Dog Star Man is a series of short experimental films, all directed by Stan Brakhage. It was released during 1961 to 1964 and comprises of a prelude and four parts.
Described as a "cosmological epic" and "creation myth" (particularly the Prelude), Dog Star Man visually illustrates the odyssey of a bearded woodsman (Brakhage) climbing through a snow-covered mountain with his dog in order to chop down a tree. While doing so, he has various mystical visions with various recurring imagery such as a woman, child, nature, and the cosmos.
The five short films all form one larger film, and they are almost always shown together as one film. In 1965, Brakhage used the same footage from Dog Star Man and re-edited it into a much longer film, The Art of Vision. Both are generally considered the greatest works of his first mature period.
The entire film (Prelude and Parts 1 through 4) was named to the National Film Registry in 1992. Below are the individual films of the series and their release dates:Prelude: Dog Star Man (1961)
Dog Star Man: Part I (1962)
Dog Star Man: Part II (1963)
Dog Star Man: Part III (1964)
Dog Star Man: Part IV (1964)
The film is part of the by Brakhage: an Anthology Criterion collection DVD.
After editing and completing Cat's Cradle, Brakhage began filming Dog Star Man. At the time when he began work on the project, Brakhage had not set on any particular idea on what the project would be about. In addition to this, he had also faced different sets of crisis including the questioning of his distant relationship with his wife Jane at the time, experiencing visions, and contemplations of death and decay. The filming of Dog Star Man took on gradually as Brakhage also worked on The Dead.
Ever since he commissioned the idea of the project, Brakhage had already had a prelude and four parts in mind. Dog Star Man, like Brakhage's other works, is characterized and known for their abstract imagery and techniques such as scratching and punching holes into the film. While the work is considered difficult and unorthodox by many, there is a general structure to the narrative of the film cycle that comprises of the prelude and four parts.
The opening of Dog Star Man is entitled Prelude and runs at around 26 minutes, making it one of the longer parts of the film cycle. Brakhage described the Prelude as a "created dream" for the film as opposed to Surrealism in which the work itself is inspired by the dream of the artist. In it, Prelude contains many of images that recur throughout the rest of the film series, creating a visual leitmotif of the many symbols and concepts of the series. There are also many instances to what Brakhage calls "close-eyed vision". Broadly, the Prelude exemplifies, among other things, the creation of the universe.
The longest of the film cycle, running at about 30 minutes, Part I comprises most of the narrative of the film cycle in which the woodsman struggles with his journey up the mountain along with his dog. Unlike the Prelude, where there are many instances of superimposed images that are more abstract to the eye, Part I is more impressionistic. Major parts of the film are in slow-motion; others, in time-lapse photography, speeding up motion. One of the most important images in Part I is the mountain that Brakhage attempts to climb.