Monday, September 17, 2012

Historical Avant-Garde: Europe 1920-30s

Louis Buñuel & Salvador Dalí, Un Chien Andalou, 1929 (16 min)

Many people mention the eye-slicing scene, so this is my mention, but I was more interested in the time aspect. It starts “Once upon a time” to suggest a fable or other similar story, and then jumps around to ‘8 years later’, ‘16 years ago’ and a present time ‘around 3 in the morning’.  The time changes, but the characters did not seem to change a whole lot. Then there was the box, which the severed hand was put into. At the end on the beach the box was smashed and I do not recall seeing the hand. Would this be the “hand of time”?

Man Ray, Le Retour à la Raison (The Return to Reason), 1923 (2 min)

I was most interested in the rayograms (sometimes called rayographs), the sections where there were noticeable objects appearing as silhouettes. Another point of interest was the stop-motion animation of the tack, spinning in the same spot. The precision of getting the tack in just the right place, all while making it turn was amazing (unless I find out later that Man Ray created this differently). I found the use of multiple exposures visually interesting, even if appeared to be the inside of an older model of ice cube tray being spun; the cast shadow saved the scene.

Man Ray, L’Étoile de Mer (The Starfish), 1928 (15 min)

The seemingly underwater effect/blurred filter made me think I was watching this film from the perspective of the starfish in the jar, until there were scenes without this effect. Seeing the effect then not the effect, the woman behind the newspaper, the 12 frames in 1 frame made me think of the art of revealing something, as though there was something purposely being hidden. Then the mirror, reflecting the woman with shots relating to beauty, is smashed.

Fernand Léger and Dudley Murphy, Ballet Mécanique, 1924 (11 min)

I tried to relate this film to the (very) little I know about ballet. I saw the repetition of the woman swinging and the woman walking up the stairs like a dancer twirling across the stage. The kaleidoscope effect on the people and the moving machines perhaps suggested a similar type multi-faceted nature between the human and the machine. The dangling reflective sphere was jarring as it swung toward and away from the lens.

Marcel Duchamp, Anémic Cinéma, 1926 (6 min)

I have had the most trouble watching this film. This was the second or third time seeing this and I still got a bad case of motion sickness (no matter how far away from the screen I sit). I do not know what was worse the twirling spirals or the spinning French text. The text seemed to be random bits of information, some ads, some questions.

Sergey Eisenstein & Grigory Alexandrov, Romance Sentimentale (Sentimental Romance), 1930 (16 min)

The repetition of the ocean crashing, the clouds and the trees almost in time to the music, especially the swells in the music was more interesting than the woman singing. I was kind of bored with the middle. I got the idea she was sad by her body language and black dress, but I have no idea what she was actually saying. The use of the clock suggested this sadness lasted for some time or as the end played out it was only a matter of time before this sorrow was over. With the rain scene followed by the sun traversing the sky, the flowering trees, the woman now in a white dress, smiling, suggested the rain washed the sorrow and a new life or better days are to follow.

Henri Chomette, Cinque Minutes de Cinéma Pur (Five Minutes of Pure Cinema), 1926 (5 min)

The reference to the title about “pure cinema” lead me to think about what it means to film an object. In order to see anything, capture anything on film there needs to be a light source. These glass or reflective objects arranged with light bouncing off them, spinning or dissolved into new formations of a dazzling light show, albeit a bit boring. Then the transitioning section of trees seemed to echo sections from the earlier part of the film, but in reverse; the reflective gleaming objects on a black background and the darkness of the trees on the blown out sky or water.

René Clair, Entr’acte, 1924 (20 min)

I find the night shots interesting because they become so abstracted due to the very low light conditions. The many layered multiple exposures repeat and reference previous shots, the columns, the busy streets, the bits of wood and the fingers, for example. My favourite scenes are the chess game, where the chessboard squares are superimposed with the city square and the reaction of surprise from the players and the funeral procession, where everyone is over exaggerating their running/movement all while being filmed in slow speed. This procession, comical in nature even though it is not a comical situation, leads to an absurdist scene with the self-propelled carriage carrying the coffin, the procession running after it, and the increasing speed of the cuts. Then the coffin flies off into a field and Ta-Da he is alive; proceeds to make everyone including himself disappear. The whole film, after the opening, is intercut with a ballet dancer, filmed mostly from below.

[Note: Images either Googled or created by screenshots]

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your view on Sergey Eisenstein film, "Romance Sentimentale", and how the middle was kind of boring. Although I would have to disagree with you that the "swells in the music was more interesting than the woman singing". I believe they were equally interesting. The woman singing added a lot of tone and depth to the film. Even though we do not know what she is singing about, her tone adds a personification to the film.