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CLOSE-UP: FAMILY BUSINESS

Still from Stan Brakhage’s Tortured Dust, 1984, 16 mm, color, silent, 90 minutes. Bearthm. © Estate of Stan Brakhage and Fred Camper.

Why should she give birth, though she had worked in a pottery, to an urn, to a stone angel, to the face of a cracked sundial? Why should she be, she screamed, this common clay, this tortured dust?

Marguerite Young, Miss MacIntosh, My Darling

You know that one of my most bothersome habits is that of holding onto the memory of something as remaining the way it was when it isn’t anymore.

Stan Brakhage1

STAN BRAKHAGE’S 16-mm film Tortured Dust premiered at New York’s Collective for Living Cinema on April 13, 1984, and has received scant attention since. The final “chapter” of the autobiographical cycle Book of the Film, it differs from such entries as Scenes from Under Childhood (1967–70), Sincerity (1973–80), and Duplicity (1978–80) inasmuch as those films’ various parts can be shown independently, whereas the four-part Tortured Dust, Brakhage insisted, must be shown as

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