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FILM-POETRY SYNTHESIS AND THE BIRTH OF EXPERIMENTAL CINEMA IN FRANCE BY SCOTT ROSS A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities and the Program of Environmental Studies New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of the Arts Under the sponsorship of Jocelyn Van Tuyl Sarasota, FL May, 2009
ii To Mom and Dad In memoriam Andr Bazin
iii For their constant help and encouragement throughout my thesis year, I wish to thank Dr. Jocelyn Van Tuyl, and the members of my thesis tutorial: Kateland, Madi, and Alba. For helping me begin my research, Id also like to thank Dr. Christophe Wall-Romana.
iv Table of Contents Dedication ii Acknowledgements iii Abstract v Introduction 1 The Mainstream French Film Industry and the First World War 2 Early Film Theory and the Avant-Garde Literary Community 7 Chapter 1: Man Rays Emak-Bakia 20 Emak-Bakia The Surrealists, and Automatic Writing 23 Emak-Bakia and Formal Experimentation in French Poetry 33 Chapter 2: LInvitation au voyage and toile de mer 43 Dulacs LInvitation au voyage 43 Robert Desnos and Man Rays toile de Mer 61 Conclusion 78 Appendix 85 Works Cited 87
v FILM-POETRY SYNTHESIS AND THE BIRTH OF EXPERIMENTAL CINEMA IN FRANCE Scott Ross New College of Florida, 2009 ABSTRACT French poet Guillaume Apollinaires 1917 lecture LEsprit nouveau et les potes announced the beginning of the Pari sian poets sincere engagement with cinema: in the following decade, the French literary community became increasingly involved in the developmen t of film theory and criticism, and Frances young generation of experimental f ilmmakers began to consider modern poetry as a potential inspiration for their work. Some theorists and filmmakers even proposed the widely interpreted concept of a cinpome : a cinematic poem. This thesis examines the presence and influence of French poetry in three such cinpomes made in the late 1920s. In Emak-Bakia Man Ray employs the Surrealist process of automatic writing and, adopting the approach of late Symbolist and Cubist poets, breaks down th e realist logic of conventional cinema into its basic components. Influenced by the artistic philosophy of the Symbolist poets, Germaine Dulac reinterprets a famous poem by Baudelaire in LInvitation au voyage and illustrates the independence of the filmic image from the written word. In his script for toile de mer Surrealist poet Robert Desnos makes use of visual repetition, intellectual montage, and unconventional intertitles to translate
vi his trademark manipulations of language to the screen. Together, these films provide evidence of how this first wave of experimental filmmakers used poetry as a springboard in their greater sear ch for cinemas own, unique voice. Jocelyn Van Tuyl Division of Humanities
1 Introduction Lexpression suprme du cinma se ra le pome cingraphique. [The supreme expression of the cine ma will be the cinegraphic poem.]1 Lon Moussinac, 1925 In the decade following the First World War in France, several leaders of the flourishing avant-garde artistic community collaborated on a handful of small but ambitious projects inspired by the concept of film-poetry synthesis. These cinpomes as they were often titled, varied in their approaches but were all interested in finding a middle ground between the two artistic forms, whether by applying the essential elements of poetr y to cinema, or by actually adapting an existing poem into a short film. Among th e celebrated oeuvres of their authors, these projects were simply one-time experiments, and they never coalesced into a genre of their own. However, viewed collectively, they serve as telling examples of how modern French verse and the Parisian literary communitys engagement with film shaped the development of experimental cinema in the 1920s. Several years before the beginning of that decade, the nations modern poetry communitywith well-known authors such as Guillaume Apollinaire, Paul Valry, Andr Breton, Robert Des nos, and Paul luard at the helmwas already deeply engaged in the project of revolutionizing its art form. The radical formal experiments of writers like Apol linaire and Stphane Mallarm, alongside the anti-art philosophy of the Dada m ovement and the burgeoning school of Surrealism, represented an acute and incendiary break with Frances centuries1 Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own.
