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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
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Touki Bouki: The Journey of the Hyena
The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry
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Eye Myth (Stan Brakhage, 1967)
Eye Myth, at nine seconds long, is the shortest film made by the late avant-garde master Stan Brakhage, but painted onto its densely packed frames one can find numerous possible meanings. One seemingly valid reading would be to view it as a concise, but complete, visceral creation myth. After the title, which has been etched directly into the celluloid as in most of Brakhageís films, the first frames of Eye Myth are pure white. Suddenly, from that blankness springs a deluge of colors and shapes, seemingly random at first, with each frame a radical change from the last. From that instantaneous burst of chaos form discernable patterns, and from it surfaces, fully formed, the image of a man seated in a room. He subsides back into the commotion, and then reemerges, walking in a city street. Never does he become so defined that he escapes association with the flurry of colors that surrounds him. After we understand him as a figure within that context, he, along with the colors that seemed to sustain him, flicker and fade to black, ending the filmís brief life cycle. In that respect, it is a self-centered portrait, revolving its entire story around the existence of one individual, but in its mini-narrative it reveals something inescapable about the egotism of such myths.
Perhaps a better interpretation, because it relies less on awareness of external modes of folklore, would be to look at Eye Mythís way of seeing as a meditation on our own. In the confusion of what we see in the world around us, we have no choice but to create order and ascribe meaning. When we finally get a glimpse of something we can understand (in the case of Eye Myth, the man) we seize upon it and begin to construct a narrative around it. In life as in the film, the things that we canít explain become subservient to the meanings of the ones that we can, so that we might reconcile ourselves somehow with their mysterious existence. The mode of natural selection that occurs when we see what we choose to see of the world is at once a defense mechanism constructed to save us from information overload and the very definition of the personal experience that creates the self. As the title implies, however, any semblance of total understanding of the world is a myth, continually perpetuated by the egoís willingness to project itself on the world around it. Nonetheless, because Brakhage embraces that personal experience here and does not dogmatically imbue his images with a single, definitive meaning, itís rather likely that every viewer will find their own interpretation, whether it be one thatís profound, based entirely on the filmís aesthetics, or essentially meaningless.
The usual mode of theatrical presentation for Eye Myth consists of several successive viewings of the film, followed by a slowed down projection so that the audience can begin to appreciate the density of every frame. With the filmís release on DVD, technology finally allows one a chance to examine it at oneís own pace. Brakhage reportedly spent about a year conceptualizing and filming the nine second movie, but after youíve studied it, that hardly seems surprising. Several times, it shifts visual schemes and as Brakhage deconstructs the medium itself, asks us to deconstruct our responses. With multiple viewings, hopefully with the viewer approaching with different states of mind, other layers of meaning are revealed. Through familiarity, the experience of watching the film becomes something increasingly nebulous and conversational. Because of Brakhageís refusal to dictate meaning and his willingness to challenge the ways we perceive, the more you put into Eye Myth, the more it has to give you.