The Films of Man Ray
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.
1 perhaps too much the ref lexive, dualistic Western thinker, too much the pragmatist and too much the invested classicist, ever to capitulate totally to surrealism’s cultural agnosticism.’28 This book attempts to deal with some of the issues described above. The following pages set out to create an understanding of how Man Ray is situated at the crossroads of several experimental strands of filmmaking in the 1920s, bringing Dada and Surrealism into a dialogue with a mul- titude of approaches, from abstract film to French Impressionist cinema. Although it too will draw from Man Ray’s recollections in Self Portrait, these statements will be accompanied by an extensive investigation of the visual content of the films. The contradictory nature of Man Ray’s ref lections on his own work will be a central consideration, allowing us to understand the spirit in which they were made and to create a broader framework from which to analyse them. In doing so, it adds to the large body of research into Dada and Surrealism, providing new perspectives on Man Ray’s cinematic expression. The approach to Dada and Surreal- ism developed through his films demonstrates a f luid interweaving of the principles related to the two movements. As Arturo Schwarz has noted, ‘It is hard to classify Man Ray’s films; they are provocative in their originality and pioneering in their content […] they are products of his deep-rooted individuality and independence. His films anticipated moods and modes. It may be said that they are the most Dada...
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