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Metaphors on Vision: Films by Stan Brakhage – Selected Songs

Metaphors on Vision: Films by Stan Brakhage – Selected Songs

Songs, by Stan Brakhage, courtesy of the estate of Stan Brakhage

UCLA Film & Television Archive, Los Angeles Filmforum and Acropolis Cinema present

Metaphors on Vision: Films by Stan Brakhage – Selected Songs

Saturday, April 14, 2018, 7:30 pm

At the UCLA Film & Television Archive, Billy Wilder Theatre, Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd. (intersection of Wilshire and Westwood Blvds.), Los Angeles CA 90024

Thomas Beard & Steve Anker in person.

"Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception."

So begins Stan Brakhage’s classic Metaphors on Vision.  First published in 1963 as a special issue of Film Culture, it stands as the major theoretical statement by one of avant-garde cinema’s most influential figures, a treatise on mythopoeia and the nature of visual experience written in a style as idiosyncratic as his art.  By turns lyrical, technical and philosophical, this is a collection to be shelved alongside the commentaries of Robert Bresson, Maya Deren, Sergei Eisenstein and Nagisa Oshima.  After being out of print for decades, the volume is now available again in a new edition from Anthology Film Archives and Light Industry, overseen by its original editor P. Adams Sitney.  To celebrate its republication, the UCLA Film & Television Archive presents a two-night program of key Brakhage films.

“The Songs… are inspired by the aesthetics of lyric poetry on the one hand, and the tactics of ‘home movies’ on the other….” —Stan Brakhage

In 1964, Stan Brakhage, turning away from the epic 16mm forms of Dog Star Man (1961-64), embraced the non-professional, home-movie regular 8mm format to create the Songs (1964-67), a series of 31 remarkable films.  Unparalleled for their intimacy, poetic expression and depictions of daily life, these small-gauge gems are Brakhage’s most celebrated and influential works.  Tonight’s program includes rarely screened 16mm versions of Songs 1-7 and the monumental anti-war lament, Song 23: 23rd Psalm Branch, considered by many to be one of Brakhage’s greatest films.  Made in response to the Vietnam War, 23rd Psalm Branch reverberates with as much urgency today as when it was first shown more than a half century ago.Series curated by Steve Anker and Thomas Beard.  

Total running time of program:  approx. 89 min.

Thomas Beard is a founder and director of Light Industry, a venue for film and electronic art in Brooklyn, and a programmer at large for the Film Society of Lincoln Center. He was the co-curator for the cinema programs at the 2012 Whitney Biennial and Greater New York 2010 at MoMA PS1, and has organized screenings for Artists Space, BAMcinématek, the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, the Centre Pompidou, Harvard Film Archive, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and Tate Modern.

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Tickets: $10 general advance purchase, $9 general at door; $8 non-UCLA students/seniors/UCLA alumni; free for UCLA Students and Filmforum members.  Available in advance at or at the door.  Los Angeles Filmforum members receive free admission to this series at the Billy Wilder Theater box office!


Images courtesy of the Estate of Stan Brakhage and Fred Camper (

This program is supported by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles. We also depend on our members, ticket buyers, and individual donors.

Los Angeles Filmforum is the city’s longest-running organization dedicated to weekly screenings of experimental film, documentaries, video art, and experimental animation. 2018 is our 43rd year.

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Song 1

(1964, 16mm, color, silent, 4 min.)

“A portrait of a beautiful woman.” —Stan Brakhage

Songs 2 & 3

(1964, 16mm, color, silent, 7 min.)

“An envisionation of fire and a mind’s movement in remembering.” —Stan Brakhage

Song 4

(1964, 16mm, color, silent, 4 min.)

“A round-about three girls playing with a ball… hand painted over photo image.” —Stan Brakhage

Song 5

(1964, 16mm, color, silent, 7 min.)

“A child-birth song, … I think my best birth film yet.” —Stan Brakhage

Song 23: 23rd Psalm Branch

(1966-7, 16mm, black & white/color, silent, 67 min.)

Part one: reissued in 1979, 34.5 minutes

Part two: reissued in 1980, 32 minutes

"This work… was in great danger (as all the Songs) of being lost forever due to deterioration of the original and all lab masters.  Despite great expense, I've managed to enlarge the original (step-printed) into a 16mm master.  I chose this film (above all other Songs) First, because the multiple splices & hand-painted sections of it endangered it most and because I fear the war-inclination of this society at this time once again."—Stan Brakhage 

"... an apocalypse of the imagination." —P. Adams Sitney

“Brakhage combines his own images of Colorado, found footage of war, and some of his earliest hand painting on film to create a work that is rich with meaning and a key artistic milestone for him.  Song 23 is an extended meditation on war in society, made in response to the war in Vietnam.  It is a haunting work, still relevant in its theme and one of Brakhage’s masterworks.” —Chicago Filmmakers