Saturday, 28 August 2010
A story is told according to which Saint-Pol-Roux, in times gone by, used to have a notice posted on the door of his manor house in Camaret, every evening before he went to sleep, which read: THE POET IS WORKING.
A great deal more could be said, but in passing I merely wanted to touch upon a subject which in itself would require a very long and much more detailed discussion; I shall come back to it. At this juncture, my intention was merely to mark a point by noting the hate of the marvelous which rages in certain men, this absurdity beneath which they try to bury it. Let us not mince words: the marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful, in fact only the marvelous is beautiful.
-Andre Breton, Manifesto of Surrealism, 1924.
If I were stranded on an island and could only take one film with me, it would be this one. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 1948 film, The Red Shoes, is widely regarded as one of the most innovative films ever made. The plot is very simple: a young ballerina is torn between the love for a man and the passion for her profession. But at the heart of this simple plot is an intricately complex weaving of artistic and philosophical manifestos. This is one of those films that actually successfully blends surrealist imagery with a lucid narrative. And it is so much more than that too.
As I was re-watching this film today, it occurred to me how The Red Shoes exemplifies Andre Breton's words in the Manifesto of Surrealism. The underlying artistic philosophy of this film is precisely: stop, and watch, the poet is at work. Hush. This is both the danger and uniqueness of the film. Nothing is reined in, which is what makes the imagery so fascinating. The marvellous isn't simply beautiful, it is reality. At the moment, I'm drawn to films that do not wish to define reality for their viewers, but that simply present multiple versions of it through the mediating force of fantasy.
P.S. in the spirit of the film, I haven't reined in my selection of images. I simply can't choose, the entire film is so mesmerising.