Man Ray and the Cinéma Pur: Four Surrealist Films From the 1920s

Man Ray was one of the lead­ing artists of the avant garde of 1920s and 1930s Paris. A key fig­ure in the Dada and Sur­re­al­ist move­ments, his works spanned var­i­ous media, includ­ing film. He was a lead­ing expo­nent of the Ciné­ma Pur, or “Pure Cin­e­ma,” which reject­ed such “bour­geois” con­ceits as char­ac­ter, set­ting and plot. Today we present Man Ray’s four influ­en­tial films of the 1920s.

Le Retour à la Rai­son (above) was com­plet­ed in 1923. The title means “Return to Rea­son,” and it’s basi­cal­ly a kinet­ic exten­sion of Man Ray’s still pho­tog­ra­phy. Many of the images in Le Retour are ani­mat­ed pho­tograms, a tech­nique in which opaque, or par­tial­ly opaque, objects are arranged direct­ly on top of a sheet of pho­to­graph­ic paper and exposed to light. The tech­nique is as old as pho­tog­ra­phy itself, but Man Ray had a gift for self-pro­mo­tion, so he called them “rayo­graphs.” For Le Retour, Man Ray sprin­kled objects like salt and pep­per and pins onto the pho­to­graph­ic paper. He also filmed live-action sequences of an amuse­ment park carousel and oth­er sub­jects, includ­ing the nude tor­so of his mod­el and lover, Kiki of Mont­par­nasse.

Emak-Bakia (1926):

The 16-minute Emak-Bakia con­tains some of the same images and visu­al tech­niques as Le Retour à la Rai­son, includ­ing rayo­graphs, dou­ble images and neg­a­tive images. But the live-action sequences are more inven­tive, with dream-like dis­tor­tions and tilt­ed cam­era angles. The effect is sur­re­al. “In reply to crit­ics who would like to linger on the mer­its or defects of the film,” wrote Man Ray in the pro­gram notes, “one can reply sim­ply by trans­lat­ing the title ‘Emak Bakia,’ an old Basque expres­sion, which was cho­sen because it sounds pret­ti­ly and means: ‘Give us a rest.’ ”

L’E­toile de Mer (1928):

L’E­toile de Mer (“The Sea Star”) was a col­lab­o­ra­tion between Man Ray and the sur­re­al­ist poet Robert Desnos. It fea­tures Kiki de Mont­par­nasse (Alice Prin) and André de la Riv­ière. The dis­tort­ed, out-of focus images were made by shoot­ing into mir­rors and through rough glass. The film is more sen­su­al than Man Ray’s ear­li­er works. As Don­ald Faulkn­er writes:

In the mod­ernist high tide of 1920s exper­i­men­tal film­mak­ing, L’E­toile de Mer is a per­verse moment of grace, a demon­stra­tion that the cin­e­ma went far­ther in its great silent decade than most film­mak­ers today could ever imag­ine. Sur­re­al­ist pho­tog­ra­ph­er Man Ray’s film col­lides words with images (the inter­ti­tles are from an oth­er­wise lost work by poet Robert Desnos) to make us psy­cho­log­i­cal wit­ness­es, voyeurs of a kind, to a sex­u­al encounter. A char­ac­ter picks up a woman who is sell­ing news­pa­pers. She undress­es for him, but then he seems to leave her. Less inter­est­ed in her than in the weight she uses to keep her news­pa­pers from blow­ing away, the man lov­ing­ly explores the per­cep­tions gen­er­at­ed by her paper­weight, a starfish in a glass tube. As the man looks at the starfish, we become aware through his gaze of metaphors for cin­e­ma, and for vision itself, in lyri­cal shots of dis­tort­ed per­cep­tion that imply hal­lu­ci­na­to­ry, almost mas­tur­ba­to­ry sex­u­al­i­ty.

Les Mys­tères du Château de Dé (1929):

The longest of Man Ray’s films, Les Mys­tères du Château de Dé (the ver­sion above has apparenl­ty been short­ened by sev­en min­utes) fol­lows a pair of trav­el­ers on a jour­ney from Paris to the Vil­la Noailles in Hyères, which fea­tures a tri­an­gu­lar Cubist gar­den designed by Gabriel Geu­vrikain. “Made as an archi­tec­tur­al doc­u­ment and inspired by the poet­ry of Mal­lar­mé,” writes Kim Knowles in A Cin­e­mat­ic Artist: The Films of Man Ray, “Les Mys­tères du Château de Dé is the film in which Man Ray most clear­ly demon­strates his inter­dis­ci­pli­nary atti­tude, par­tic­u­lar­ly in its ref­er­ence to Stéphane Mal­lar­mé’s poem Un coup de dés jamais n’aboli­ra le hasard.”

