Brakhage on Ritual Cinema

“When an amateur photographs scenes of a trip he’s taking, a party or other special occasion, and especially when he’s photographing his children, he’s primarily seeking a hold on time and, as such, is ultimately attempting to defeat death. The entire act of motion picture making, thus, can be considered as an exteriorization of the process of memory. “Hollywood,” sometimes known as “the dream factory,” makes ritualistic-dramas in celebration of mass memory–very like the rituals of tribal people–and wishful-thinking movies which seek to control the national destiny…as sure as primitive tribes throw water on the ground to bring rain…and they make “social” or “serious” dramas, at great commercial risk to the industry, as a corporate act of “sacrifice”–not unlike the practices of self-torture priests undergo in order to “appease the gods”: and the whole commercial industry has created a pseudo church whose “god” is “mass psychology” and whose anthropomorphism consists of praying to (Buy this–NOW!), and preying upon (polling, etc.) “the-greatest-number-of-people” as if, thereby, the human destiny were predictable and/or could be controlled through mimicry. But the amateur photographs the persons, places, and objects of his love and the events of his happiness and personal importance in a gesture that can act directly and solely according to the needs of memory. He does not have to invent a god of memory, as does the professional: nor does the amateur have to appease any personification of God in his making. He is free, if he but accept the responsibility of his freedom, to work as the spirit of his god, or his memory, or his particular needs, move him. It is for this reason that I believe any art of the cinema must inevitably arise from the amateur, “home-movie” making medium.”

Essential Brakhage, Stan Brakhage, p. 149

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