Dog Star Man's Film Reviews

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Akira puts me to sleep as would many of the movies you review here probably would, but your reviews are very entertaining and maybe I should check out a few of these films.

As been my experience in my personal life, many people don't particularly care for the stuff that I like. So I take no offense whatsoever. I do however do my darndest to try to explain from my standpoint what I see in these works. Why I like them, etc. If you find my reviews entertaining, it is a huge compliment on my expressions. So thank you.
Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception. How many colors are there in a field of grass to the crawling baby unaware of 'Green'?

-Stan Brakhage

Happy New Year from Philly!
Hey DogStarMan have you ever seen Woman on the Dunes? And if so what did you think of it?
Louise Vale first woman to play Jane Eyre in the flickers.

Hey DogStarMan have you ever seen Woman on the Dunes? And if so what did you think of it?
I own Woman of the Dunes on DVD, but I haven't seen that movie in a good five years, so whatever I can recollect would be useless. However, since its in my film library I'll check it out again and report back.

Alright Beelzebubbles, just cleared some time for Woman in the Dunes so here's the review I promised you!

Woman in the Dunes(1964)

In approaching Woman in the Dunes, like many Hiroshi Teshigahara films that precurse it, one must think in the realm of metaphors and interpretations underneath the visual surface. If one looks at Woman in the Dunes with this prior intention, the interpretation of Teshigahara's film becomes very clear from outset. What we see during the opening credits is fingerprints, (presumably belonging to our central character), we don't know our characters name throughout the film until the end, in which, at that moment, it completely becomes irrelevant to the nature of the man himself; rather it acts as the final word on the illustrated point. With his fingerprints seen we cut to sand dunes which, as it so happens, resembles the texture of fingerprint identification. What is the synthesis of this cinematic combination? Teshigahara is illustrating right away that the film's current will reside in man's identification with himself.

While this point is made from its outset, and much throughout the film itself, Teshigarhara never lays all his cards out on the table until the very end. He knows he has already won the intellectual game, however he keeps the viewer guessing which card he will deck out next. The end result, no matter how ambiguous, still remains as clear as the water our character sees himself in at the end. No matter, at the beginning of the film our character asks himself, "Who am I in my ID, Passport, etc." (again hammering the point of personal identification), then he asks himself a deeper question, "What of man and woman?" This question isn't resolved until the end of the film.

Originally it is thought that the main character is a teacher who happens to work with rare species of bug living in the desert. He too is of a vocation which identifies, classifies, and captures life. He from the start is a microcosm of his soon to be reality. When he is "tricked" into living in the sand dunes with the woman, from which there is no escape, that is when the deeper meditation, "What of man and woman?" begins to unravel. This doesn't come all at once, and for its own sake it shouldn't have to, Teshigahara realizes that saving the knock-out punch until the end is much more rewarding. So much as the question is meditated on our characters mind. So is it in ours. What we see unraveling before us for the next hour and a half is a pure illustration of man's role in the world. Will he dig the (metaphorical) dirt in the (metaphorical) dune? Or will he choose not to and (metaphorically) dry up? And what happens when he (metaphorically) releases himself from his confines (a person who tries desperately to rid and deny himself of his true identity)? He becomes lost in the sea of endless dunes with people who are more than willing to drop him back into his reality.

Throughout much of the film, one feels the sense that this man's place is that of a teacher who works with insects. However a striking scene emerges where he throws the woman's tiny beads into the floor of sand. Then though a conversation, something arises. If not living in the dunes, where else? We shovel the metaphorical dirt at work so we can maintain our metaphorical dune, our household and lively hood. Is this life that much different from the outside? Suddenly there is a change of heart from our central character and he decides he will help her find the beads his thrown from her grasp while she sifts them through a sifter. The metaphor: The woman has brought the man visual clarity.

Yet the deeper question still remains unclear until the end? "What of man and woman?" I will not illustrate in my review what happens in the film, rather I will allude to it with a question, "What roles do men and women play in society? What is our identity in our sex? And who of which, will remain shoveling dirt once this life, (bestowed man or woman), has come to a close." If you give this question some thought, you will see clarity. Much like the woman sifting clarity through the sand of the dunes.

