By Joe Miller
The James Stanley Brakhage Collection at the University of Colorado Libraries offers researchers a spectacular opening scene. Seven folders into Box 1, the files of his correspondence with Kenneth Anger begin, and they continue far into box two – dozens of fat folders stuffed with densely typed letters and handwritten notes spanning 30 years of friendship, much of it on Anger’s cool pentagram or pyramid-and-flying-saucer stationary. There are magazine and newspaper clippings on everything from politics to the latest offerings from Hollywood to extraterrestrial, and there’s an array of exquisite collages and drawings. Among the artifacts is a chronicle of a major falling out and reconciliation that flared up between the filmmakers in early 1970, when Brakhage was struggling to complete his epic series Scenes from Childhood (1969-1970) and Anger was in London and feeling overwhelmed by his most ambitious project to date, Lucifer Rising (1972). Across a short series of letters, the two artists go from deep admiration and love to vicious rage and profound hurt, and the result would be a loss to film history and scholarship. With a little editing, the letters read like a short story. The writing is evocative, full of passion and personality, too good to paraphrase. Taken as a whole, whittled down to reveal a narrative thread, they accentuate critical themes from the artists’ lives and work. The peculiar punctuation styles of both writers is maintained, including Brakhage’s habit of using ellipses with extra spaces between each period. These do not denote passages of missing text that were posthumously edited out. For the sake of an unbroken reading experience, such excisions are not indicated by any punctuation at all.
January 8, 1970
Enclosed you’ll find the first half of an essay about you, your films, etc.: it is my deepest wish that it please you.
I agreed to teach a class next semester; and I determined to write all my lectures and deliver them in the 19th century manner (thus taking strong stand, in myself, against all such sloppiness as arises in the spontaneity of aesthetic chit-chat), and to go on teaching this course until I’ve exhausted all those films I feel to be the finest works-of-art in film and/or until I’m exhausted; and I determined to present only the very finest films and in an atmosphere conducive to understanding the inner values of them as art: I call the course “The History of Motion Picture Art”: and my first eleven sessions are devoted to George Melies, D. W. Griffith, Carl Theodore Dreyer, and you.
I’m sending you the first lecture on yourself, which is about half the writing I intend — will send you the remainder when it is completed . . . will send you all the lectures, if you like, in time.
I think the first lecture on you is the best I’ve yet writ — but am very concerned that it in no way offend you . . . especially as I am attempting an inner Myth of each man — and it can only those represent my imagination of an inner being . . . it is, thus, a use of, at least, my sense of you, your films — made in hopes the final emphasis will be on the films, of course, with all use exhausted.
Please drop me a note, at least — particularly if anything offend you — as I would certainly make amends, if so: I have tried to be very honest and, at the same time, to protect your privacy: (for instance, I have, as you’ll see, made a hopeless jumble of your original name — which I can’t honestly be sure if I remember correctly anyway — so as to further confuse any memory of it, in the world . . . to, thus, protect whatever magic you may have invested in ‘the hidden name’: but I suddenly became worried that — ironies of living being what they are — I may, accidentally, have hit upon your original name, in this manner): thus, please advise me if anything should be deleted, altered, etc.
9, Chalcot Gardens
January 16, 1970
Your tone-tapestry so sensitively sensed around “me” — touching me (you have ) disturbing me (you have) tipping my thoughts intro-spec-tively towards “me” — how long since thoughts of mine wondered or even wandered over origins and backwards towards beginnings. I don’t, you see — seek “back” but live forwards, in future — possibility — over, across, better out to alternate reality. Wandering on (as I am a wanderer, homeless — except for the cosmos — ) I never wonder where I’ve been (glance over your shoulder to ask if a road was there at all) but where I’ll go, open to “what’s next” — coming attractions. Hence the disturbance when even in written form — and even from someone I dearly love — I am confronted with some “evidence” of what I “was.” I will deny—even existence of shadow—baggage of “my” past. It “may” have occurred — someone else may have “seen” it happen — were their eyes shut? Perhaps I blinked while my life sped past. I cannot confirm anything — it may have happened to “him” — one of the I’s, one of the many I’s I’ve escaped from (that was a close call!) sometimes (not very often) leaving my shed skin in the form of a film by the side of the road where I fled for others to ponder on (if they notice it at all). For my films have exor-cised me usually of weight of sight so that I might see anew.
