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Film: Programme IV Surrealism and Collage films

Ballet Mécanique

Director: Fernand Léger.
France, 1923.

The cubist painter Léger came to experimental film in his search for a medium which would meet his desire to express rhythm from everyday objects in time and space. The result was “Ballet Mécanique”, a dance created from the basis of the movements of levers, gears, the limbs of mannequins, fairgrounds, billboards, streamers, electric mixers, and, occasionally, people. The most important quality that was taken from these diverse sources is their shared mechanical movements– such as the launder woman climbing the stairs.

 

Le coquille et le clergyman

Director: Germaine Dulac
France, 1927.

This film (translation: “The Seashell and the Clergyman”) is an adaptation of a script by Antonin Artaud. Although undoubtedly under the influence of the avant-garde filmmakers such as Delluc, Gance and L’Herbier, Dulac herself is not considered part of the surrealist group proper. She was most inspired by the dreamy element of the script, where the tension felt in celibacy is explored in greater depth.

 

Etoile de mer

Director: Man Ray
France, 1928.

This surrealist film (translation: “Starfish”) is built around a series of encounters between a man and a woman. They undertake a short relation together, but eventually separate. Ray’s impressive knowledge of technique is most prominently displayed in the hazy memory-world that the film takes place in. He shot the film using rippled glass and burst shards of mirrors to achieve these effects.

 

Geography of the body

Director: Willard Maas.
USA, 1943/45.

Maas’ wife took charge of the cinematography of this filmic exploration of the human body. Over the years it has become the most well known and most controversial American surrealist film. Through extreme closeups and zooms, the film transforms the body through associations to mysterious, unknown landscapes. The commentary was made by the British poet George Barker.

 

Nightdriving

Director: Morton en Millie Goldsholl
USA, 1956.

The makers have tried to capture the atmosphere of highways at night. The canvas is flooded with light and color: the image is a kaleidoscopic whole full of movement, with neon lights, headlights, traffic signs and railway signals. The work is divided in three parts to the music of Bill Haley.

 

A movie

Director: Bruce Conner
USA, 1959.

Bruce Conner is a painter who has had great success with his collage techniques at various exhibitions in the United States. In this film he used the same technique with completely different means. He edited film strips from various films to convey humor, pathos, and a razor-sharp judgment about modern society.

 

Cosmic Ray

Director: Bruce Conner
USA, 1962.

In this film too, Conner uses his collage technique. The film has a fierce musical theme, sung by blues singer Ray Charles, which, due to the endless repetition, looks becomes a parody in and of itself.

 

Scorpio rising

Director: Kenneth Anger.
USA, 1963,

Shot in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Los Angeles, this homoerotic film begins with shots of a beatnik cleaning his bike and showing all parts of this shiny steel colossus in close-up.

What is important for this film is not the sociological position, but the boldness with which Anger made his film.

Off - on

Director: Scott Bartlett
USA, 1967.

What Scott Bartlett was able to achieve with the color application (photography, double printing, lighting) cannot be understood at first viewing of this film. The flow of colors, the moving female figures (sometimes in double print), animals, a man’s face and the signs of space travel represent the rhythm and the overall picture of America in 1967, and that of the immediate future, as the maker had envisioned it.

 


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