Thursday, November 2, 2006

The Films of James Broughton

Posted on Thu, Nov 2, 2006 at 4:00 AM

The Films of James Broughton
Studio: Facets
Rated: NONE
WorkNameSort: Films of James Broughton, The
One of the early leaders of the West Coast's experimental film movement, James Broughton's work has largely been the purview of academic asterisks, and despite a 40-year stretch of filmmaking from the '40s through the '80s, he's seldom afforded the institutional acclaim that's given the likes of Brakhage or Anger. His works could be too whimsical (the self-propelled bed in The Bed) and they often veered blatantly into solipsism (his reflection on his own life in Testament) or literal navel-gazing (the uncomfortably long belly-button view that opens The Golden Positions). But it's likely that Broughton's work is marginalized simply because there's so many goddamned nekkid people in it. Resolutely unafraid of the human body, Broughton ' especially in his later work ' emphasized the tactile and sensual aspects of the body, even presenting an entire short film (the 11-minute Hermes Bird) about the penis. But as this excellent three-DVD set clarifies, though Broughton loved to climb naked into trees and pretend he was Pan, he was also a skilled and daring filmmaker capable of much more than letting nude hippies run around on camera. The early works here, like 1948's Mother's Day, are more linear in nature, while the kooky licentiousness of 1953's The Pleasure Garden points the way to Broughton's later work.

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