2 long and highly codified poetic tradition. Like the visual artists, dancers, and composers who were similarly enmeshed in the vibrant cultural center of Paris, the poets had reached an impasse at which they were forced to negotiate between their idealistic vision of artistic progress a nd the historical baggage of their chosen medium. The cinema, just a few decades old, was so intriguing to this generation of artists precisely because of its newness and its unexplored possibilities. It represented, for members of almost every artistic movement of the time, a blank slate upon which they could extrapolate th e trajectories of their own ideas of artistic progress, and seemed to embody many of the defining characteristics of their age: speed, industry, science, and s ynthesis. Likewise, the rising generation of filmmakers wished to redefine cinema on its own terms and liberate it from the formal and stylistic influence of theater and nineteenth-century literary realism. Many of these filmmakers and theorists considered modern poetry, with its avantgarde sensibility and spirit of experimentation, as a possible model for an alternative form of cinema. The concept of a cinpome was perhaps the most literal manifestation of this interest, an d the works it inspired cannot be fully understood without first considering the intellectual, industrial, and social conditions which made their conception, production and exhibition possible. The Mainstream French Film Industry and the First World War In the thirty years after the Lumire Brothers invention of the cinmatographe (one of the earliest motion picture cameras) in the early 1890s,
3 film had developed from an optical experime nt into an international industry, and the ubiquitous cinmathques throughout Frances urban centers and countryside became successful enough to outcompete ear lier centers of leisure, including music halls, caf-concerts, traveling shows and fairgrounds where cinema had found its first audiences (Abel, Cin 59). Before the war, France was arguably the most powerful center of film production and distribution in the world, with a small number of French companies, such as Gaumont and Path Frres, virtually holding a monopoly in their native market (Williams 53). These companies were run by shrewd businessmen, who created vertically-integrated systems of investment, production, and distribution to ensure complete control over their products, and created trusts and pacts (such as the powerful Motion Picture Patents Company, formed in 1908 in partnership with Thomas Edisons film company) to maintain their positions as the foremost exporters of film in the world (Abel, Cin 9). The films that French companies produced and rented to theaters were, like todays mainstream movi es, intended to gain the highest profit, and that meant that simple comedies, short films driven by magic and illusion (in the tradition of early pioneer George M lis), travelogues depi cting exotic and distant cultures, and Westerns imported from the United States comprised the majority of films shown at cinmathques in France (Williams 78). Perhaps the most popular genre right before the war was the serial film: Gaumonts supernatural crime series Fantmas directed by Louis Feuillade, was wildly popular and turned a large profit (Williams 67). With the control of production and distribution concentrated in so few hands, the cinema remained a
4 spectaclea commercial product, leaving lit tle room for alternative competition or more specialized markets (Abel, Cin 214). In the years before the war, which would mark the end to Frances dominance in cinema, the French film industry was already being threatened by competition from abroad, especially from the United States. Americas sheer volume of production overwhelmed companie s such as Path and Gaumont in their native France by 1914 (Abel, Cin 298). In 1913, the Motion Picture Patents Company trust was struck down in American courts, also limiting Paths exporting advantage (Williams 79). The French industrys response to this threat was decentralization and specialization: its vertically integrated companies broke down into more autonomous units and concentrated on certain genres such as historical reconstructions [ ] criminal adventures [ and] modern bourgeois melodramas (Abel, Cin 298). France produced more feature films in the film dart genre (not to be confused with the avant-garde connotations of todays sense of the word art film), which was both a general label for films which appealed to a more elevated bourgeois or nationa listic taste and the namesake of the production company, Film dArt, which first targeted that audience (Weber 43). Path found that with its own specialized film dart production company, the Socit cinmatographique des auteurs et gens de lettres [Film Society of Authors and Men of Letters], it could re liably maintain an audience in France by adapting well-known literary works by Victor Hugo, mile Zola, and Alexandre Dumas to counteract Americas increasi ng control of the popular film market (Weber 33; Abel, Cin 299). The rise of this particular genre is important because