The films will be list­ed in our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Venice in a Day: From Daybreak to Sunset in Timelapse

It’s not the first time­lapse video of Venice, and it cer­tain­ly won’t be the last. You can bank on that. But what dis­tin­guish­es this clip from the oth­ers is its con­tin­u­al focus on the canals that make Venice, Venice. Gives this video three min­utes and it will give you a full day in the life of Venet­ian water­ways. And when you’re done, don’t miss How Venice Works, an impres­sive 18 minute video that explains the com­plex inner-work­ings of the city made up of 124 islands, 183 canals, 438 bridges and the rest. How it all hangs togeth­er is pret­ty amaz­ing.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ernest Hem­ing­way Reads “In Harry’s Bar in Venice”

It’s 5:46 A.M. and Paris Is Under Water

Neuroscience and Propaganda Come Together in Disney’s World War II Film, Reason and Emotion

Last Fri­day, we post­ed Saul Bass’ Why Man Cre­ates. For anoth­er short film which drew Acad­e­my recog­ni­tion by using ani­ma­tion to illu­mi­nate basic human impuls­es, you could do worse than Dis­ney’s Rea­son and Emo­tion. Just as Bass’ pic­ture, a prod­uct of 1968, bears the mark of that era’s ascen­dant free-your-mind coun­ter­cul­ture, Dis­ney’s pic­ture reflects the con­cerns of 1943 Amer­i­ca. Mankind has always and prob­a­bly will always strug­gle with the con­flicts between what we con­sid­er our ratio­nal minds and what we con­sid­er our emo­tion­al impuls­es, but at that par­tic­u­lar time and in that par­tic­u­lar nation, mankind found itself even more con­cerned with the con­flict between the Axis and the Allies. Under­stand­ing how per­sua­sive a mes­sage they could send by unit­ing the cur­rent with the eter­nal, Dis­ney’s wartime pro­pa­gan­da came up with this eight-minute comedic illus­tra­tion of how our rea­son and emo­tion coex­ist, what an ide­al bal­ance between them looks like, and why you, a good Amer­i­can, should hold your emo­tion in check. “That’s right, emo­tion,” insists the nar­ra­tor, “go ahead, put rea­son out of the way. That’s great, fine — for Hitler.”

Enlight­ened 21st-cen­tu­ry view­ers will find plen­ty of the stiff, the square, and the stereo­typ­i­cal to object to here. Ven­tur­ing inside the head of an aver­age Amer­i­can man, the film sees a sober, bespec­ta­cled embod­i­ment of Rea­son at the steer­ing wheel. Behind him sits the jit­tery, club-swing­ing cave­man Emo­tion. When our man spies a “classy dish” on the side­walk, Emo­tion wrests con­trol from Rea­son, but suc­ceeds only in get­ting their humanoid vehi­cle slapped.

We then enter the mind of the slap­per to find Rea­son’s female equiv­a­lent, a syn­the­sis of all char­ac­ters ever named “Pru­dence,” at the wheel. Back-seat dri­ving is a rotund, excitable, (rel­a­tive­ly) skimpi­ly dressed Emo­tion. Rea­son believes she has done jus­tice with the slap, but Emo­tion argues, “He was cute! You wan­na be an old maid?” She then pro­pos­es an eat­ing binge, while Rea­son looks on in hor­ror at their con­trol room’s rapid­ly bal­loon­ing, sag­ging, “CHIN,” PROFILE,” and “FIGURE” charts.

Yet in its old-fash­ioned, super­cil­ious, and sim­plis­tic way, Rea­son and Emo­tion looks frankly at the chal­lenges we all face on a reg­u­lar basis when decid­ing, whether we be male or female, what to do, which foods to eat, and whom to try to meet. Research on what our cen­ters of rea­son and emo­tion actu­al­ly are and how they deter­mine our choic­es has risen to the height of neu­ro­sci­en­tif­ic fash­ion, and as for the film’s indict­ment of the Third Reich as a vast emo­tion-manip­u­la­tion machine, the unset­tling but sub­stan­tial field of dic­ta­to­r­i­al mind con­trol in all its forms has accu­mu­lat­ed its own enor­mous body of aca­d­e­m­ic study. We’ve grown just a lit­tle smarter about rea­son and emo­tion, war and peace, and men and women in the past 69 years, which makes Rea­son and Emo­tion a rich­er and more fas­ci­nat­ing watch now than it would have been then. The film has been added to the Ani­ma­tion sec­tion of our col­lec­tion of Free Movies Online.

