Monday, January 15, 2007

Surrealism meets celluloid

Bun'uel & Salvador Dali

Octavio Paz said once that, "A chained man needs only shut his eyes to make the world explode."
Paraphrasing him, I would say that the white eye to the screen need only reflect the light that is properly its own to blow up the universe. But, for the time being, we can sleep easily, for the cinematographic light that reaches up is carefully filtered and metered. In none of the traditional arts is there so great a disproportion between potential and achievement as in the cinema. A film acts directly upon the spectator, presenting him with concrete people and things; in the silence and darkness of the theatre, it isolates him from what we might call his normal psychic habitat. For the reasons, it can stimulate him more effectively than any other form of human expression. It can also more effectively stultify him.

The essential element in any work of art is mystery, and generally this is lacking in films. Authors, directors, and producer take great pains not to disturb our peace of mind, and they keep the marvelous window of the screen closed to the liberating world of poetry. They would rather have that screen reflect subjects that could perfectly well be sequels to our everyday life; they rather that it repeat over and over the same hackneyed drama to make us forget the tedium of our daily work. Their approach is, of course, sanctioned by conventional morality, office censorship, and religion; it is ruled by good taste, and seasoned with an innocuous humor together with all the other prosaic imperatives of reality.

Anyone who is eager to see good films will rarely be satisfied by the big expensive productions or by those that have won critical praise or wide open popular acceptance. The personal story, the private individual drama, cannot, in my opinion, interest anyone which is truly alive to the contemporary world. If the spectator shares in the joys, sorrow, and anguish of a character on the screen, it can only be because he sees in that character the reflection of joys, sorrows, the fear of war, and so on - these are the things that affect all men today and, accordingly, they affect the spectator. But that some fellow is not happy at home and casts about for a girlfriend to provide him some fun, and that he abandons her to return to his self-sacrificing spouse-all this is unquestionably moral and edifying but it leaves us completely indifferent.

Sometimes that which is the essence of cinema springs unexpectedly from an otherwise insipid movie-a slapstick comedy, or a banal romantic film. Man Ray once said something very significant: "The worst movies I've seen in my life, the kind that put me sound asleep, always have five minutes that are marvelous. But the best, the most highly praised film, have barely five minutes that are even worthwhile". What this means is that in all films, good or bad-and beyond and despite the intentions of directors-cinematic poetry struggles to come to the surface and reveal itself.

In the hands of a free spirit the cinema is a magnificent and dangerous weapon. it is the superlative medium through which to express the world of thought, feeling and instinct. The creative handling of film images is such that, among all means of human expression, its way of functioning is most reminiscent of the work of the mind during sleep. A film is like an involuntary imitation of dream.

The cinema seems to have been invented to express the life of the subconscious, the root of which penetrate poetry so deeply. Yet it almost never used to accomplish this.
"The most admirable thing about the fantastic", Andre Breton has said, "is that the fantastic never exist; everything is real"

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