The Suspense of the Escape


Prison Break.

The first piece for my new column on Premiere — the title in English would be Series in Words — has been published today. The idea is to analyse a different television series every month. Prison Break (2005-) was the first.

I call attention to two main points. First, the use of suspense to dilate the duration of the show and the employment of cliff-hangers to grasp and to sustain the interest of the audience. Second, the change in structure from concentrated in the first season (jailbreak planning and execution) to fragmented in the second (getaway improvisation and maintenance).

Realisation (Coda)


Black Ice (1994).

Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception.

[...] The “absolute realism” of the motion picture is unrealized, therefore potential, magic.



“Trilogy”: Brakhage, Film Poet · (1) · (2) · (3)

Trilogy: Casting Spells (3)


I... (1995).
[Courtesy of the Estate of Stan Brakhage and Fred Camper. Click for enlargement.]

This is to introduce myself. I am young and I believe in magic. I am learning how to cast spells. My profession is transforming. I am what is known as “an artist”.



“Trilogy”: Brakhage, Film Poet · (1) · (2)

Trilogy: Rhythm of Images (2)


We Hold These (1995).
[Courtesy of the Estate of Stan Brakhage and Fred Camper. Click for enlargement.]

Twenty-four frames in a second is a rhythm. And in the mind also, where a growth or evolutionary process is reaching toward a picture, you almost have to think of it as a force field flow—what we call the life force itself: as exact, and variable, as a plant coming up through the earth. And then what’s done with that for recognition is to take slices of it, which are then put together into pictures. And rhythm is the key to the first recognition of that process itself.

[...] Rhythm comes first. You can’t slice up that process to get an image. I mean rhythm really is the width of the slices, and that’s how you get an image. Otherwise you don’t get a recognizable image. If you slice it too thin, you can’t follow the growth process. And if you slice it too fat, you have a series of pictures but you have no image. So rhythm is the intermediary in the process.



“Trilogy”: Brakhage, Film Poet · (1)

Trilogy: Music for the Eyes (1)


I Take These Truths (1995).
[Courtesy of the Estate of Stan Brakhage and Fred Camper. Click for enlargement.]

I now no longer photograph, but rather paint upon clear strips of film—essentially freeing myself from the dilemmas of re-presentation. I aspire to a visual music, a “music” for the eyes (as my films are entirely without sound-tracks these days). Just as a composer can be said to work primarily with “musical ideas”, I can be said to work with the ideas intrinsic to film, which is the only medium capable of making paradigmatic “closure” apropos Primal Sight.



“Trilogy”: Brakhage, Film Poet

Brakhage, Film Poet


Stan Brakhage (1933-2003) was a film poet, someone whose work burst with expressive creativity, a filmmaker rightly regarded as one of the most important in the history of cinema. I often go back to his films just to recall their freedom and intuition, and to come into contact with their sensuous richness one more time.

Born Robert Sanders, his adoptive parents changed his name to James Stanley Brakhage. He made almost four hundred avant-garde films (most of them hand-painted), wrote books, and was a distinguished professor of film studies at the University of Colorado. Brakhage was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 1996 and underwent an apparently successful surgery. The disease was caused by the coal-tar dyes that he used to paint and it eventually returned to take his life.

Three posts with Brakhage’s words and some frames from Trilogy (1995) will follow. I thank in advance to Marilyn Brakhage and Fred Camper for their support and authorisation.

Blurred Margins


Last year, I had to talk to the new MA students in Film Studies about my experience at Kent. After the meeting, I told one of them that if he wanted to do his research on television or music videos I would be glad to help. He said that his sole interest was in film and I got the impression that he thought that I was somehow disinterested in studying film.

The eclecticism of my research interests might be bewildering to some people. Puzzling as it may seem, I choose these topics exactly because of my fascination with film. These subjects enable me to examine the borders of film. In fact, my attention is often drawn to what blurs margins — not just of television, video, and film, but also of the popular and the experimental.



Battlestar Galactica (2003-), “Precipice” (3.02).

SHARON AGATHON: How do you know? I mean, how do you really know you can trust me?
WILLIAM ADAMA: I don’t. That’s what trust is.

The Rules of the Game



Offside (2006) ritualises Iranian social rules. It explores the metaphorical possibilities opened up by the storyline — the girls’ illegal attempt to watch a football match — to structure the mise en scène.

There is barely any difference between the time of the story and that of the plot. The film does not develop a chain of events to arrive at a resolution: it follows the girls in a single situation. Any determinism in the solution of the conflicts that flourish is avoided because of this choice.

The comedy has occasionally an absurd tone — for example, when one of the girls goes to the toilet and a soldier makes her use a player’s poster as a mask. The social norms are tested throughout the film and so is the notion of authority. Panahi structures the staging from successive demarcated spaces and the scenes reveal and consider the prospects of invasion and evasion that this spacial demarcation entails. Concrete and symbolic as a game.

Offside was banned from the Islamic Republic of Iran, just like the two previous films directed by Jafar Panahi: Talaye sorkh (Crimson Gold, 2003), a story of a man humiliated by social injustice that lies behind a murder and a suicide; and Dayereh (The Circle, 2000), intertwining stories of seven Iranian women with a criminal past due to prejudice and oppression.

Serial Video Art [for Filipa]


Going Forth by Day.

Serial works contrast with single works. A serial structure arises whenever an artwork presents distinct fragments under the same title. Bill Viola’s impressive video installation comprised of five projections, Going Forth by Day (2002) — “Fire Birth”, “The Path”, “The Deluge”, “The Voyage”, and “First Light” — about the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, is a cogent example.

Filipa, do you remember seeing it with me?

The Just Cinema


I found this article by chance, “O Cinema Justo”. I wrote it five years ago for the Portuguese Bar Association Journal. It would have been titled “The Just Cinema” in English.



Inland Empire (2006).

NIKKI: Wake up and find out what the hell yesterday was about. I’m not too keen on tomorrow, and today’s slipping by.

Frames Pictures Windows


Without a Trace, “Fallout”.

This is the ending of the last episode of the first season of Without a Trace (2002-), “Fallout” (1.23).

After dealing with a kidnapping perpetrated by Barry, a man lost after the loss of his wife on 9/11, Jack Malone seats next to the bed where his wife sleeps. He looks at a framed photo of him and his two daughters. Then the camera tilts up to a picture taken from the bedroom window before the attack on the World Trade Center. And finally moves to the right to the window that shows New York City without the Twin Towers.

Two Elegies


Madadayo (1993).

Saraband (2003).

Pop Irony


From The Simpsons Movie (2007):

HOMER: I can’t believe we’re paying to watch something we could see on TV for free! If you ask me, everyone in this theater is a big sucker! Especially, you! [points to us]

Michelangelo Antonioni (1912-2007)


A Aventura (L’Avventura, 1960).