Find more Dis­ney Pro­pa­gan­da Films Here:

The Mak­ing of a Nazi: Disney’s 1943 Ani­mat­ed Short

Don­ald Duck’s Bad Nazi Dream (1942)

Don­ald Duck Wants You to Pay Your Tax­es (1943)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

All You Need is Cash: 1978 Mockumentary by Eric Idle (Monty Python) Satires The Beatles

Sev­er­al weeks back, Col­in Mar­shall won­dered whether Pink Floy­d’s 1972 con­cert among the ruins of Pom­peii (watch it here) pro­vid­ed some inspi­ra­tion for Rob Rein­er’s 1984 satir­i­cal film, This is Spinal Tap. (Remem­ber the clas­sic Stone­henge scene?) Per­haps the same could be asked about All You Need is Cash, the 1978 mock­u­men­tary that fol­lows the musi­cal career of The Rut­les, whose resem­blance to The Bea­t­les was pure­ly and entire­ly inten­tion­al.

Eric Idle, of Mon­ty Python fame, direct­ed the film, along with Gary Weis, a film­mak­er for Sat­ur­day Night Live. That pret­ty much guar­an­teed some good satire and clas­sic cameo appear­ances by Michael Palin, Gil­da Rad­ner, John Belushi, Bill Mur­ray, Al Franken and Dan Aykroyd — not to men­tion Ron­nie Wood, Mick Jag­ger, Paul Simon, and, yes, even George Har­ri­son. (It’s worth recall­ing that Har­ri­son became tight with the Mon­ty Python crew, and finan­cial­ly backed Mon­ty Python’s Life of Bri­an, which hit the­aters the next year.)

When All You Need is Cash aired on NBC, it kind of bombed, but it lat­er rebound­ed on the BBC. And today the film gets a 90% on Rot­ten Toma­toes’ “Tomatome­ter,” a sol­id score.

Part 1 appears above, and here we give you the remain­ing parts: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Get your high­er-res­o­lu­tion copy on DVD right here.

The Man Who Quit Money — and Lived to Tell About It

If you’re get­ting ready to start yet anoth­er work week, let us give you some food for thought.

12 years ago, Daniel Sue­lo walked into a phone booth, left his only mon­ey there ($30), and has­n’t touched any since — no cash, no loans, no cred­it cards, no bank accounts, no wel­fare pay­ments — nada. Instead, he sleeps in caves in the Utah desert (rent free), lives the life of a hunter-gath­er­er, remains active in his Moab com­mu­ni­ty and proves that much of what we con­sid­er a neces­si­ty real­ly isn’t at all.

Sue­lo was pro­filed in a 2009 piece in Details. He’s now the sub­ject of Mark Sun­deen’s new book, The Man Who Quit Mon­ey.

via Laugh­ing Squid

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The Higgs Boson, AKA the God Particle, Explained with Animation

Ever since the Large Hadron Col­lid­er (LHC) went online in 2008, physi­cists have been con­duct­ing exper­i­ments, hop­ing to final­ly prove or dis­prove the exis­tence of The God Par­ti­cle, oth­er­wise known as the Hig­gs Boson. CERN (which oper­ates the LHC) gives this basic intro­duc­tion to the the­o­rized par­ti­cle:

A major break­through in par­ti­cle physics came in the 1970s when physi­cists real­ized that there are very close ties between two of the four fun­da­men­tal forces – name­ly, the weak force and the elec­tro­mag­net­ic force. The two forces can be described with­in the same the­o­ry, which forms the basis of the Stan­dard Mod­el. This ‘uni­fi­ca­tion’ implies that elec­tric­i­ty, mag­net­ism, light and some types of radioac­tiv­i­ty are all man­i­fes­ta­tions of a sin­gle under­ly­ing force called, unsur­pris­ing­ly, the elec­troweak force. But in order for this uni­fi­ca­tion to work math­e­mat­i­cal­ly, it requires that the force-car­ry­ing par­ti­cles have no mass. We know from exper­i­ments that this is not true, so physi­cists Peter Hig­gs, Robert Brout and François Englert came up with a solu­tion to solve this conun­drum.

