James Broughton Characteristics




James Broughton's work is characterized by several themes. The first and foremost theme is sexual exploration and freedom. Almost all of Broughton's work concerns sex in one form or another. In fact, 1968's The Bed was one of the first films that contained frontal nudity and was not considered pornographic (Sheehy 10). Broughton made use of the naked human body to give a natural feel to his work. Each subject's nudity brings their interactions to a basic level, not one character is better or more advanced than another. Hence, a sense of naturality is included within Broughton's films. Broughton also includes mother imagery or depictions of a mother throughout most of his work. These depictions are not always positive, but ironic as in 1948's Mother's Day. Broughton's films also deal with questioning religion, particularly Christianity. In this instance, Broughton likes to use contradictory images. For instance, The Bed contains a scene of a nude woman holding a bible in one hand and a crucifix in the other. The woman falls upon the bed placing the crucifix in between her breasts and the bible over her pubic area. In his later work, Broughton visually expresses themes of Zen Buddhism with the aid of Zen poetry.

Technically, Broughton's work is characterized very simply. James Broughton does not use special effects (i.e. fades and superimpositions) until Dreamwood in 1972. Broughton's work is held together by editing and is characterized by the static camera shot. There are very few fades within Broughton's work, cuts are used in sequence to advance the film. Broughton also uses poetic narrative to enhance the given visual. Even though Broughton's work is simple in a technical sense, each film is rich in theme and meaning.

--Eva Jones, 2000


A characteristic that I have noticed of James Broughtonıs work is that in his work, Broughton liked to use various themes of nature or have nature as a central theme of the film. For example, the film High Kukas, in which a pond was watched for three minutes and over the course of those three minutes, the viewer sees the subtle changes of the pond. Another characteristic of Broughtonıs work is the use of nudity. Much like animals and organisms in nature, nudity is the human bodyıs simplest form and it is a form that Broughton celebrated in many of his works like The Bed and The Golden Positions.

Another characteristic of Broughtonıs work is the simple transitions and cuts from shot to shot. Broughton didnıt use any special effects, fades, dissolves or wipes between scenes. The transitions are very simple and plain.

Another characteristic of Broughtonıs work is the exploration of oneıs personal freedom. This characteristic was seen in the film The Pleasure Garden. In this film, people visited an old park to do whatever they saw fit. The park was a gathering place for people to act out their fantasies. Broughton expressed through his work, that people shouldnıt be afraid to be themselves and express themselves, even if it goes against the norm.

--Tessa Austin, 2003

Survey of Critical Response ­

Gary Morris
³Broughton is simply too individual for categorization, even when the evidence for labeling him this or that is overwhelming.²

Stan Brakhage
³He could be both masculine and feminine in whatever relationship, and this gave him great strength as an artist. It gave him a much fuller view of the world, and it gave him his central concern, which was to deal with both sides of any matter.²

³His repression in childhood served toward the development of an extraordinary imagination. He grew up and wrote poetry, and made films in which sexuality was a primary subject.²

P. Adam Sitney
³Broughtonıs intense interest in comic types turned his film away from the trance film inspirations in a way that neither he nor his critics could see at the time.²

³Broughton invested too much in the individuality of his protagonists and too little in the cinematic representation of perception to contribute substantially to the trance film.²

Compiled by Tessa Austin, 2003

James Broughton