Yet all my films are not lost — survive still as reflection on water — were all lost would make more sense. Lost (not deliberately destroyed) the shadow-play Escape Episode which talismaned me out of the trap my family had wove for me. I just left it somewhere or it lifted itself into the limbo of lost films (Lilith must live there) once it had served as pass-key out. It was pain — and a birth — and I saw the skies and those stars that always brought tears of awe to my baby-child eyes. And this year has resurfaced another “lost” —found in the French Cinematheque, in some deep lower layers where the cans had rusted solid clumps of orange oxidation — the negative of Lune des Lapins, uncut, just as I abandoned it 20 years ago, just as, except, nothing stays the same, the chemicals dance their dance of minuet-decomposition (what fun for them!) some image may survive in the illusion-silver to suggest what you once “saw” — was that how I saw “then”? All’s change. The moon still a yearning-light then, a reaching-for — no wrong-foot-first-backward of Nevele Ollopa, A.S.U.
Should I send this to you? I’m thinking you (and your children) should see this “make-believe” of my “lunacy” — if you don’t mind playing puzzles, as it’s indecipherable to me — yet may be a key. And just the way I shot it — (did I really shoot it that way?) — no cutting — did I mean this to follow that? yet out of the camera it now seems to me an “enigma” — a mystery.
late Jan, 1970
Here’s the remainder of the essay on yourself: I’ll also look forward to being, soon, able to send you the essays on Melies, Griffith, and Dreyer. Yours, is, I think, very much the best — perhaps the best piece of straight writing I’ve ever done.
You’ll see I’ve quoted most of your last letter, to me, at end of my essay: I did this (without waiting for your permission — tho I’d still, of course, abide by your decision) because it seemed absolutely essential . . . brilliant letter that it IS . . . to permit this essay to accomplish everthing I deeply intended from the beginning of writing it: it, in fact, is a perfect ending for all 4 lectures because it (makes both your essay, and all 4 essays, then, end with the word “mystery”.
Thus, I very much hope you won’t mind my giving you ‘the last word’.
London, 26 Jan. ’70
Your letter with Part 2 arrived this morning; me up snce dawn on my 3rd day of shooting LUCIFER RISING (begun anew last Thursday the Full Moon being in my sign Aquarius) — your weight of letter and Part 2 waiting now till past eleven in the quiet misty-rainy evening, when my thots (at rest) and mind (lucid) can rise to concentration-contemplation.
Your tone-tapestry on the theme of me now glimpsed as a total lad-scape (me the babe liberated from my personality floating on high) I focus down as hawks must on a tell-tale blur of tiny prey far, far, below — in a flash the hawk swoops, talons at the ready, a streak of pure Will.
For the Truth-Hawk sees the Furry Little Lies snuggling like field-mice or hop! hopping! like incautious wild hares in the Myth-Marsh of Imagination (your) and Memory (mine).
Now another being (equally me) who looks like an Imp sails also serenely over the ladscape, cuddled in a cloud — and this imp preferring haze and mist to any sharp-etched sights prefers playfully (for that is its nature) the saucy little impostures to practically any other feature to be found there.
But where Cloud-Imp just giggles away melting mist-mountains that mirth in the sun, Truth-Hawk (true to its nature) screams and scores.
So bear with me as the Watch-bird watches what Truth-Hawk finds.
Page 1: you have, unbeknowing (the best way) described HADIT, the Egyptian concept of a male-light-spark or sperm cell, the infinitely small and atomic yet omni-present point. (Good marks for Stan the Medium)
Page 2: “The Key to Joy is Disobedience.” (I won’t! Temper-Tantrums, Baby-Will: further keys to K) He refused to go to Sunday School.
