately, but also usually printed from separate picture and sound elements – these days, typically a picture negative and a track negative.  In the printing process, the picture element and the soundtrack element will usually have sync marks and/or hole punches at one or both ends of each which are used to match the separate picture and track rolls to the same printer start point, thus resulting in a new print with correct sound synchronization.

Continue reading “out of sync / kinescopes / War is Hell”

more nasty splicing tape (+ Ben Van Meter)

Here’s an OLD tape splice on a 1965 7387 Kodachrome print of Ben Van Meter’s Up Tight… L.A. is Burning… Shit (1965):

Some brands or batches of splicing tape can have the effect you see here, often developing over many years, which is a kind of tarnishing of the silver in the print’s soundtrack.  Thankfully, it seems to be the minority of splicing tape stock that can have this deleterious effect, at least based on my own observations over the years.  Also based on those observations, this reaction seems to only really affect the silver in film, which is why it’s visible in the soundtrack here, but not the image, because even though the image is black and white, it’s on color (Kodachrome) print stock. Color prints are typically bleached of their silver content so only the color dyes remain, while conversely the silver would be retained in the soundtrack area to ensure a nice, dense, even track exposure, for consistent and good quality sound reproduction.

Continue reading “more nasty splicing tape (+ Ben Van Meter)”

Runaway (1969) by Standish Lawder

The initial instigation for this blog was my desire (in November 2007) to share a photo I’d taken of filmmaker Standish Lawder’s coffee can contact printer with whomever might find that interesting, which turned out, much to my surprise, to be a decent amount of people.  Over the years, as I’ve irregularly kept this blog, I’ve been amazed and quite happy to learn that people actually read it, and that the photo of Standish’s printer remains a favorite search/discovery for people.

Standish passed away in June of this year.  I hadn’t been much in touch with him over the past couple of years, during which time he had departed from his Denver Darkroom and moved to the Bay Area, though I would occasionally receive news.  We’ve been able to restore a few of his films, including Necrology (1970), Raindance (1972), and the little-known but quite lovely Catfilm for Katy & Cynnie (1973).  Many others are in the works.  Some present quite unusual challenges, and may someday be the subject of another post here.

Continue reading “Runaway (1969) by Standish Lawder”

Neuron (1972) by Robert Russett

NEURON (1972)

A quick update (9/3/2013) – since I now have a couple of stills of the film, I thought I’d add them to the post, though I’ll leave the photos from Robert’s book (below), as they give a better sense of what happens in the film on a frame-by-frame basis.

Sorry I don’t have proper stills of the film handy – instead, here are a few photos of film strips taken from Robert Russett’s book, Robert Russett: A Retrospective Survey:

I have to thank the wonderful Michelle Puetz for turning me onto Robert Russett’s films.  Her enthusiasm for them really encouraged me to seek them (and him) out, eventually bringing his collection to the film archive in 2011 after a couple of years of correspondence and discussion.

Various originals for the films of Robert Russett as they arrived in 2011.

Continue reading “Neuron (1972) by Robert Russett”