Watch Dreams That Money Can Buy, a Surrealist Film by Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Calder, Fernand Léger & Hans Richter

“Every­body dreams. Every­body trav­els, some­times into coun­tries where strange beau­ty, wis­dom, adven­ture, love expects him.” These words, a tad floaty and dream­like them­selves, open 1947’s Dreams That Mon­ey Can Buy. “This is a sto­ry of dreams mixed with real­i­ty,” the nar­ra­tor intones. He can say that again. Direct­ed by Hans Richter, painter, graph­ic artist, avant-gardist, “film-exper­i­menter,” and ener­getic mem­ber of the Dada move­ment, the pic­ture takes a sto­ry­line that seems mun­dane­ly real­is­tic — impe­cu­nious poet finds apart­ment, then must fig­ure out how to pay the rent — and bends it into all man­ner of sur­re­al shapes. And I do, lit­er­al­ly, mean sur­re­al, since sev­er­al of the scenes come from the minds of not­ed avant-garde and sur­re­al­ist artists, includ­ing, besides Richter him­self, painter and pho­tog­ra­ph­er Man Ray, con­cep­tu­al­ist Mar­cel Duchamp, sculp­tor Alexan­der Calder, and painter-sculp­tor-film­mak­er Fer­nand Léger.

Joe, the film’s pro­tag­o­nist, finds he has a sort of super­pow­er: by look­ing into the eyes of anoth­er, he can see the con­tents of their mind. He prompt­ly sets up a sort of con­sul­ta­tion busi­ness where he exam­ines the uncon­scious thoughts of a client: say, an unam­bi­tious banker whose wife lives “like a dou­ble-entry col­umn: no virtues, no vices.” He then uses the abstract mate­ri­als of their thoughts to come up with a self-con­tained, some­what less abstract dream for them to dream: in the banker’s case, a dream called Desire, which takes the form of a short film by Dadaist painter-sculp­tor-graph­ic artist-poet Max Ernst. For Joe’s oth­er, dif­fer­ent­ly neu­rot­ic cus­tomers, Richter, Man Ray, Duchamp, Calder, and Léger come up with suit­able for­mal­ly and aes­thet­i­cal­ly dis­tinct dreams. While all these artists imbue Dreams That Mon­ey Can Buy with their own inim­itable sen­si­bil­i­ties (or non­sense abil­i­ties, as the case may be), I feel as though cer­tain mod­ern film­mak­ers would have the time of their lives remak­ing it. Michel Gondry comes to mind.

Dreams That Mon­ey Can Buy will be added to our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

Un Chien Andalou: Revis­it­ing Buñuel and Dalí’s Sur­re­al­ist Film

The Hearts of Age: Orson Welles’ Sur­re­al­ist First Film (1934)

The Seashell and the Cler­gy­man: The World’s First Sur­re­al­ist Film

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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Comments (7)
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  • Hans says:

    The music is spec­tac­u­lar!

  • carola guzman says:

    I would like to join Open Cul­ture.

  • carola guzman says:

    Pls send newslet­ter.

  • Paul H. says:

    The music used in this ver­sion is clear­ly not the orig­i­nal music. Styl­is­ti­cal­ly it is com­plete­ly unlike the com­posers cred­it­ed, par­tic­u­lar­ly Cage and Mil­haud. Fur­ther­more, the wah-wah ped­al used in “Ruth, Ros­es and Revolvers” was­n’t invent­ed until the late 1950s, at least a decade after this film was fin­ished. What did the orig­i­nal music sound like? Are any of the sounds orig­i­nal for that mat­ter?

  • Allan Evans says:

    Some uniden­ti­fied cretin scrubbed the sound­track­’s music which was a series of col­lab­o­ra­tive cre­ations between com­posers and painters to put in their own trite abom­i­na­tions.
    Here’s the one and only Dreams:

    Please indi­cate your dis­plea­sure on the YouTube fraud­ster’s upload after see­ing how the orig­i­nal film was besmirched.

  • Lea Lee says:

    The Music is ” John Cage ”

    with­out The Music of John cage , the movie is a body with­out soul .

    Enjoy .… See

    Hope that i suc­ceed to make the two Estate ( Hans Richter § John Cage Estate ) friends

    to make avail­able to the pub­lic This mas­ter piece movie in his orig­i­nal ver­sion .

    Lea Lee Cura­tor

  • Lea Lee says:

    Great movie

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