5 it later came to represent, for the rising generation of avant-garde filmmakers, the worst corruption of cinemas potential, dragging it back to the obsolete traditions of the nineteenth century. But by 1917 the entire industry had been shaken by the First World War, which effectively shut down Frances rema ining capacity to produce films (along with the nations other major technological industries), letting foreign countries gain an even stronger hold on the actual creation of films, and forcing Path and Gaumont to temporarily focus solely on distribution (Williams 77). In the vacuum of the post-war film industry, after many previously successful filmmakers had fallen out of vogue or moved abroad, it is difficult to pin down a single mainstream cinema (84). One of the major effects of the former industrys downfall was the further fragmentation of production in France into smaller, independent production houses targeting niche markets, creating a plurality of genres. This meant that films destined for a more elite or artistically minded public had a greater chance of being produced in France. As Williams points out, It was easier to innovate and to have ones innovations matter in France, where power was more evenly and more fluidly distributed in contrast to the United States, which resembled the vertically in tegrated, oligarchic industry of pre-war France (131). Some of the most important new filmmakers, such as Abel Gance, Marcel LHerbier, and Ren Clair, are classified by some film scholars as members of an aesthetic grouping dubbed Impressionist ci nema, which was characterized by a break with the naturalistic or realistic aesthetic of the film dart and an embrace of
6 new cinematic techniques, wh ich often bordered on the abstract (Williams 84). This grouping is somewhat problematic due to the wide variation in the aesthetic philosophies and motivations of its memb ers. Some filmmakers placed under the Impressionist label created films or seri als resembling the novelistic or theatrical adaptations which were so hated by the avant-garde film community (leading surrealist poet and cinpome author Robert Desnos, for example, to publicly lash out against the pretentiousness of Marcel LHerbiers films) (Williams 140). Others, such as Abel Gan ce, created profitable feature films whose occasional forays into experimental territory were celebrated by those same critics (for example, Gances La Roue ) (Abel, French 253). Still others, such as Germaine Dulac and Jean Epstein, were simultane ously filmmakers and theorists whose stylistic innovations were founded on a mu ch more explicit anti-realist or avantgarde agenda. Perhaps the most relevant aspect of the Impressionist classification is that it highlights the most visible and popular manifestations of cinematic experimentation in the early 1920sthe points of contact between realist narrative and underground experimental cine mawhich were most likely to have been shown in theaters throughout France and abroad. Indeed, a new venue for film gradually appeared in the 1920s, alongside the traditional cinmathque. A community of enthusiasts, critics and filmmakers began to assemble not at public screenings of the newest mainstream releases, but in art galleries, avant-garde multimedia spectacles (such as Ren Claires Entracte, screened as the intermission to a ballet) and most importantly, regular meetings of cin-clubs (Williams 140). With influential film critic and theorist
7 Louis Delluc frequently cited as their original founder, cin-club s were meeting places for young cinphiles [film lovers] and critics, who would gather to watch short films and notable excerpts of longe r features, and discuss and debate the films afterwards in a format resembling the film screenings and discussions held by French New Wave filmmakers decades la ter. These clubs gave filmmakers themselves an opportunity to comment on their work and essentially present lectures on cinema punctuated by illustrative excerpts from their favorite films (Weber 48). The unconventional nature of these new exhibition venues, which clearly contrasted with the entertainment environment of the traditional cinmatheque, reflected this communitys new conception of film as not simply a distraction or leisure activity, but a subject of passionate discussion and contemplation. These venues also pr ovided an audience for short, low-budget films that could be made with smaller investments from patrons of the arts, and created outside the constrained structure of a larger production company. It was within this community, which Richard Abel calls Frances alternative film network, that a dialogue surrounding the fu ture of cinema as an artistic medium, and its redefinition in relation to the traditional arts, was able to develop ( French 241). Early Film Theory and the Avant-Garde Literary Community While major changes in the French film industry before and after the war helped to provide the opportunity for pe ople like Marcel Duchamp, Jean Epstein Robert Desnos, Man Ray, and others to create experimental films such as
