"Dada thrives on contradictions. It is creative and destructive. Dada denounces the world and wishes to save it." So says one narrator of journalist-filmmaker Mick Gold's Europe After the Rain, a 1978 Arts Council of Great Britain documentary on not just the international avant-garde movement called Dada but the associated currents of surrealism churning around that continent during the first half of the twentieth century. "Dada wanted to replace the nonsense of man with the illogically senseless. Dada is senseless, like nature. Dada is for nature, and against art. Philosophers have less value for Dada than an old toothbrush, and Dada abandons them to the great leaders of the world."
Of the many bold and often contradictory claims made about Dada, none describe it as easily understood. But Dada has less to do with intellectual, aesthetic, or political coherence than with a certain energy. That energy could fire up the likes of André Breton, Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, Giorgio de Chirico, and many other artists besides, channeling frustrations with the state of post-World War I Europe into a sensibility that demanded ripping everything up and building it all again, beginning with the very foundations of sense.
Gold and his collaborators on Europe After the Rain understand this, audiovisually interpreting the legacy of Dada, which despite its short lifespan left behind a host of still-striking works in text, image, and sculpture, in a variety of ways.
"The movie is full of treasures," writes Dangerous Minds' Oliver Hall, including "BBC interviews with Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp from the Sixties, a reading of Artaud’s 'Address to the Dalai Lama,' an account of Freud’s meeting with Dalí." He adds that its "re-enactment of Breton’s dialogue with an official of the Parti communiste français is illuminating, and complements the other valuable material on the 'Pope of Surrealism': his work with shell-shocked soldiers in World War I, trials and expulsions of other Surrealists, collaboration with Leon Trotsky in Mexico, less-than-heroic contributions to the French Resistance, and study of the occult." But then, the kind of mind that could launch a movement like Dada — which fifty years after its end remained fascinating enough to inspire a documentary that itself holds its fascination forty years on — is capable, one suspects, of anything.
Watch the uncut version of Europe After the Rain above.
via Dangerous Minds
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.