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Step Into The MOTHLIGHT! (Film Analysis)

Experimental filmmaker and director¬† Stan Brakhage (1933-2003) has indeed composed one of the most interesting films that THE REALLY BAD MOVIE REVIEW has ever seen. And, shit that is the point of this article. The fact that it’s unique.¬† “A “found foliage” film composed of insects, leaves, and other detritus sandwiched between two strips of perforated tape.”[1] Yes it’s a film made by attaching burned out insect wings, leaf bits, grass, and dirt (and a few colored in scratchy frames here and there) to film with tape, and then sandwiching those wings, and other debris in between another film strip. That way, the film wouldn’t get damaged, and the debris wouldn’t fall off, and there would be no chance of the stuff catching fire. Now i personally think that this is genius. This film is painstakingly and loving crafted by hand. Each frame was done in its own unique way. The films three minutes long, at sixty seconds in a minute that is one hundred and eighty seconds, at twenty-four frames per second, that is a whopping four thousand-three hundred and twenty frames all done by hand with tape and bug wings. In case you don’t understand that, here is the number of frames in number form —>4320! That’s amazing. For a film one could laugh at just due to length alone, this film almost baffles you when you sit down, and think about how someone managed to do this.

The film (which is as long, or even shorter than how long a typical movie scene is) utilizes color in it’s long three minutes of life, more than any other thing. The color spplotches throughout the film are vibrant and neon, Brakhage almost seems to throw them in there to keep you on your toes. Like you see a splotch of color zip by, glowing amidst the sad wreckage of dead nature, and it’s like a “Woah! What was that?” kinda moment. Once you see it once though, it’s like a drug and you just want more until the trip is over.

Which is what the movie feels like. An ACID trip to be precise. Or maybe shrooms? Some kinda psychedelic trip to say the very least. The color splotches especially. But the foliage isn’t boring. The moth wings, although sad, are no longer left in the bottom of a light bulb, to be forgotten till they become dust. No these wings were destined for greatness. As my secret REALLY BAD MOVIE REVIEW source, Amy Herzog told us in a confidental class meeting… and i do not quote exactly, but it was something along the lines of how when Stan Brakhage saw these wings in a lightbulb cover, he wanted to bring new life to them, it made him feel…bad to see them this way, so that spawned Mothlight. He brought life to something dead. (Night of the Mothlight).

This is definitely one of the best things we at THE REALLY BAD MOVIE REVIEW have ever seen. Not due to length or gore this time but for love.Stanley Brakhage clearly is a man who loves his craft, and we mean loves it. If you follow this convenient link here—>http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0104132/ you can see a list of his three hundred and seventy-three different films, the most famous of which are Window Water Baby Moving (1962),Dog Star Man: Part 1 (1962), and Dog Star Man: Part 4 (1964) and The Act Of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes (1971).

We at the REVIEW praise him (Brakhage) for his work and award him 4.5 out of 5 Jason Masks.

Partial Shot List:




Wing Leaf Wing Grass

Grass leaf Grass

Grass Grass Wing


Color Splash (Neon Green)

Dirt Wing Leaf


Sources: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0104132/, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057324/ [1]

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~ by Russell Weinberg on December 10, 2010.

2 Responses to “Step Into The MOTHLIGHT! (Film Analysis)”

  1. Sir, you are a true champion for doing this film analysis and in an interesting manner. We discussed this as your paper and I would have never thought it could work this well but you managed to tell the truth when you mention’d it was like an acid trip because honestly it is. The partial shot list is also quite funny because it is so random and hilarious to just remember the random dirt ect. that went by.

  2. Wow, Russ– I’m sorry I’m so late in getting my comments to you, but what a treat this analysis was. I’m actually moved– for such an abstract work, you hit on precisely what is so emotional about watching this film for me, in particular the use of color, which brings a sense of life and movement to these technically dead bits of insect and plant. For a blog that has devoted itself to gore and corpses, this entry is a crowning glory. Thanks for taking this on, and for making it work in the context of a very lively series of posts this semester. I’ve had lots of fun reading these!

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