8 cinpomes the possibility of a new kind of poetic cinema had already been a topic of dialogue among the intellectual circ les of Paris for years. The existence of a real alternative film culture depende d heavily on the creation of a network for communication and the advancing of new id eas, and the primary meeting-point of this alternative network was located in the press (Abel, French 241). This included everything from daily Paris newspapers, which first gave critics such as Louis Delluc a column for their reviews and essays, to the most specialized magazines and journals, such as Pierre Albert-Birots surrealist literary magazine, SIC. By 1921, the majority of Parisian news papers had a film criticism or review column (241-242). These publications enabled a new national discourse on film, including not only existing members of the film industry, but also their detractors, and those who had never before touched a camera: painters such as Fernand Lger, musicians such as Arthur Hone gger, and most importantly, contemporary writers and poets. The influence of the literary community in the creation of a more academic and theoretical discourse on film is hard to overstate. The French poets love affair with popular film stretched far back before World War I and the beginnings of more artistically minded film. Serials like Fantmas and the American-produced comedies of Charlie Chaplin were loved not only by the masses but by the radical fringes of the intelligentsia (Williams 68). At least ten influential avant-garde poets are know n to have written poems inspired by the characters of Fantmas or Charlot, as French audiences knew Chaplin. Guillaume Apollinaire, for example, started the Socit des amis du Fantmas
9 [Society of the Friends of Fantmas] with fellow contributors to his avant-garde journal Les Soires de Paris and published poems about the character by Andr Breton and Robert Desnos, among others (Weber 50-51; Abel, American 87). Charlot was honored in poems by influential authors such as Louis Aragon, Max Jacob, and Gertrude Stein (Abel, American 90-91; McCabe 8). Stories such as Fantmas appealed to the radical artistic community, argues Weber, because toute cette jeunesse perturbe par la guerre a besoin d'exutoires [all of these young people disturbed by the [First World] war need escapist outlets] (51). Williams further suggests that the appeal of films was found in their fantastic, silly, and irrational characteristics, which represented a break with the scientific, rationalist, progressivist thought which [. .] formed the ideological backbone of literary Natura lism (68). Perhaps popular film didnt have the revolutionary, progressive tende ncies which motivated the poets, but at least they embraced a spirit of playfulness and absurdity which seemed refreshing and unpretentious (and which also likely res onated with the taste of Dada artists and authors). Judging from the similarities in the various works, the poets seemed to have found inspiration in the archet ypal, widely-recognized characters of early silent film, which could be inserted into any situation, like pop-culture superheroes. The cult status of these characters and the film technology used to produce the films also appear as themes in some of the homages, such as GermanFrench director Ivan Golls 1920 poem Die Chapliniade, in which Chaplin comes to life by jumping out of a movie poster, or in Apollinaires short story about a man who projects multiple images of hims elf to create a virtual army of clones
10 (Abel, American 92). However mundane the content of these films appears in contrast to the ambitious experimentation that followed them, the still extremely novel technology and culture of film was fertile ground for the imagination, and was embraced early on as having great aesthetic and creative merit by those who would later call for a radical evolution of the medium. Along with his Society of the Friends of Fantmas, Apollinaire also delivered speeches on poetry and film, and was among the first to include a film column in his literary journals. The f ounders of surrealism, including poets Andr Breton, Philippe Soupault, and Louis Aragon, began Surrealisms long involvement with film in journals like Littrature in which they reviewed new films and published several cinpomes Other literary journals, such as La Nouvelle Revue Franaise began to publish film scripts as works of literature in themselves (Abel, French 244-245). Jean Epstein, who later became an important Impressionist filmmaker, began as a young poet and essayist who published his work in avant-garde publishing houses after befriending poet Blaise Cendrars (Williams 121). As the interest of Parisi an literary circles moved from an initial fondness for popular film into a more public and rigorous assessment of the mediums expressive potential, they began to recast cinema as an art form worthy of such discussion and theorizing as was the norm in the literary, performing, and visual arts. To best summarize the huge number of essays, speeches, and treatises on film which shaped the new, ennobled image of cinema in the literary world, one might start with two of the earliest and most illustrative statements of cinemas
11 independence and artistic me rit: Apollinaires speech LEsprit nouveau et les potes, delivered at the Thetre du Vieux Colombier in 1917, and Italian emigrant Ricciotto Canudos Theory of th e Seventh Art, developed in a number of essays beginning in 1911. While their respective statements came years apart, and while they were directed towards different audiences, their arguments share several core ideas which aid in retracing the dominant image of filmits essential characteristics and its potential futureas the members of the avant-garde community perceived it in the 1920s. First, cinema was regarded as the art form of the future; in the minds of those whose crafts were enmeshed in centuries-long traditions and conventions, it was a medium in its infancy. The future of film was susceptible to a number of competing influences, from