IF AMERICAN EXPERIMENTAL FILM- making has a leading light, Stan Brakhage is it. From the surreal "trance" film movement of the '50s to the mythopoetic autobiographical experiments of the '60s to the structuralist concerns of the '60s and '70s, and, of late, as the premier abstract expressionist of cinema, Brakhage has been more than a genius, even more than a leader. His example has been essential to the development of American film, and this entertaining, informative documentary does a surprisingly good job of showing why.

There's the usual assortment of talking head testimonials, of course, but you can ignore most of those. Most important is the wonderful portrait of Brakhage himself, from both interviews and a generous selection of clips from his work, including such classics as Dog Star Man, Window Water Baby Moving, The Weir-Falcon Saga, and the infamous autopsy film The Act of Seeing With One's Own Eyes. Though that last film is something of an anomaly in Brakhage's career--more documentary than diary--the title is key to what he's always been striving for in a variety of methods: a fresh way of looking at the world.

He hasn't given up, as the Friday night screening of his latest, (...) Parts 1, 2, & 3, stunningly confirms. At this stage of his career, Brakhage tends to scrape his images directly onto the film. These three short films are obsessed with color, motion, rhythm, and light; together they last nearly an hour, yet fascinate and delight much more than any number of similar shorts, thanks mostly to the director's exquisite sense of timing and proportion, not to mention his joy in constantly surprising us. Shedden's documentary contains some wonderful footage of Brakhage taking his young brood to a Fourth of July fireworks display; though his children seem delighted, surely Brakhage could only be disappointed, particularly when comparing the show to the roman candles and pinwheels he can fire off with some blank film leader and a razor blade.

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