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A Cinematic Artist

The Films of Man Ray


Kim Knowles

The American artist Man Ray was one of the most influential figures of the historical avant-garde, contributing significantly to the development of both Dadaism and Surrealism. Whilst his pioneering work in photography assured him international acclaim, his activity in other areas, notably film, is to this day both unknown and undervalued.
During the 1920s Man Ray made four short experimental films and collaborated on a host of other projects with people such as Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Léger, René Clair and Hans Richter. These works, along with a series of cinematic essays and home movies made during the 1920s and 1930s, represent the most important contribution to the development of an alternative mode of filmmaking in the early twentieth century. This book explores Man Ray’s cinematic interactions from the perspective of his interdisciplinary artistic sensibility, creating links between film, photography, painting, poetry, music, architecture, dance and sculpture. By exposing his preoccupation with form, and his ambiguous relationship with the politics and aesthetics of the Dada and Surrealist movements, the author paints an intimate and complex portrait of Man Ray the filmmaker.


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Acknowledgements vii Introduction 1 An interdisciplinary artist 2 Beyond Dada and Surrealism 8 CHAPTER 1 Between chaos and order: Le Retour à la raison 15 Dada, film and performance 20 Pro-visual/anti-narrative 30 Chance, logic and order 39 Visual structures 47 Approaches to representation 55 CHAPTER 2 The light and the lens: Emak Bakia 63 Between Dada and Surrealism 75 Optical explorations 90 Light and movement 102 CHAPTER 3 The filmmaker and the poet: L’Etoile de mer 113 Man Ray and Robert Desnos: A fusion of sensibilities 117 From page to screen 127 Form versus content 145 Musical accompaniment 156 vi CHAPTER 4 Film, poetry and architecture: Les Mystères du Château du Dé 163 From architecture to film: The villa and the commission 168 Situating Les Mystères du Château du Dé 176 Un coup de dés … 184 Spatial relations 194 (In) animate transformations 207 CHAPTER 5 Collaborations, experiments and home movies 213 Collaborative projects 217 Home movies and cinematic essays 229 Conclusion 247 Notes 255 Bibliography 285 Filmography 295 Works cited 297 Index 299 Illustrations 307

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