I'm reluctant to air my disappointment amongst so many glowing 5-star reviews, but honestly, I felt a little cheated after watching this collection. According to the copy on the back of the box, Brakhage made "nearly 400 films" over the last fifty years. I'm sure more than half of those films were brilliant and fascinating. Unfortunately, this anthology is heavily weighted towards the last fifteen years of Brakhage's career, when he developed an almost unhealthy obsession for abstract painting directly on film stock. These works are, as I said, abstract. They are formless, kinetic, and actually quite fascinating ... for the first 2 minutes. But after that you start to get the feeling that you are watching static. Slight variations in color sheme, speed, and direction of movement do not save these pieces from all looking the same. And 17 of the 26 films in this collection are Brakhage's "painted static." Three would have sufficed, leaving room for more variety of Brakhage's earlier work. I made the mistake of trying to watch disc 2 all in one sitting, and I could not. The painted pieces are hypnotic, and let's face it, BORING. I could not keep my eyes open. I recommend it for insomniacs.
Before you start objecting that I "just don't get" these films: I went to art school, I know all the B.S. that artists use to justify such work, and I don't believe any of it. Artwork should be able to stand on its own, and most of these painted films do not. If you have to explain your art, and make excuses for it, then you have failed in conveying your message, and you have failed aesthetically.
Don't get me wrong. Brakhage was a genius. I actually saw him in person at a festival back in 1996. At my first viewing of "Mothlight," I thought it was brilliant - and I still think so. The first disk of this set is excellent. "Dog Star Man" is unarguably a masterpiece, a true work of genius. "Wedlock House" is fascinating in the way it uses a moving light source to establish a rhythm, to shift instantly from abstract to representational and back again, to separate characters from background, and define action. And of course, the grisly autopsy film "The Act of Seeing With One's Own Eyes" is compelling not only due to its subject matter, but also the elegant way in which it was shot, and the gradually increasing pace of the editing.
If this had been a single disc, I would have given it 5 stars. But the second disc takes away from my overall impression and I must, unfortunately, give Brakhage a mere 3.