My Rating:

4 1/2 Stars of 5

Happy New Year from Philly!
I gotta tell ya kiddo, I think your analysis is far better than the film essay that is included in the Criterion Collection Dvd. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

No problem Beelze, it was a pleasure. I mean it. I haven't seen this movie in a good number of years so I almost forgot how much I liked it. Thank you for bringing it to my attention again. I haven't read the Criterion essay for it, so now I'll be interested in what they have to say. Anyway, if you have another avant-garde film you'd like me to take a shot at I might give it some consideration. Avant-garde and art cinema are my bread and butter.

A Study in Choreography for Camera(1945)

Maya Deren is perhaps my favorite female director for several reasons. Most of those reasons exist outside of the fact that she is avant-garde, so I don't think my opinion therefore is a biased one. What I find in Maya Deren is a distinct feminine creativity that I find most female directors compromise. I'll never say for a minute that there are not good female directors, or female directors without vision, but Maya Deren spoke of something in her own words which I think provides insight into the meaning of my statement. To give some background on this statement, Maya Deren was fascinated and studied a great deal, (almost providing a film on the subject, but she died before its completion), on the subject of Haitian voodoo. The Haitian rituals and their Gods and Goddesses. Her statement was profound in this sense and though this statement I'm making is not her word-for-word statement, (I couldn't find it online), I will recall to the best of my ability what she said, "It is [The Haitian Goddess] woman which provides insight and creativity, [in Haitian belief]. Now why would one think this is? In a sense, it is woman who creates life, but it isn't just that. What provides woman with a greater sense of creative insight is the realization that one must endure and be patient for the truly great masterpieces to come into existence." This statement can be said on any of Maya Deren's works which is why I have enjoyed them so. There is a keen sense on time and space, which I will eventually get to. It seems to me that Maya Deren has been in meditation throughout her life; who is she as a woman? who is she as an artist? who is she as a female artist? and what does she believe? She is extremely bold, bolder for her time, and still bolder today. She is a woman who never once gave thought or credence to any form of patriarchy. Not because she lived in it, but rather in spite of it. Her questions were about the world and how it existed in the completely feminine context. This is something I rarely see in other female directors works, which seem to me take the grounds of, "I'm a woman living in a man's world," [to me, I see much of this in Breillat's work]; or there is almost a compromise to exist and come to terms within this, "man's world," [which, to me, I see in Harron's work]. These are almost, again not all, archetypal in what I see from most female directors. But what of Deren? She takes a different approach, she doesn't consider herself the be a victim of reality. Rather she comes to terms, introspectively, to who she is as a woman, disregards the masculine aspect altogether, and creates something that is, by my definition, completely female.

So with this introduction in mind, I will get to my review:

Maya Deren was a poet and dancer before she ever involved herself in the cinematic arts, which to me, makes this film not only her most personal, but also her best. The subject for A Study in Choreography for Camera is a male dancer who dances this set ballet piece. Alone, this subject would be rather stagnant, but Maya Deren makes the subject of dance come alive and transcending all at once. As I've stated before, this is a set-ballet work, however through artistic means, Maya Deren makes the ballet transcending by cutting through space and time. We begin with a dancer who is beginning his dance in a forest, (most likely the dance was created by Deren herself), the movement he provides is a one torso motion from one side to the next. To visualize this type-motion, and become intimate with the subject in context, Deren decides to move her camera 360 degrees. One might see the danger in loosing the subject, and the dance itself. However, Deren understands quite well what is key not only to film, but to literature, (poetics), as well; the edit. Deren seamlessly edits a 360 degree motion and adds the subject, every 90 degrees, continuing his dance for the camera. He raises his foot, then Deren cuts through time and space itself, exiting the forest all-together, and we now have the foot entering a room of a house. The dancer continues his dance, and Deren continues to cut through time and space, consistently illustrating her dreamlike point until the dance reaches its peak, and ultimately conclusion.

