Christopher Maclaine Characteristics
Maclaine's work tends to have an amateur appearance. This characteristic may cause viewers to discredit or not take Maclaine seriously. "At first glance it doesn't seem Maclaine has given much thought to the framing, lighting, composition, or camera movement. And his editing--arguably his greatest talent--can seem sloppy, with its jittery rhythms, mismatched cuts, and sudden tangents. An impatient viewer might attribute these films to a careless, naive speed freak" (Camper: The Chicago Reader Movie Review). Although some critics may consider the framing, lighting, and camera techniques in The End faulty, a certain degree of realism is created through these variances of what is deemed normal or correct.
It is a common practice in film to coach the talent not to acknowledge the presence of the camera. Actors and actresses are trained to eliminate their self-consciousness of being in front of the camera. Maclaine reverses this trend according to Brakhage, "One of the greatest strengths is the self-consciousness of the people he photographs . . . The apparent amateurishness of his filmmaking is deliberate; one might say that he went clear out to the end of the amateur limb. And it was exactly this amateurish look which fascinated him" (Brakhage 119). There is a certain personal touch that is created by the amateur nature of his work.
In The End, Maclaine asks the viewers, "Do you see yourself?" in his characters. It is easier to identify with an amateur rather than a professional. Maclaine used amateurs intentionally.
In The Man Who Invented Gold, the main character is Christopher Maclaine himself. However, he has three other actors play him during the film. This brings the audience into an ambiguous situation. "The ambiguity is intentional; once you recognize the ambiguity, you realize that any one of these men might have been the man who invented gold. And then the film leaves that big 'You' thrown back at the audience: Are you the man who invented gold?" (Brakhage 122). Similarly, in The End, Maclaine leads the audience to identify with the characters. Are you Walter or are you Charles in the end? "The End and The Man Who Invented Gold present the profoundest challenge to viewer identification I know of" (Camper: Chicago Reader Movie Review).
Through editing Maclaine is able to create rhythm with sound, images, and cuts. In Scotch Hop Maclaine filmed a convention of San Francisco Scotsmen. He filmed a man playing the bagpipe and incorporated other images to create a rhythmic relationship between the visual and audio portions of this work. "He has a close up of a bagpipe player, and the movement of the man's cheek is a major statement of rhythm within the frame; then the image that follows falls into its absolute rhythmical place. . . . He accomplishes his consummate rhythmic grace with color schemes, as well--editing so that the shots and cuts interrelate" (Brakhage 125). "Scotch Hop is animated by a tension between synchronicity and asynchronicity--the rhythms of the images and the music converge, then diverge. Each image feels as if it were perched on a knife-edge between a world of smooth, lyrical dance and a world about to be torn apart." (Camper: The Chicago Reader Movie Review).
This rhythm can also be observed in The End as Maclaine edits images of sprinklers, people walking, a barber working, a forearm straining as it lifts weight, and others into the main story of each character. These images create a rhythmic pull in the film. "The End is a powerful, even ecstatic experience not because it's disjunctive but because it establishes a tension between emotionally engaged and alienated modes of thinking, a tension that pervades the imagery, editing, and sound track" (Camper: The Chicago Reader Movie Review).