Retrospective on Dog Star Man Viewing

For the duration of watching Prelude: Dog Star Man, I tried to understand what I was seeing. I was taking notes just identifying objects, patterns, shot-types, technique, movement, structure, and themes. I was able to list that the film used primarily close-ups of the discernable objects like people and elements of nature. Some things seemed like they were ultra-close ups, like viewing something under a microscope because the images resembled close-up textures or bacteria. This made whatever what we were actually seeing undiscernable (also because of how quickly the images were shown). The textures themselves sometimes seemed like more of just textures themselves instead of an object viewed under a microscope. The texture of paint, like a Jackson Pollack painting, except viewed for a fraction of a second in a bombardment of many textures. These were all recurring, as well as the images of what appeared to be celestial being like a star or moon. I interpreted this as coming from the “Star” in Dog Star Man, with the imagery of humans being the “Man” part of the title. I’m unsure  about the “Dog” part. There might have been imagery of a dog, this connection I’m trying to make might also be a bit far-fetched. Another thing I noticed is that the images were often warped and stretched. There also never seemed to be just one layer of imagery. There was always a layer of texture or color on top or many of the two. I also noticed that, most of the time, there would be movement of something within the frame.

After having read some information on Stan Brakhage and his themes and practices, I understand what I was seeing (or more, the intent behind what I was seeing) more clearly now. The constant motion in the film aligns with the representation of “moving visual thinking”. Also that Brakhage did indeed hand-paint his films. The layers of colors and dots of stars/moons also make sense to me now as being an attempt of Brakhage to represent optical feedback.

This film was truly unlike anything I had ever seen. I want to know a bit more about the exact techniques that Brakhage used to make his films. Also, could the title be related to the imagery of the film?

1 comment
  1. You discuss how in Dog Star Man it appears to be primarily close ups of objects like people and nature but I would like to argue that it appears less of a microscopic viewing of things and more of a point of view look at things. While the close ups of the solar flares and the moon you could argue is through the magnification of a telescope the way in which it is framed in a circular frame still gives the point of view feel. Also, the close up of random parts of the body was less looking under a microscope and more of one person looking over another. Finally, the scenes in nature where the camera looks around at the trees or down at the ground or even at the lights zooming by all appear to be from the point of view of a person. To me, this film feels a lot like a point of view storytelling hidden and distorted by the multiple layers and paintings added on top of the film.

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