One would ask about my introduction to this review and how does it relate to the film in question. We, in this film, as with her Meditation on Violence, are dealing with a male subject completely at the mercy of a woman's artistic vision. One may say this same aspect could be found with Breillat, however I disagree. Breillat's is a vision and existence of a woman within a "man's world". It is not taking the grounds of Deren which implies that she is her own existence and vision and whatever derives from that is completely, unadulterated, feminine. In this film she is communicating visually what her statement was, "a woman must endure and be patient to create", what she is implying is a woman creates her masterpieces, be it children or art, by the results of time itself. This is exactly what we see in this picture, a coming to terms, and transcendence, to what the nature of time itself really is. Though the film is under five minutes, she gives birth to an understanding not only of time and space, but also the beauty of life itself, (as seen in the dancer). Can we therefore come to a much grander conclusion, (that the Haitian voodooists believe), that woman and Goddess are not "slaves to a man's world", rather they are the creators of the world itself? In its time and space, and in its people? This is what I see within this picture, and it is in this understanding that I find this film to be so wonderfully beautiful, but also concurrently it drives in the point that Maya Deren is perhaps the greatest female director to have ever lived; and also one of the greatest directors, (male or female), to have placed a mark on cinema's history.

My Rating
5 Stars of 5

Venom and Eternity(1951)

I have a bizarre relationship with Venom and Eternity. In one sense I find its overall appearance, (how its directed, etc.), to be absolutely deplorable; on the other hand its ultimate lexicon and message is so far ahead of its time that even today I don't think many can come to terms with it. One perhaps may then ask, "Is this why the overall appearance of the film is so unpalatable to begin with"? Is the film maker, Isidore Isou, testing our limits of understanding by forcing us to look beyond what is on the surface? I wholeheartedly believe that the answer to this question is yes, and I have little doubt about this conclusion. For you see, when this film hit the scene in 1951 at the Cannes Film Festival, it enraged so many people that it caused a rather huge riot which ultimately had to be subdued via fire hose. One may disregard this as a film which is an utter failure, however; people walk out of failures... people riot when their ideals are challenged.

In few words, Venom and Eternity is less so a film and more so a visual radio broadcast. From it's inception we, for close to an hour, follow a man wandering the street speaking through his mind about how he hates all contemporary cinema, and how they lack any form of real creativity. He calls for a complete abolishment of the "visual film" and the creation of the "purely sound film". The entire film is essentially a rant on what our ideals of appropriate cinema is. In a way this film is a flawed masterpiece, the film is infinitely challenging in the concepts and ideas in which the film maker has given deep thought to; however the film it self is so poorly crafted that its hard to believe that his concepts are sound. Then again, I am reminded that Isou is taking the grounds of making an anti-film to create points which are, in essence, anti-film. If one can look past the cinematic criticism, and ultimately punkish behavior, that the exhibits; one can derive a profound sense of the limitless possibilities of film itself. A sense that there is no right and wrong, and everything is worth trying and risking no matter what the cost. The results, no matter how terrible they may be, will somehow someway influence another. I can easily state this about this film because it has illustrated this point to me. So the question of "purely sound film", instead of hustling and bustling about such and idea, (to the point of rioting), why not one try this concept in their films and see what grows from them? Venom and Eternity therefore becomes a battle cry to film makers willing to take on perceptual challenges and push films to a higher level of artistic merit.

If one looks at Venom and Eternity though a film making standpoint, I imagine they would enjoy it quite a bit. But for the audience which exists outside the confines of the film maker, I imagine this film is not for you.

My Rating:

5 Stars of 5

Black Ice(1994)

(Negate music! As it doesn't exist within the real film itself. Block it by turning off sound if you must.)

Black Ice resonates with me as my favorite of Brakhage's work. It is a film completely devoid of any narrative, but in substitute we see the very beauty of what could be, and what Brakhage has illustrated once again which is the transcendence into higher forms of visual art. One could easily say Stan Brakhage literally died for his masterpieces of artistic composition. Through years of working with lead-based paints, (well known to be cancerous), Brakhage devoided himself of all such thought and placed his work ahead of himself first and foremost. Eventually, he did die of cancer, but he accepted his death as part of the process which he admired. In his understanding, he had created a mark on the process of film, (which to me is rather an understatement). He did regret however that his concepts never took root in the public consciousness and wondered if his works, and others of his time period, were that of a living madness. However, I disregard this notion as 2001: A Space Odyssey's star gate sequence would have not existed without his innovations.