Page 3: Yet he was already Kenneth: even if the phoenix-metaphor burns hotter with a self-launched “creation” at puberty, what was shucked off was his father’s family name (chucked at adolescence like the burned-out stage of rocket) — Kenny, Ken, Kenneth, he liked — and kept. And ANGER was his self-made Magickal Name.
Again your description end page 3 hits Hadit right on the dot.
Page 4, line 6: …after the tortures of disciplined Puritan “upbringing” perhaps calls better the ordeal to mind.
Page 6, line 8: I’d like to feel and I do feel that Méliés is happy and alive and Official Cinematographer of Fairyland.
Page 9, line 23: Now I did not tell you nor did my father (if fragile memory serves( ever “beat” me — not a physical corporal punishment family.
Page 20, on music: no more nearly true is that my images and “their” music just came together, coalesced, fell-into-place, at a certain point in time — I often astonished at this”sychronicity” (as Jung would call it) and finding therein proof of Magick and invisible helping hands and of “some ones” reading over my shoulder. For more often than calculation was just that joyous and glad “surprise, surprise, look what I found” which count for peaks in my experience. Yet I feel often I “heard” the music’s measure in my mind’s ear while filming or cutting before I actually found it. Should mention to you Stan that in 1st Grade I was conductor of the School’s Toy Orchestra.
Page 24, line 10: Now here the Kafka-twist’s complete, for Dad was German, mother and gran Scottish … A more middle WASP background, in spite of early brush with Hollywood, could not be imagined. Important to know the Xtian-Puritan narrows escaped from. I would not go to Sunday School — I would not join the Boy Scouts. I’m amused you’d promote me to the exalted tribe of Shirley Clarke and Norman Mailer — to mention but two of the pushier specimens. I am an Outsider, so interesting you’d see me as part of that race whose Outsider-ness has permeated their psyches thru centuries — but I “made” my own, being “original” — loving Art, hating the grotesque baiting competition-sports (perhaps the origin of my distrust of all “competitions”) the schools tried to bully me into. Kenneth and the Wandering Jew may invite comparison, but is in fact an error and the Presbyterian Church I walked out of in the midst of a sermon on Hell-fire (scandalizing my family) never to return, far more significant than any martyr-mythic Jewness you might imagine for me!
You’re right about my sense-of-humor-in tantrums. They work as Universal Joke (on myself as well as my “victim”) and purge me in a harmless noise of that Demon who, bottled in, to save “face” would one day madden to murder — others, or myself. No, I roar, rarely, without some transcendental provocation, and decorum be damned. All this may now be behind me (I feel) look, no tantrums now for over 3 years, or since I last left U.S.A.
Page 29: Yes you’re right about my deep reverence for life.
sometime early Feb., 1970
I am so honored that you sent this beautiful letter of ‘corrections’ (i.e., I know the ‘cost’ to you) that, then, my problem now is how best to use them.
(It is so much my overwhelming FEELING, of the moment, that I have to intrude my immediate thought that I may be, simply, at the end of mine . . . my life . . . certainly in feeling and, perhaps, literally thus — thus heavily does EVERYthing press in on me, these days . . . and I too ‘strung-out’, too over-extended, in all my resources, for years now, to cope with the weight of all these oppressions: and I worry about laying this on you, in any sense — thus hasten to add that I do not write out my troubles out of any need for you to DO anything . . . in fact, all things in my living seem to have to to — ha-ha!, COME to . . . is what I meant: :come to such a pass of impossibility I do not care, one way or the other, whether I live or die now or then/when or how some ever — which is, I know, is a good place to either drop dead or begin again . . . and which/state, of myself, I include in this letter because you are the one person, in all my imaginations of friendships left to me, whom I CAN write this to STRAIGHT . . . the ONE person whom I’d even care to have know how I began-again and/or ended — all others, whom I’ve tried to just talk-to, taking my impasse as an occasion for them to tell ME “how tough things are all over” and/or how tough it is for THEM, at this time, etc . . . NO!, I write openly to you because you and I both know, as damn few others apparently, what is IMPORTANT in this world — i.e. imported — i.e. life itself, on earth, only a bare-ass beginning . . . i.e. I take it YOU’ll know how to take my, or anybody’s, troubles and make good use f them for yourself.)
