Pioneer filmmaker Stan Brakhage died yesterday in British Columbia. In the prior half-century, he created hundreds of movies ranging from the brilliant to the unwatchable. (Some, like the gruesome The Act of Seeing with One's Own Eyes, are arguably both.) His influence stretched far beyond the avant-garde, to commercials and feature films; when I interviewed him for Reason two years ago, he remembered seeing effects he'd invented turn up in Superman.
At his best, Brakhage was a documentarian of the inchoate and the inarticulable, an artist inspired and cracked enough to try to represent on film the experience of seeing for the very first time. "Imagine an eye un-ruled by man-made laws of perspective," he once wrote: "an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure in perception. How many colors are there in a field of grass to the crawling baby unaware of 'green'?"