Cinema has given us the world in a coffee cup (Godard) and an ashtray (Brakhage). Whereas Godard is content to let his image stand by itself, a metaphorical concept-image within a progression of camera recordings, Brakhage tries to pull as many images as he can out of a single object and its refraction of light.
The Text of Light is a very sheer film. It came off to me as a bit intimidating, and while Brakhage's films usually seem like a shared vision, this was imperious, magisterial--it would have existed without me, that's for sure. It's almost austere, but that word doesn't sound exactly right, or totally right, because the film has some breathtaking beauty to it. (Maybe "sublime" is a better choice.) It's a film I'll have to work a long time to understand: so my problem is it is not that it lacks a surfeit of beauty, of awesome imagery (it has all that), but that I'm unable to unlock the mystery of its organization, I can't see how it achieves its effects. This is a film which defeats me, as I'm defeated also by Sharits' Epileptic Seizure Comparison as well as (in a gentler if no less bewildering way) Cassavetes' films. These are films that remind you that being a cinephile always involves, also, being a student.
In the end, though, the challenge was nourishing, especially after the surprising, dull disappointment of L'Intrus when I saw it earlier today--the first Claire Denis film I haven't liked. That one, too, may require at least one more viewing for me to clarify my feelings properly, and maybe appreciate the film more. I'll end with a funny quip from a few moments before Text of Light started:
Me (impressed by the unusually high attendence at Anthology): "Wow, some turnout for Brakhage, huh?"
Steve Erickson: "I think he's the new Tarkovsky."