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October 27- November 16, 2004

Adventures in Surrealism

October 27 (Wednesday) 9:30 pm

L'etoile de mer (The Star of the Sea)

Directed by Man Ray
France, 1928, b/w, silent, 18 min.

Ghosts Before Breakfast (Vormittagsspuk)

Directed by Hans Richter
Germany, 1927, b/w, silent, 8 min.

Entr'acte

Directed by René Clair
France, 1924, b/w, silent, 23 min.

Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog)

Directed by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali
France, 1928, b/w, silent, 28 min.

 

This quartet of classic Surrealist films includes American expatriate artist Man Ray’s elliptical adaptation of a poem by Robert Desnos, Dadaist Hans Richter’s surreal comedy featuring flying derby hats and self-firing pistols, René Clair’s delightfully uncanny restaging of the chase-film genre with a runaway hearse, and Luis Buñuel’s shocking yet celebrated collaboration with painter Salvador Dalí.

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November 2 (Tuesday) 9 pm

The Seashell and the Clergyman (La Coquille et le clergyman)

Directed by Germaine Dulac
France, 1926, b/w,silent, 44 min.
With Alix Allin

Feminist filmmaker and writer Germaine Dulac provides a distinctly lyrical interpretation of a text by Antonin Artaud. British censors banned the film with the edict, “If this film has a meaning, it is doubtless objectionable.”

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Blood of a Poet

Directed by Jean Cocteau
France, 1930, b/w, 58 min.
With Lee Miller, Pauline Carton, Odette Talazac
French with English subtitles

In his first foray into film, artist and poet Jean Cocteau created this vivid and highly personal portrait of “the poet’s inner self,” filled with signature images of beauty, suffering, and renewal. While composed in four distinct episodes, the action of the film ostensibly takes place in the brief moment between the collapse of a chimney and its hitting the ground.

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November 7 (Sunday) 7 pm

L'age d'or

Directed by Luis Buñuel
France, 1930, b/w, 63 min.
With Gaston Modot, Lya Lys, Max Ernst
French with English subtitles

The final film collaboration between Buñuel and Dali, this remarkable work was banned for years after fascist and anti-Semitic groups staged a stink-bomb and ink-throwing riot in the Paris theater where it was shown. A Surrealist exposé of the social institutions that stifle love, L’Age d’Or begins with an iconoclastic account of the founding of "Imperial Rome" (and the Catholic Church) upon the rocky shores of a pirate’s cove. A more contemporary tale ensues when Gaston Modot, as a sort of Surrealist "everyman," attempts to liberate himself from every morality: he kicks a dog, strikes a blind man, slaps the mother of his beloved, and flings a burning Christmas tree out a window. The film concludes with its most scandalous sequence, in which a group of depraved men—all of whom bear an uncanny resemblance to Jesus—emerge from the debauchery of "120 Days of Sodom."

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November 9 (Tuesday) 9 pm

Meshes of the Afternoon

Directed by Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid
US, 1943, b/w, 14 min.

Dancer, ethnographer, philosopher, and “visual poet” Maya Deren began making films in the early 1940s (with her cameraman husband, the late Alexander Hammid). In these striking psychodramas, Deren often places herself in the frame, navigating a path through anxiety-laden Freudian environs, dreamscapes of the seemingly unphotographable. In her first and most famous work, Meshes of the Afternoon, a woman (Deren) dreams within dreams about suicide, about a phallic attack by her mate (Hammid), and about inanimate objects that assume threatening aspects. This seminal work gave birth to the American avant-garde film movement of the postwar era.

At Land

Directed by Maya Deren
US, 1944, b/w, 15 min.
With Maya Deren, John Cage, Alexander Hammid

This experiment in time and space features Deren as an alienated figure, unable to integrate with the social milieu that surrounds her.

Witch's Cradle

Directed by Maya Deren
US, 1944, b/w, 12 min.
With Marcel Duchamp, Pajarito Matta

This unfinished film, shot at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery (the prime exhibitor of Surrealist works in New York), was inspired by both the architecture of the space itself and the art works it contained. Deren used her camera to delineate the magic of what she called these “cabalistic symbols of the twentieth century.”

Ritual in Transfigured Time

Directed by Maya Deren
US, 1945–46, b/w, 15 min.
With Maya Deren, Anaïs Nin

Deren’s exploration of female sexuality and the human psyche is given form here through figures inspired by Greek mythology. This elaborate “choreography for the camera” transforms everyday movements into dancelike passages with the assistance of slow-motion effects.

The Private Life of a Cat

Directed by Alexander Hammid
US, 1944, b/w, silent, 22 min.

This charming depiction of the romantic encounter between a male and female cat who decide to take up housekeeping together was made by Deren’s second husband, Alexander Hammid.

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November 14 (Sunday) 7 pm

Rose Hobart

Directed by Joseph Cornell
US, 1937, color, 19 min.

Joseph Cornell’s collage aesthetic was expressed not only in his famous box assemblages but also in his occasional work in film. (A collector of all things, he also maintained a cache of 16mm films.) As an homage to Rose Hobart, a popular screen queen of B-films in the 1930s, Cornell radically altered her 1931 jungle-picture East of Borneo, interspersing fragments of a scientific documentary and turning it into a surrealist experience that caused Dali to exclaim, “He stole my dreams!”

Dreams That Money Can Buy

Directed by Hans Richter, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Fernand Léger, Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Calder
US, 1947, color, 80 min.

In this omnibus work, the first feature-length Surrealist film made in America, a poor young poet sells dreams—each one a mini-movie realized by a noted painter or sculptor whom the émigré Dada artist and filmmaker Hans Richter invited to participate. The delightful segments are enhanced by original musical compositions by such composers as Paul Bowles, John Cage, Duke Ellington, and Darius Milhaud.

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November 16 (Tuesday) 9 pm

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Directed by Luis Buñuel
France, 1972, color, 105 min.
With Fernando Rey, Delphine Seyrig, Stéphane Audran
French with English subtitles

Reworking the central device of The Exterminating Angel, in which the proprieties of bourgeois culture are thoroughly disabused over the course of a dinner party that never ends, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie became Buñuel’s most successful film, bringing him into international prominence during the final years of his career. Less aggressive in its tone and less radical in its form than many of his previous works, the film is an ironic comedy of manners about a group of European elites who fail to obtain bodily nourishment from their pursuits and are perhaps, in the end, “too sexy” for their food.

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