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Dog Star Man

Dog Star Man
The words "Dog Star Man" in white against a black background
Title card, hand-lettered by Renaldo Kuhler
Directed byStan Brakhage
StarringStan Brakhage
Jane Brakhage
CinematographyStan Brakhage
Edited byStan Brakhage
Release date
Running time
78 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent film

Dog Star Man is a series of short experimental films, all directed by Stan Brakhage, featuring Jane Wodening. It was released in instalments between 1961 and 1964 and comprises a prelude and four parts. In 1992, Dog Star Man was included in its entirety in the annual selection of 25 motion pictures added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and recommended for preservation.[1][2]

Described as a "cosmological epic" and "creation myth" (particularly the Prelude), Dog Star Man illustrates the odyssey of a bearded woodsman (Brakhage) climbing through a snow-covered mountain with his dog to chop down a tree. While doing so, he witnesses various mystical visions with various recurring imagery such as a woman, child, nature, and the cosmos while making his ascent.

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.[3] Both are generally considered the greatest works of his first mature period.


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.[4][5] 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.[6] 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.[7] 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,[8] there is a general structure to the narrative of the film cycle that comprises the prelude and four parts.

The star, possibly the 'star' in Dog Star Man. One of the most prominent images in the film, it is seen at various times throughout the film, including Prelude and Part I.


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.[9] In it, the Prelude contains many of the images that recur throughout the rest of the film series, creating a visual leitmotif of the many symbols and concepts of the series of films. There are also many instances to what Brakhage calls "close-eyed vision".[10] Broadly, the Prelude exemplifies, among other things, the creation of the universe.

Part I

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.[11] 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.

Part II

In contrast to the lengthy running times of the earlier films, Part II begins a series of shorter segments that run from around 5–7 minutes. Its central focus is on the birth of a child which was filmed on black and white film stock as a part of Brakhage's home movies that he shot during the time; stylistically, the filming of childbirth in an almost documentary-like way is quite similar to Window Water Baby Moving. Two layers of imagery are imposed over one another, suggesting that the woodsman's life is passing right before his eyes.[12]


The entire film (Prelude and Parts 1 through 4) was named to the National Film Registry in 1992.[13]

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 collection DVD from The Criterion Collection.[14][15]

The film has received a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 9 reviews including praises from film critics like J. Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum.[16]


  1. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2020-09-29.
  2. ^ Wharton, Andy Marx,Dennis; Marx, Andy; Wharton, Dennis (1992-12-04). "Diverse pix mix picked". Variety. Retrieved 2020-09-29.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ "Article on Stan Brakhage's "The Art of Vision," by Fred Camper". Retrieved 2023-06-10.
  4. ^ Brakhage, Stan (1963). Metaphors on Vision. New York, New York: Anthology Film Archives. p. 14. ISBN 978-0317559569 – via Internet Archive. The next film that I edited was the CAT'S CRADLE. We moved from Princeton back into the mountains of Boulder, Colorado where I began working on CAT'S CRADLE. We lived in Silver Spruce, then, the same place that we lived during the whole shooting of DOG STAR MAN. Right before I started shooting DOG STAR MAN, I edited CAT'S CRADLE.
  5. ^ Brakhage, Stan (1963). Metaphors on Vision. New York, New York: Anthology Film Archives. p. 14. ISBN 978-0317559569 – via Internet Archive. "Did you have any idea of what DOG STAR MAN would be?" No. At least all the ideas I had subsequently proved to be irrelevant.
  6. ^ Brakhage, Stan (1963). Metaphors on Vision. New York, New York: Anthology Film Archives. pp. 16–17. ISBN 978-0317559569.
  7. ^ Brakhage, Stan (1963). Metaphors on Vision. New York, New York: Anthology Film Archives. p. 22. ISBN 978-0317559569.
  8. ^ C. Wees, William. "Dog Star Man - Film (Movie) Plot and Review". Film Reference. Advameg, Inc. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  9. ^ Brakhage, Stan (1963). Metaphors on Vision. New York, New York: Anthology film Archives. p. 22. ISBN 978-0317559569 – via Internet Archive.
  10. ^ Brakhage, Stan (1963). Metaphors on Vision. New York, New York: Anthology Film Archives. p. 23. ISBN 978-0317559569.
  11. ^ Camper, Fred (May 1966). "The Art of Vision, a film by Stan Brakhage". Originally written in May 1966 for a showing in the MIT Film Society in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Camper's essay was first published in Jonas Mekas' "Film Culture", Issue no. 46, in Autumn 1967. Film Culture. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  12. ^ Messerli, Douglas (October 15, 2015). "A Voyage Into Nature". World Cinema Review. Archived from the original on December 26, 2017. Retrieved December 26, 2017.
  13. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing". Library of Congress.
  14. ^ By Brakhage: An Anthology, Volume One and Two|The Criterion Collection
  15. ^ By Brakhage: An Anthology, Volume One ()|The Criterion Collection
  16. ^ Rotten Tomatoes
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Dog Star Man
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