The Home Movies of Two Surrealists: Look Inside the Lives of Man Ray & René Magritte

“It hap­pens all the time,” writes the New York Times’ Sala Elise Pat­ter­son, “A beau­ti­ful young woman decides she wants to become a mod­el and asks a pho­tog­ra­ph­er friend to take some head shots. Sev­en­ty years ago this ordi­nary series of events took an unlike­ly turn. That was because the beau­ti­ful woman was black; the pho­tog­ra­ph­er was her lover Man Ray; and one of the pho­tographs land­ed in the Sep­tem­ber 1937 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, mak­ing her the first black mod­el to appear in a major fash­ion mag­a­zine.”

That count­ed as one of the par­tic­u­lar­ly notable events in the brief life togeth­er of the sur­re­al­ist pho­tog­ra­ph­er and his Guadaloupe-born “lover, mod­el and muse“Adrienne, bet­ter known as Ady, Fidelin. Some of the less his­tor­i­cal moments of that com­pan­ion­ship we have cap­tured in the clips above, a series of home movies of Man Ray and Ady shot in 1938.

We see the for­mer work­ing, the lat­ter danc­ing, both trav­el­ing, and sev­er­al oth­er unguard­ed moments besides — very much the oppo­site of the still intri­cate­ly (and some­times dis­turbing­ly) vivid com­po­si­tions that char­ac­ter­ize the way Man Ray cap­tured human­i­ty in his own work.

Oth­er sur­re­al­ists also took to the then-nascent tech­nol­o­gy of home film­mak­ing. The painter René Magritte put a bit more delib­er­ate craft into his own ama­teur pro­duc­tions, such as the minute-and-a-half-long short film you see just above. “He went out and pur­chased a lot of expen­sive equip­ment and spent much of the week com­pos­ing a ‘script’ based on the images in his paint­ings,” remem­bers art crit­ic and one­time Magritte actress Suzi Gab­lik in her auto­bi­og­ra­phy Liv­ing the Mag­i­cal Life: An Orac­u­lar Adven­ture. “When Sat­ur­day night arrived, we all took part in the dra­ma. My role was to sit in a chair, wear­ing a red car­ni­val mask over my eyes, giv­ing birth to a tuba, which emerged slow­ly from under my skirt.”

An event bet­ter seen, per­haps, than described, and one that fits in with the rest of the antics the artist man­aged to stage and cap­ture, includ­ing one fel­low “play­ing the part of a hunch­back thief” who — clear­ly pos­sessed of a col­lec­tor’s eye — goes around the house steal­ing Magrit­te’s paint­ings. Though both now remem­bered as top-of-the-line sur­re­al­ists, Man Ray and Magritte took quite dif­fer­ent approach­es to their art — and, as we see, entire­ly dif­fer­ent approach­es to the things they made in their off hours. But both men’s cin­e­mat­ic impuls­es proved fruit­ful: Man Ray made sev­er­al still-strik­ing nar­ra­tive films, and as for Magrit­te’s project, writes Gab­lik, it end­ed up shown years lat­er “as a short accom­pa­ny­ing the favorite film of the sur­re­al­ists about Drac­u­la, Nos­fer­atu.” Not bad for a home movie.

via ubuweb

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

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

Man Ray’s Por­traits of Ernest Hem­ing­way, Ezra Pound, Mar­cel Duchamp & Many Oth­er 1920s Icons

René Magritte’s Ear­ly Art Deco Adver­tis­ing Posters, 1924–1927

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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