At THIS of all times I really do mean to get these lectures (the one good thing going-for-me, at the moment) as absolutely RIGHT as they can be — as right-as-rain over the desert . . . i.e., I would like to leave this ONE written heritage — this ONE dab of moisture on all barren thought about creativity from scratch . . . SOMEthing of the SENSE of the INNER life of the men who make art — and something, thus, of how it spins OUT into the daily life they share with all others, however warped those others are, of creative process . . . THEREFORE into the work — something of all this, in exactitude, so that some few may FIND the trickle of water under the desert . . . locate it, at START, in their own daily living — and, hopefully, follow thru.
Now, then — out of profound respect for your writing . . . the exactitude YOU have come-to in making these corrections . . . I want to include that writing in my text. as quotes, because this format DOES beautifully create a Dialogue between your memory (which will, of course, be taken thus as ‘the horses mouth’) and mine (which serves, herein, as myth maker) . . . this form, I believe, illuminating the whole integ-ral MATTER of myth-make/mis-take, etc., better than anything I have so-far managed to write in all these essays.
I await your simple yeas and nays about all these matters.
Would-to-heaven and/or hell that Melies, Griffith, or Dryer could speak-up and/or down in this matter — what I MEAN, by that, is SPEAK STRAIGHT, dear friend and alive man that you are!
London 1 February 70
Dismay is the mildest word I can think of, outrage the strongest over the fact that you have blithely gone ahead and “printed,” copyrighted and presumably released to the world your lectures without waiting for any deletions or amendments I might have to suggest on the lecture concerning me. DEAD I am not! tho’ your film of that title would seem to wish me so — presumably to simplify the job of mythification you seem determined to seal me in, like your fragments of crushed moths film-sandwich. The 3 “birds” cannot protest what you have done, being in the grave — were I there I would whirl at some of your wilder assumptions, the worst of these I have already brought to your attention in a letter sent a week ago. But this “bird” is ALIVE and is squawking loudly at those lies, misinformations, half-truths you have splattered gleefully all over me, in your strain after sensation and the “juicy.” Who needs enemies if this is what a friend can do?
I have no wish to spray rose over those shadows in my character or soften jagged edges with diffusion-scrim. But you have distorted my personality by inaccurate gossip and wrenched emphasis in a way that is if not willfully then unconsciously perverse.
A case in point: I HAVE a temper; it is formidable and quite unstoppable once unleashed: I am holding it now. (Were it “lost” I would not be typing this letter.) Yet to single out and spotlight this element, defect, angle of my character is to hopelessly lose sight of my primary concerns in art and life. I’ll lose my temper over willfull obstruction of my path by ignorant or envious dolts, as in the Brossels incident: I will not stand by and see my dream of perfection betrayed without violent protest. Much more important and significant is the patience I can bring to bear on my art — 12 years perfecting pleasure dome; four months waiting all day every day for the right moment of backlight for EUX D’ARTIFICE.
Your weirdest “Freudian slip” is on page 24, where you succeed in turning me both into a Jew and a Jew-baiter: I will have to insist you delete the entire anecdote in particular lines 4-22. I was at first reading bemused (my black humor) later increasingly irritated over your flip handling of this “scene” that my enemies — and in particular my Jewish enemies, such as Shirley Clarke — will rush to exploit; dismayed at your non-caring over the damage you would thereby do to me.