Regardless, Black Ice has influenced me in many ways. What I thought impossible, (as I did many things in Dog Star Man), Brakhage makes possible. He, in essence, creates a three dimensional film that is two dimensional in nature. How does he do this? Superimpostions of images which are intercutted and dispersed without one another. So what the viewer feels in return is a sense of going into the very frame itself. The YouTube link I proved is not a very good one, as it is not as clear to view and experience, as well as the fact that the so-called host takes the liberty of adding their music onto the film, (which Brakhage would never dream of doing, as in his belief sound subtracted from the visual experience, which is why I advised turning off all sound); however, despite all these complications, one may perhaps come to an understanding of other possibilities on which the visual cinematic format provides. As well as come to a certain understanding that all can be done and should as we progress though time. With this understanding, I hope one gains a greater appreciation of the cinematic format and questions all would-be limitations conjured in the mind, and ultimately disregards them altogether.

My Rating:

5 Star of 5

With this understanding, I hope one gains a greater appreciation of the cinematic format and questions all would-be limitations conjured in the mind, and ultimately disregards them altogether.
But this movie doesn't have a story, characters, or even sound ?

But this movie doesn't have a story, characters, or even sound ?
Try to view the film through the eyes of a Pollock painting, (which Brakhage and Pollock both knew each other in life). Pollock takes the stance of abstract-expressionist rage, which may have been influenced by his alcoholism. The result is a very tormented-type piece of modern art, and an introspective reflection on the pains of Pollock himself. However, though the lens of Brakhage, this film is also an example of modern art, only what Brakhage is trying to communicate here is the beauty of color and tries to persuade the viewer to fall into the very nature of these abstract colors themselves and find the true beauty in them. The majority of Brakhage's work has been about the love of nature and seeing things through "an untrained eye", (hence my signature). It's not a conventional film by any stretch of the means, but I find that it engages me on a personal level to find the beauty in the world around me, as if I had "an untrained eye".

Battleship Potemkin(1925)

The influence Battleship Potemkin has had on the cinematic world from its initial conception-onward could not be overstated. Even Hollywood films which contested much of the radical ideals of European cinema of the day lauded Eisenstein's masterpiece. To this day Potemkin is studied in a wide range of film schools and film studies classes world wide. Perhaps the most important reason for this is the assumption of dialectical montage whereby thesis and anti-thesis create synthesis, which in turn creates the new thesis and onward. I have reviewed many films thus far, however, most of the films I have reviewed and praised throughout would have come under heavy fire under Eisenstein's keen eye. Many films I have reviewed would be considered what we refer to as "constructivist" and "modern", Eisenstein was deeply at odds with this approach to film making which is why he could not see eye to eye with his fellow contemporaries such as Dziga Vertov. Vertov's cinema was very much in the ideals of the European experiments of the time. His films, no matter how much visual grandeur, still function almost as if they are documentaries themselves. Eisenstein on the other hand was steeped in a tradition of Romanticism, which could explain to an extent why he held John Ford in high regard despite what was steep cultural and credo differences.

I thought it was important to mention Potemkin because of these circumstances. There is a cinematic mythos that one either relates to Eisenstein's Romanticized symbolic manipulations or a more Modern approach which is found throughout Vertov's work. This view is as damning, if not more so, than the relationship of viewers who place themselves within the certain "camps" of either Fellini and Antonioni. Taking on such vantage points impedes on the viewpoint that one may perhaps blend the possible notions of "Romanitcized Modernism"? Regardless, to those who disagree with Eisenstein's approach and view it as a more "manipulative" approach to film making, the question remains, in my mind, "Would the Revolutionary fervor of the era be handled so correctly without it?" If one views the methods of the Kuleshov Workshops though the process of a "operational paradigm", the end question that would be raised is the control and cost of utilizing the very technique itself. So if one thinks in terms of the Revolutionary times, Eisenstein is no more manipulative, (in my opinion), than that of Vertov who procured movies about the latter, more "stable", aspects of Soviet life.

