Dog Star Man (1964)

Dog Star Man (1964)

A man (Stan Brakhage) walking up a snowy mountain with his dog sees visions of life and the cosmos.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Experimental Films
  • Silent Films

As noted by Wikipedia, “Over the course of five decades” experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage “created a large and diverse body of work, exploring a variety of formats, approaches and techniques that included handheld camerawork, painting directly onto celluloid, fast cutting, in-camera editing, scratching on film, collage film and the use of multiple exposures.” Dog Star Man — a compilation of five short films — is likely an excellent representation of his style (at least at one point in time) given that it’s non-linear, highly experimental, and stone silent. Indeed, there was no quote available to choose from, and coming up with a plot synopsis was challenging given that the “film” was crafted as a strategic compilation of images rather than a cohesive narrative. According to Criterion’s essay, “In Brakhage films we enter into momentary perceptual transactions in which we trade unhindered assimilation of images for intensified contact with pictorial or sensory features that might otherwise go unnoticed” — in other words, his films are experiences rather than stories per se. Be forewarned. Like Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures (1963) and Michael Snow’s Wavelength (1967), this movie will surely test your patience but perhaps make you feel a little better informed about film-as-art during the 1960s. Selected into the National Film Registry in 1992 for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Innovative cinematic techniques

Must See?
No, though of course any viewer interested in the history of experimental cinema will want to check it out (and it’s easily available for viewing on YouTube these days). Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book, which makes sense.

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


One thought on “Dog Star Man (1964)

  1. [Partial-Pass]

    I gave this about 15 minutes – and then had to bail. I was finding it to be torture. I don’t know what part of the brain is necessary for processing this kind of thing – but maybe I just ain’t got that part.

    I believe experimental films of this sort either energize the viewer somehow or they’re the cause of slumber. I’m in the latter group, being put to sleep.

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