Through this incident has been revealed an important fact to me. Since your, Stan’s taboo in your conscious mind against homosexuality is so strong that you could not bring yourself to mention that Anger, the film artist friend of yours, has this facet of his personality, thereby casting some dangerous radioactive contamination on you thru association with him, you have hit on the unconscious trick of turning “queer” into kike! The latter is more acceptable to your unconscious than the unbearable suggestion of the former: for fear some trace might turn up in the slowly revolving latent images of your own unconscious!
In fact, I suggest a fitting title for your Lectures be: PROJECTIONS OF MYSELF. For here we find Stan as Mountebank, Stan as Hero Puritan, Stan as Diabolist. Somehow you have made a meal of us all.
early Feb., 1970
It is a terrible letter you have written me — really terrible . . . I do not deserve it.
I will deal with one thing at a time. I mark “copyright” on the cover of these four essays because I was informed that IF I haven’t got some evidence OUT, in the world, of the intention to copyright, then any student in my class, with a tape recorder, may copy these lectures and own them himself: however, IF I’ve sent some copies thus marked with the intention to “copyright”, then I secure those rights for myself: (I’m TIRED of every/anyone stealing my writing, publishing it everywhere without my permission: I’ve never been paid a cent for any of it — am RIGHT now broke . . . just yesterday received a film technique book which published my whole script for “Nightcats” without even asking permission and/or paying me anything): THAT’S the reason you received a copy marked “Copyright 1970 by Stan Brakhage”! I have been sending carbon copies of these lectures to several friends, in the course of writing them: I’m a LONELY man, here, and NEEDED that — some feedback — for MYSELF . . . : several people, thereby, have seen these essays and want to print them: Jonas in a forthcoming issue of Film Culture on you: Clayton Eshleman in serialized form in “Caterpillar”: and George Foot, who wants to print it/them as a book called “The Brakhage Lectures”, IF he can get distribution through S.F. distribution (co-op type small book distribution outfit): and he has shown a copy (xerox copy) of these essays to this distributor with that view in mind.
NOW, you wrote me and said (in the magnificent letter printed at the end of the lecture on yourself) that you did NOT want to make corrections: I took you so magnificently at-your-word as to consider the essay DONE, as best I could do it: I did it as best I could from MY memory: (and I do, therefore, really resent that you use terms like “lies”): I stuck ONLY (with one exception) with incidents of you I personally had experienced, my personal experience OF you, as best I could remember: THAT, my friend, is why there’s no mention of homosexuality in this writing: (now, the one exception IS that I was not personally present when you, as I was told, chased the projectionists out of the booth at Brussels: the ONLY reason that I included this incident, as it was related to me by 3 different people, two of whom, at the time, proved their friendship of-you/for-you in the next couple of days at that time , , , THE ONLY reason I included, then, this one second-hand incident is because it’s the closest I could come to dealing with any public rage of yours and say — in contradiction to all the gossip about them — what I . . . from my experience of you . . . have to say on the subject: otherwise EVERYTHING in that essay is either (1) clearly designated myth-making (as in the three other essays) and/or (2) direct personal experience and/or (3) memory of something you said.
In other words, I honestly (however mistakenly) thought you were of Jewish background (tho’ I don’t give a damn about it except that it seemed to sharpen the wit of the occasion wherein I used it — HAVE, honestly, for years ONLY thought of you as Jewish because I remembered your “original” name as Irwin Englemeyer Jr. . . . and didn’t give a damn about that either ((except, as you’ll note, to protect that secret if it be one by making a name CLOSE enough to that name to confuse people further . . . i.e., I’ve heard at least two dozen times, over the years, that your original name was Irwin Englemeyer Jr., and I was set to confuse that fact — thinking you wanted it a secret — (and that if I made another name LIKE it: viz. Myron Mannerengle: THAT would confuse people utterly on the question of your original name) — but it did, as you see, lead me to thinking your origins Jewish.
I think that after you have seen “Lovemaking” you will be sorry that you so-mistook me as to particularize “Stan’s taboo . . . against homosexuality” and to assume that homosexuality is “unbearable” (your underline) to me.
