“Brakhage: When Light Meets Life”

“His mission, which he pursued with a zealous intensity, was to liberate the eye from such ‘prescribed’ ways of seeing. The insect wings, twigs, and fragments of flowers and leaves that he applied directly to strips of 16mm film in Mothlight (1963) and 35mm in The Garden of Earthly Delights (1981); the streaks and globs of paint that seem to shine with an inner illumination in films like The Dante Quartet (1987); the arcs of light that bend around the underwater surfaces of Boulder Creek in Commingled Containers (1996): Brakhage’s films train you to look at the world as if it were—as he wrote in the first paragraph of his 1963 book Metaphors on Vision—’alive with incomprehensible objects and shimmering with an endless variety of movement.’

[. . .]

“In these cases, figurative footage occasionally still appeared in odd and unexpected settings—one section of The Dante Quartet was painted over what Brakhage identified as ‘a worn-out 70mm print of Irma la Douce.'”    –Max Nelson, The New York Review of Books, June 8, 2017

Still from Brakhage’s film The Dante Quartet, 1987

“L’Inferno di Paperino” (1987)

Much like his Disney companion Topolino (Mickey Mouse), Paperino (Donald Duck) also finds himself on a tour through the Inferno. Written by Giulio Chierchini and Massimo Marconi, with artwork by Giulio Chierchini. Published in Italy on August 9, 1987.

Inferno-di-Paperino-Disney-TopolinoSee the full cycle of the Adventures of Paperino and his pals here.

Contributed by Chiara Montera (University of Pittsburgh)



Stan Brakhage, “The Dante Quartet” (1987)


“The Dante Quartet is in fact the end result of Brakhage’s almost lifelong fascination with The Divine Comedy. It is a brief but spectacular filmic attempt to find a visual equivalent or rhyme for the four stages of the ascent from hell depicted by Dante: divided into ‘Hell Itself,’ ‘Hell Spit Flexion,’ ‘Purgation,’ and ‘Existence is Song.’ For Brakhage, this visualization is achieved by ‘bringing down to earth Dante’s vision, inspired by what’s on either side of one’s nose and right before the eyes: a movie that reflects the nervous system’s basic sense of being.’ Thus, his vision of Dante is experiential, grounded in the transformative realities of earthly existence; for Brakhage ‘heaven’ or ‘god’ is to be found in the physical reality or materiality of the world.”    –Adrian Danks, Senses of Cinema, July 2004

Monique Wittig, “Across the Acheron” (1987)

monique-wittig-across-the-acheron-1985“Serving as her own protagonist, Wittig. . . confronts implications of female oppression as she struggles against gale winds and knifelike sands on her way to Acheron, the river of tears. Led by a woman always referred to as ‘Manastabel, my guide,’ ‘Mana’ embodies the idea of universal order. Wittig’s alter ego passes through various circles of Hell and Limbo, occasionally ascending to such earthly gathering places as a laundromat and a parade ground. Wherever she goes, she sees women flogged and tortured, castrated and dismembered, collared, chained and dragged unprotesting by their male masters through streets awash with blood, bones and excrement.
In the midst of feasting, the women starve, dragging their emaciated bodies to serve their masters and afterwards licking up the half-chewed bits of skin and gristle, the spewed-out bones. Yet in the Angels’ Kitchen the copper gleams, the fruits glisten, cauldrons bubble, and the women chorus, ‘Soup, beautiful soup.’ A Guernica of the human (feminist) condition, a blacker, bleaker, more vengeful Alice’s tea party, this is a novel as graphic as a painting, whose brilliance its translators have creditably preserved.”    —Publishers Weekly (retrieved on July 7, 2009)