What is interesting about Battleship Potemkin, (as with other Eisenstein films), is that such dialectical approaches to the films psychological responses are not limited only to montage itself. There is also a deep-bedded emotional aesthetic which layers upon this concept. Whether intended or not, Eisenstein allows the viewer to be "the thesis" to which he is "the anti-thesis" which, in turn, makes the viewer the ever engaged, ever emotional, and the ever changing "synthesis/thesis". How does Eisenstein achieve this? Unbeknownst to him or not, Eisenstein takes the vantage point of "anti-humanist", which is the "anti-thesis" to much of our concepts of perception and philosophies. So working on these two levels, is it any wonder the Odessa Steps is the most studied sequence in cinema history?

Battleship Potemkin would be, under normal circumstances, a very hard film to come to terms with because had certain sequences not been montaged with precision, the film itself would have been rather inaccessible. One takes into an account the "Daily Bread" plate-smashing sequence, in which the sailor commits two completely different forms of action at once. However, though the thought of montage, the "synthesis" that one derives from this action is one of unsettled mutiny. Throughout the film, these type of concepts are seen. Each action is therefore enhanced by unconventional practice, but is ultimately excepted by the well-defined edit itself.

I highly recommend this cinematic masterpiece to film lovers of all types. It doesn't hold such worldwide regard without reason. So by all means, enjoy.

My Rating:

5 Star of 5

Well after watching the entirety of Black Ice, I can't really argue with your review - but I could very much argue that it's not a real movie. Although your thread is titled "film review" , so anything recorded to actual film is fair game I guess.

I've been reading and enjoying your reviews of films Dog Star Man, most of which I've never seen but I have seen and liked Battleship Potemkin. Never having been a film student or really having much of an education, I was wondering if you could explain what this means
"To this day Potemkin is studied in a wide range of film schools and film studies classes world wide.Perhaps the most important reason for this is the assumption of dialectical montage whereby thesis and anti-thesis create synthesis, which in turn creates the new thesis and onward"

No problem Christine:

How dialectical montage works is again "thesis" + "anti-thesis" = "synthesis/new thesis" + "anti-thesis", etc.

So take into account the Odessa Step Sequence:

Soldiers appear + Woman screaming = Opression

Opression + Mass decent down stairs = Suppression against revolt

Suppression against revolt + Gun fire = Loss of unity


It is a way of looking at things in which a force, (thesis), collides with counter-force, (anti-thesis), to create a mental phenomenon. That's pretty much it in a nutshell. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask, and I'll do my best to answer them.

Danger: Diabolik!(1968)

Over the past month I've been going over the oeuvre of Mario Bava. Some of his work escapes me, such as his venture into spaghetti western territory with Roy Colt and Winchester Jack; still it should be noted all the same that he put himself in such a wide range of genres such as sword and sandal epics, spaghetti westerns, horror flicks, (in fact practically being one of the sole innovator behind giallo flicks like Bay of Blood which would influence American slasher movies like Friday the 13th), science fiction, even soft-core "pornography" films. His range is something to be admired in my eyes, and while some of these extensions of himself may limit him in some regards; more often than not he'll pull off something decent, if not mildly entertaining, as the end result. To say the least, I have been surprised by this film maker on more than one occasion; and Danger: Diabolik! left me screaming, laughing, and in general, having a fun time at the movies.

Danger: Diabolik! is a mix between Bond, Batman, Lupin the III, with a chaser of LSD-influence 60's counterculture. Based on a popular series of Italian comic books, Bava holds nothing back except a budget, (which in reality one could say quite the opposite upon looking at the film itself). Comic-book thievery, comic-book violence, and overall comic-book aesthetics, (with Bava at the helm), make this film into instant "pop art". It's entertaining on one level, very entertaining actually, and for that reason alone the film has merit; however, in "pop art" it achieves the kind of visual merit of a renowned comic-book artist as Robert Crumb, (minus the sexual idiosyncrasies).

In the past, I've laid some heavy films in this thread. So this ought to mix things up a bit. Good, fun, entertainment anyone can enjoy.

I used to do "ratings" in the past, but I think it's safe to say whatever I review I like to a degree, (I don't want to waste my time writing a review for a bad film). So take this as is. This, and from this day forth, whatever is on here is worth my time.

I liked Danger: Diabolik! but I wanted it ramped up. More camp, more kitch, more 60's, more everything really. It's probably because I went in expecting too much, but whilst I like it, it left me wanting more, but not in a good way.