Brakhage, (James) Stanley 1933-2003

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BRAKHAGE, (James) Stanley 1933-2003

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born January 14, 1933, in Kansas City, MO; died of bladder cancer March 9, 2003, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Filmmaker, educator, and author. Brakhage was known as an avant-garde filmmaker who aimed at making his work subjective, abstract, and metaphorical rather than trying to make realistic films with scripts and plots. After finishing high school, he attended Dartmouth College for only two months before abandoning school to start making films. In 1954 he traveled to New York City and became involved in the avant-garde scene that was prospering there at the time. Unencumbered by any conventional ideas of filmmaking, Brakhage tried to produce films that separated visual experience from preconceptions and captured human emotion and thought; he usually created movies without sound so as not to interfere with the visual images. Ranging anywhere from a few seconds to hours in length, these films were abstract creations experimenting with light, subject matter, superimposed images, abrupt editing, and even at times altering the celluloid itself by scratching, dying, or otherwise changing it without actually developing it. When he did film people, he sometimes used members of his family or images of himself. Over the span of his career, he completed over four hundred films, including In Between (1955), Films by Stan Brakhage: An Avant-Garde Home Movie (1961), Dog Star Man (1964), which is considered his most important work by many critics, Door (1971), Star Garden (1974), Duplicity Series (1980), Hell Spit Flexion (1983), The God of Day Had Gone down upon Him (2000), and Water for Maya (2000). He was still making films only a few weeks before his death. Honored many times for his creative work, Brakhage also taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago during the 1970s and at the University of Colorado as a professor of film history from 1981 until 2002. He was, furthermore, the author of several books, including A Moving Picture Giving and Taking Book (1972), Brakhage Scrapbook: Collected Writings, 1964-1980 (1983), Phillip Taffee: A Long Conversation with Stan Brakhage (1998), and Essential Brakhage: Selected Writings on Filmmaking (2000).



International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, 2nd edition, Volume 2: Directors, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.

Writers Directory, 18th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2003.


Chicago Tribune, March 17, 2003, section 1, p. 15.

Los Angeles Times, March 12, 2003, p. B11.

New York Times, March 12, 2003, p. C23.

Times (London, England), March 24, 2003.

Washington Post, March 13, 2003, p. B7.