I am forced to think (in order to be able to deal with this new letter at all) that you will be sorry you wrote it — I mean that you’re, perhaps, feeling sorry already that you wrote it . . . I mean, I must suppose, as I sit here now, that you do not REALLY take me to be your enemy — or else, MY whole sense of friendship is shattered: I HAVE to assume that you just blew-up at me because I was handy in the midst of an otherwise unhappy moment for yourself; and I have to assume it was just a co-incidence that you happen to send me such-a-letter-as-THIS-IS at a time when I am, as I wrote you, in deep trouble myself: I am very hurt — inasmuch as MY assumption was that this piece of writing was a gift to YOU, first of all . . . inasmuch as the ‘gift’ it might be to the rest of the world WOULD be of the nature of giving your films a stronger place in it.
You have two copies of the writing. You can throw both your copies away and write me to throw mine away, too (IF you do really mean such meanness as your letter implies); or you can make whatever corrections YOU want on one of your copies and mail it to me: (I am too unhappy and exhausted to try to out-guess you, in this matter, any longer: I have problems — yes I, Kenneth, who ALSO have a temperament . . . problems which FAR outweigh whether or not this collection of essays contains the one on Kenneth Anger — so go ahead and destroy it utterly, then, if you want, THIS which ((whatever its petty mistakes)) is one of the best pieces of writing I’ve ever done and WAS ((however misunderstood by you)) the most lovingly written search into your being and your films you’re ever likely to see in this world.
Your lamentable letter has been in my hands for hours, during which I have carefully weighed the options open for me.
As a last resort I have consulted the Chinese Oracle, which has confirmed unequivocably the coarse of action which I must take.
I accept your offer to withdraw your essay from public representation in whatever form, and to recall those copies you have already foolishly distributed. It is understood the essay dealing with me will never be delivered in lecture form, nor will it be submitted for publication in magazine or book form.
My change of heart is due to the discovery of your duplicity in regard to publication of this essay. You asked for approval of a lecture, when you stand revealed now as firmly intending from the beginning to have it published. It is one thing to give a talk to some students in Boulder, Colorado (human talk being largely a matter of tall tales and hearsay); it is another matter entirely to commit to print grotesque distortions of fact and total untruths which quite rightly I call lies. In fact, I consider your essay a libel.
As far as it being a “gift” — my German dictionary tells me this word means Poison. I reject it utterly and only hope you will have the decency to destroy all copies.
Whatever you hoped to gain in writing your accursed essay, witness what you have accomplished: you have destroyed our friendship.
No — I did not “destroy our friendship”, as you put it . . .
IF it is destroyed (and that is a matter left entirely up-to-you), then it is you who have destroyed it.
I do not have your German dictionary; and I did not use the term “gift” in the sense that you chose to interpret it.
I do not consult “the Chinese dragons”; and I do not respect their opinion either.
However, I have had respect for your opinion in this matter. You did NOT have to threaten me in order to get me to withdraw this essay on you. I will, of course, destroy all copies — now that it is clear that is what you want . . . (but could you do me the honor to remember that at first you liked the essay, were very excited about it, and did give me every reason to think it was okay to release it?)
As to publication, my intentions to publish “The Brakhage Lectures” — which seems to be, now, what upsets you the most . . . well, Kenneth, what can I say? — I’l only remind you that it’s been my habit for years to publish ALL my writing as soon as possible, etc . . . which is to say: NO “duplicity” was intended.
I will refrain from saying anything about you or your work: (I have already announced to my class that you didn’t like what I had written about you and that, therefore, I would NOT be lecturing about your work, as originally intended, at all.
I think that should take care of everything from your viewpoint: now here’s my viewpoint — you have hurt me very deeply . . . at a time when, as you know, I was very vulnerable to everything — things tended to be extremely difficult for me at this time: perhaps you felt “put-upon”, by me, in some sense, as I complained to you about my difficulties in recent letters; and that is perhaps why you moved to “cut me off” — I really don’t know.