They sug­gest­ed that all par­ti­cles had no mass just after the Big Bang. As the Uni­verse cooled and the tem­per­a­ture fell below a crit­i­cal val­ue, an invis­i­ble force field called the ‘Hig­gs field’ was formed togeth­er with the asso­ci­at­ed ‘Hig­gs boson’. The field pre­vails through­out the cos­mos: any par­ti­cles that inter­act with it are giv­en a mass via the Hig­gs boson. The more they inter­act, the heav­ier they become, where­as par­ti­cles that nev­er inter­act are left with no mass at all.

That quick state­ment sets the stage for watch­ing the video above. Here we have Daniel White­son, a physics pro­fes­sor at UC Irvine, giv­ing us a fuller expla­na­tion of the Hig­gs Boson, mer­ci­ful­ly using ani­ma­tion to demys­ti­fy the the­o­ry and the LHC exper­i­ments that may con­firm it soon­er or lat­er. H/T Metafil­ter

Look­ing to bone up on physics? Find 31 Free Physics Cours­es in our Col­lec­tion of 450 Free Cours­es Online. They’re all from top uni­ver­si­ties — MIT, Stan­ford, Yale and the rest.

All Hail the Beat: How the 1980 Roland TR-808 Drum Machine Changed Pop Music

When the Roland TR-808 rhythm machine first came out in late 1980 most musi­cians were not impressed. It was a drum machine that did­n’t sound like drums, with a hand­clap fea­ture that did­n’t sound like hands clap­ping. One review­er said the machine sound­ed like march­ing anteaters. But as Rho­dri Mars­den wrote in a 2008 arti­cle for The Inde­pen­dent, “One man’s trash is anoth­er man’s trea­sure.”

For some, the 808 was so bad it was good. They embraced the sheer arti­fi­cial­i­ty of the thing. Its idio­syn­crat­ic nois­es began show­ing up on hit records like 1982’s “Sex­u­al Heal­ing,” by Mar­vin Gaye. “Boom­ing bass kicks, crispy snares and that annoy­ing cow­bell sound made famous dur­ing the 80’s are all part of the 808 and it’s famous sound,” writes Vin­tage Synth Explor­er. Yes, that annoy­ing cow­bell sound. On Whit­ney Hous­ton’s “I Wan­na Dance With Some­body,” writes Mars­den, the effect is like that of “a dis­tressed wood­peck­er.”

But as Nel­son George explains in his new video, All Hail the Beat (above), the 808 has remained a vital ele­ment in much of the pop music since the 1980s, in gen­res like hip hop, tech­no and house. Even though Roland stopped mak­ing the 808 in 1984 and many young musi­cans today have nev­er even seen one (a vin­tage 808 can cost over $2,000 on eBay) the machine’s 16 drum sounds have been wide­ly sam­pled, and have been built into many of the machines that have come lat­er.

Even the pho­ny hand­claps have become indis­pens­able. “Of course, they don’t sound like hand­claps,” pro­duc­er Jyoti Mishra told Mars­den, “but strange­ly, they have some­how become the sound of hand­claps. Every drum machine pro­duced since then has had to fea­ture that same kind of noise.”

To hear the 808 in its heyday–along with sev­er­al oth­er elec­tron­ic instru­ments, includ­ing Micro­moog and Prophet‑5 synthesizers–you can watch the video below from 1982, fea­tur­ing Afri­ka Bam­baataa & the Soul­son­ic Force per­form­ing “Plan­et Rock.”

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” Performed on Traditional Chinese Instruments

Mat­teo — they’re a band from Salt Lake City that spent years “mean­der­ing through Chi­nese street mar­kets and moun­tains,” gath­er­ing “a hearty col­lec­tion of Chi­nese tra­di­tion­al instru­ments,” and then incor­po­rat­ing their sounds into their own brand of amer­i­can indie-folk music. Nat­u­ral­ly you’re won­der­ing what this fusion sounds like. So we give you Mat­teo per­form­ing “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” from the Talk­ing Heads’ fifth album, Speak­ing in Tongues. Find a live ver­sion of the orig­i­nal right below.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Pak­istani Musi­cians Play Amaz­ing Ver­sion of Dave Brubeck’s Jazz Clas­sic, “Take Five”

Watch Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Chile’ Per­formed on a Gayageum, a Tra­di­tion­al Kore­an Instru­ment

The Talk­ing Heads Play CBGB, a 30-Minute Set in 1975

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.