Saturday, October 30, 2010

Surrealism and Later Picasso

Giorgio De Chirico, Mystery and Melancholy of a Street

Giorgio DeChirico, The Disquieting Muses

Max Ernst, Two Children Frightened by a Nightingale

Max Ernst, plate from Un Semaine de Bonte (A Week of Plenty)

Man Ray, Gift, surrealist object

Meret Oppenheim, Lucheon in Fur, surrealist object

Hans Bellmer, hand tinted photograph from The Doll

Joseph Cornell, Medici Slot Machine

Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory, Surrealism

Salvador Dali, Lugubrious Game, Surrealism

Rene Magritte, The Treason of Images, Surrealism

Rene Magritte, The Red Model, Surrealism

Rene Magritte, The Rape, Surrealism

Joan Miro, Harlequin's Carnival, Surrealism

Joan Miro, The Beginning of the World, Surrealism

Pablo Picasso, The Pipes of Pan

Pablo Picasso, Woman in an Armchair

Pablo Picasso, Girl Before A Mirror

Pablo Picasso, Seated Bather

Pablo Picasso, Weeping Woman

Pablo Picasso, Guernica


Andre Breton
Sigmund Freud
Giorgio De Chirico
--metaphysical painting
Max Ernst
The Surrealist Object
--Man Ray
--Meret Oppenheim
--Hans Bellmer
--Joseph Cornell
Salvador Dali
--Luis Bunuel
Rene Magritte
Joan Miro

--Marie Therese Walter
--Dora Maar
--Spanish Civil War 1936 - 1939

Surrealism and the Movies: Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali

A still from L'Age d'Or (The Age of Gold)

Salvador Dali's collaboration with Luis Bunuel on Un Chien Andalou launched the careers of both artists.
When their much longer and more ambitious movie L'Age d'Or (The Age of Gold) opened in Paris in 1930, the audience rioted and right wing militant groups attacked the theater destroying paintings by Dali and Miro, among others, on display in the lobby. The critics savaged the movie, and right wing political papers denounced it as shockingly decadent.
Bunuel and Dali succeeded in creating the provocation they so longed for in their first movie.

L'Age d'Or was the very first sound movie in French. It is, like Un Chien Andalou, a largely plotless series of striking vignettes. What story there is involves a couple passionately in love who are trying hard to get together, and are always prevented by something absurd, or by social convention. Even more than Un Chien Andalou, L'Age d'Or is a very aggressive attack on all those forces that Bunuel and Dali say police and repress imagination and desire, especially the Roman Catholic Church.

Dead bishops on the beach, a scene from Dali and Bunuel's L'Age D'Or

Here is the full movie on YouTube (at least until the copyright lawyers pull it down).  The concluding scenes of this movie shocked and offended audiences the most of all.  It shows a scene based on the Marquis de Sade's 100 Days of Sodom together with a very blasphemous depiction of Christ.  The final scene in the movie shows women's scalps nailed to a cross.

The Surrealist artist Max Ernst appears in this movie as the leader of the men in the run-down cottage toward the beginning.

Here is the whole movie.  We'll see how long the copyright lawyers let this stay up on YouTube.

Both Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali continued to work separately in film after their first collaborations.  Bunuel went on to a long and distinguished career as a movie director.  Dali worked with a number of directors.  Here is the dream sequence Dali designed for Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound.

It's a beautiful and compelling sequence, but it doesn't have the edge of his earlier work with Bunuel, in my opinion.

Surrealism and the Movies: Jean Cocteau

The leader of the Surrealist movement Andre Breton hated Jean Cocteau. He saw Cocteau as a poser, a parvenu, and publicity seeker who attached himself onto whatever modern movement had the public's attention at the moment. Most of all, the very homophobic Breton hated Cocteau for being openly and unapologetically gay. The great prophet of the liberated unconscious had surprisingly prudish views about sex, and those views could not abide homosexuality. He purged members of the Surrealist group even suspected of homosexuality. As others (notably Salvador Dali) pointed out to Breton, an edited subconscious is no subconscious at all.
Cocteau was a mediocre poet, a mediocre dancer, and a mediocre artist, but he was a brilliant film director. He used a lot of Surrealist ideas and aesthetic to his own purposes, to the intense irritation of Breton. Cocteau made his film making debut with the remarkable movie The Blood of the Poet. Here is a scene of the poet finding himself trapped inside his own room instructed how to escape by a statue come to life, played by the photographer Lee Miller. He passes through the mirror through a series of dream visions.