Please do not send me any more hurtful letters: they are not necessary: and I, in any case, will not “receive” them: I do not need, and cannot tolerate, that kind of friendship.
MID FEB., 1970
I must ask you to rip the whole essay on Kenneth Anger OUT of “The Brakhage Lectures” and return it to me — so that I can absolutely supervise the destruction of all copies . . . (he/Kenneth is, yes, that angry — he consulted “the Chinese dragons” who find me “evil”, etc.)
You can publish the first three essays (Melies, Griffith, and Dreyer) however you please: there’s not enough left now to constitute a book: and I’ve no inclination to go on with the project further: (I think it was, anyway, a “distraction” for me during that whole period when I hadn’t yet come to admit I was defeated economically at continuance of “Scenes” — needed something else to do . . . tried to make it/“The Brakhage Lectures” something no one else had done and that I took to be absolutely necessary — but, then, I’m not, after all, a writer.
March 9, 1972
It has been a wonder-ful day here, topped by my seeing “Rabbit’s Moon” — which seems to me your finest film, most perfect and, oh altogether finest!, of the sharpest clarity. Beautiful, yet beauty balanced by dreadful necessity, so that it s an emblem of the soul’s experience: signature, with no more flourish (no unnecessary ‘beauty’), no more than that with which the soul would need to sign its name: (I am thinking here of Charles Olson’s sense of “style” as “the signification of the soul” — that he found style to be irreducable in a man, thus the surest sign we had of soul made visible). And I think my turn-of-mind here especially appropriate because I also saw this film as your auto-biography, all the figures in it aspects of yourself, its magical progress a kind of ‘story of your life’. The two children reminded me of yourself similarly dressed in “Midsummer Night’s Dream”: and they present ‘the hero’ with the two alternatives, the mirror (oldest symbol of magic — no, not oldest perhaps unless one count Narcissus pool but at least the one most commonly known and most fitting for the projector to follow the film — AND then music, oldest Art). Anyway, following this line of thought (which may not be your primary one), the rest of the story falls very beautifully into place, each figure elaborating a theme of your self’s life. Perhaps it is just that I loved them all; but the surety was so strong while watching the film that I came to feel I knew from it why you were so angry with my attempted biography of you. It arrived at about the time you had just retrieved this footage. And, as I reasoned, that footage was given back to you at a time in your life when you were old enough and wisely able to make the great metaphor on your life’s experience which I see this film to be. When you photographed it you were too young to edit that complete-a-story, couldn’t have ‘seen it thru’ to the perfection it now contains.
I hope these speculations are no trouble to you, I might have shyly with-held them except that I wanted you to know what a great lesson this film has immediately been to me. I have been searching-out my own biography thru these writings on other film-makers. (You know that I always use writing to rid myself of the superficialities of thought previous to filming.) I beg pardon, again, for having superimposed that struggle within myself upon your life’s events as known to me. You know, I haven’t written any biographies of living men (with the single exception of Chaplin, and the only dealing with his early years) since I failed at yours. When I show the works of living men these days (and you know, I guess, that I am teaching regularly at The School of the Art Inst. of Chicago, flying there every other week), I simply tell a few stories of experiences with them, if I knew them, and/or read material by them, then show the films and talk about them. After tonight’s experience, I think I will give up biographical writing altogether and will begin simply to try to lift the life story directly and only from the films of each man. But the important thing, for me anyway, is that I suddenly now feel freed to put all this writing-energy directly into film again, some autobiography of myself (as in fact all the films are anyway; but now something more complete and directly thus). “It is time”, some voice says clearly inside me, stirred as I am by this beautiful example from you. But then, dear Kenneth, many turning points in my life have occurred at the instant of seeing some new film of yours — no, I mustn’t exaggerate: three times: first with “Fireworks’, then with “Eaux d’artifice” and now then, I feel sure, tonight with “Rabbit’s Moon”. It is, you see, THAT exciting an occasion for me.