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by Brakhage: An Anthology [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; 1.85:1 (Chinese Series)
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 108op/24
  • Audio Codec: English Dolby Digital 1.0
  • Region: A
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 3
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 25, 2010
  • List Price: $79.95

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BestBuy.com:
Criterion Collection: By Brakhage: Anthology 1 & 2 -

Purchase by Brakhage: An Anthology on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Collection
[Rating:4/5]

Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]

Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]

Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Collection

[Rating:4/5]

There isn’t much I can say about the visual artist Stan Brakhage that the excellent essays contained in this Criterion anthology do not cover, but I will try my best. Brakhage was a pioneer of the visual arts creating over 350 groundbreaking films over the course of a half-century. Working with mostly 8mm and 16mm film formats, Brakhage turned his lens on such subjects as birth, sex, death, god, life, and the stars.

His techniques would take him beyond the limitations of just the camera, eventually creating works painted or scratched directly onto film, bypassing the lens altogether. Being a great lover of the arts and a self-proclaimed poet, his works were philosophical and thought provoking in nature. Nothing in the canon of Brakhage’s work can be easily classified, referenced, or placed in a simple category. In other words, these are works that reside on the polar opposite of anything resembling Hollywood filmmaking. Perhaps they are avant-garde, but they are avant-garde to the extreme. They are more like Jackson Pollocks in motion than anything else, true visual art.

Some almost psychedelic in appearance, some moody and haunting, Brakhage’s works explode in glimpses of images, collages of sometimes-indistinguishable shapes. They capture our surroundings, deconstruct the world and put them back together in an adventurous way. Now, thanks to the latest and greatest in digital technology we can all “hang” these works in our living rooms on our big screen TVs.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

There’s a simple phrase in the by Brakhage booklet that says “no filtering, noise reduction, or other restoration tools have been applied to any of the picture elements.” It doesn’t begin to approach the level of work that has gone into restoring the elements that have gone into this anthology.

Taken from multiple sources, some 8mm, some 16mm, some 35mm, some color, and some hand painted, Brakhage’s works are a real challenge for any archivist. They appear in this collection from Criterion in an AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encoding true to their original forms, with every scratch, speck, and grain in place. They look truly natural and film-like, but hardly reference quality “show off your display” kind of material. That is not the intent of this work, however, and for what it is, Criterion has done a superb job bringing it to Blu-ray.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3/5]

Most of the 52 films that appear on this anthology have no sound at all. The few that do have sound have been mastered at 24-bit, but appear only in Dolby Digital 1.0 and do not sound very good at all. For what it’s worth, the sound is not meant to be a dazzling home theatre showpiece, but, rather, secondary to the main artistic statement, which is the visual work.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

If the high definition interview segments with Stan Brakhage, salons, and additional audio interviews aren’t enough, the extensive illustrated booklet with essays by Brakhage expert Fred Camper, film preservationist Mark Toscano, and a forward by Marilyn Brakhage, with detailed film capsules really elevates the supplements on this release to another level.

The supplements provided on this release are:

Disc 1:

  • Encounter (1080i/60)

Disc 2:

  • Encounter:
    • Brakhage on Brakhage I, II, & III (1080i/60)
    • Salons: Video Clips excerpted from conversations Stan Brakhage had about his films at Sunday salons he hosted between 1993 and 2002. Held in the fine arts building at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the weekly salons included screenings of both his own films and those of others, and were followed by group discussions. This footage was shot by filmmaker Phil Solomon.
    • Interview — An interview segment taken from a 1990 interview with Stan Brakhage, conducted by film critic and writer Marilynne Mason and produced by the Boulder Arts Commission.
    • Lecture — Audio recorded during a lecture Stan Brackhage gave as part of the Brackhage Lecture Series at the Museum School of Fine Arts in Boston on October 7, 1996.

Disc 3:

  • Encounter: Video Clips excerpted from conversations Stan Brakhage had about his films at Sunday salons he hosted between 1993 and 2002. Held in the fine arts building at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the weekly salons included screenings of both his own films and those of others, and were followed by group discussions. This footage was shot by filmmaker Phil Solomon.
  • For Stan (1.33:1; 1080p/24) — Stan Brakhage’s wife, Marilyn, put together this lightly edited series of rolls taken “from [her] observations of Stan at work on his Visions in Meditation — on location at Mesa Verde and the sands of Colorado and New Mexico, 1988.”
  • Brakhage on Brakhage I, II, & III (1080i/60)
  • Lecture — Audio of an English-class lecture Brackhage gave on Gertrude Stein’s poem Stanzas in Meditation at the University of Colorado at Boulder on March 20, 1996.
  • Booklet: Featuring foreword and program notes by Marilyn Brakhagem film capsules and an essay by Brakhage expert Fred Camper, and an essay on the films; preservation by Mark Toscano of the Academy Film Archive.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

by Brakhage: An Anthology is the perfect collection of visual art to put on display at a dinner party or a wine tasting. It is background entertainment and artwork, just like a painting on a wall. Perhaps one can see Brakhage as the precursor to the multimedia explosion in entertainment. ZooTV? No, Brakhage TV from Criterion.

Additional Screen Captures:

BestBuy.com:
Criterion Collection: By Brakhage: Anthology 1 & 2 -

Purchase by Brakhage: An Anthology on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

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