the profit-driv en motives of its producers to the Film dArt crowd, who envisioned film as a me dium to deliver classic plays or novels to the masses. It was strongly associated with technology, being a product of the various scientific and i ndustrial advances which in creasingly defined modern society. Canudo was well aware that the cinema was the product of experiments in mechanics, optics, and chemistry, and argued that this aspect was indivisible from the medium, emphasizing ses qua lities particulire s, ses trouvailles artistico-scientifiques, se s merveilles lumineuses et ses bassesses industrielles [its peculiar qualities, its a rtistico-scientific insights its luminous marvels and industrial baseness] (30). He continues to equate th is new art form with the relatively new nation of the United States, its success in the medium a result of what he sees as its peoples relative lack of intellectual history or collective
12 artistic memory: Ils nont rien oublier, pour se jeter, me tendue, corps perdu, dans la nouvelle creation [ They have nothing to forget in order to thrust themselves, soul outstretched, body abandoned, into new creation] (32). His essentialization of American culture rev eals less about the American film industry of the time than it does about Canudo and hi s colleagues yearning to take part in what they saw as a massive cultural change, a break with pre-industrial paradigms, and a new era of artistic crea tion which would inevitably reflect this evolution. This new zeitgeist of the young twentieth century, catalyzed by advances in technology and science, is exactly what Apollinaire refers to by the esprit nouveau (new mind or new spirit) in the title of his speech. Apollinaire contrasts the artistic constraints of the past (French poetry was, for centuries, restricted to meticulous rules of rhyme and meter) with the possibilities offered by the presentin particular, technologies th at invite new modes of perception and expression. He argues that recent experiments in form, such as free verse poetry or his own experiments in typography, which he called visual poems or calligrammes are only the beginning of a rich exploration of poetrys potential for evolution (943). He imagines the new technologies of the cinema and the phonograph overtaking all former methods of publication, the result being that les potes auront une libert inconnue jusqu present [poets will have a freedom which was inconceivable until now ] (944). He marvels at the invention of airplanes, the discovery of nouvea ux univers [new universes] in astronomy and microscopy, the ability to see ones own skull with an x-ray, and writes that
13 the rves et proccupations [dreams and preoccupations] of their inventors depassent souvent de cent coudes les ima ginations rampantes des potes [often surpass, by a hundred cubits, the rampant imaginations of the poets] of the contemporary scene (954). He calls upon th e national community of poets to take up the forward-thinking attitudes of scientists, even explicitly demanding a rapprochement of scientif ic and poetic langua ge, while simultane ously situating this esprit nouveau within the French tradition of experimentation and progress. Of course, there are many connections to be drawn between Apollinaires argument and other intellect ual movements founded on the cult of technology and industry, such as the various forms of Futurism that emerged throughout Europe and Russia. In light of this more gene ral awakening to the powerful influence of scientific and technological innovations, the interest of Apollinaire and his fellow poets in the cinema, which stood as the mo st literal meeting of technology and art, becomes more comprehensible. The second major concern of Apollinaire and Canudos statements is the relation of cinema to the traditional arts. Both writers (along with those who followed on the same path, like Epstein, Dulac, Delluc, and the Surrealists) agreed that the artistic potential of film had b een underestimated; but what, if anything, set film apart from the more familiar plastic and performing arts? There were two somewhat contradictory answers which appear to be in tension in both Canudos theory and Apollinaires concept of the esprit nouveau . The first held that film needed to be liberated from the influence of other artistic media in order to truly discover its essential characteristics. Canudo argues that his distaste with
14 contemporary cinema was due to the regre ttable tendency to rattacher les choses nouvelles aux choses anciennes [attach new th ings to old] rather than les definir afin de les comprendre [to define them in order to understand them] (30). His words were echoed a decade later by Germaine Dulac who stated in a 1923 interview with Paul Descaux that cinema is an art qui ne doit rien aux autres [that owes nothing to the other arts] ( Entretien 27). This symbolic liberation of cinema was the theoretical root of the term cinma pur [pure cinema], a label usua lly attributed to avant-garde filmmaker Henri Chomette, who described it in his 1925 essay Le cinma peut crer as spar de tous autres elements, dramatiques ou documentaires [separated from all other elements, dramatic or documen tary], leaving only a purely sensual symphonie visuelle [visual symphony] ( 46). Advocates of pure cinema, like Dulac, argued primarily for a break with realist narrative (often referring to Films dArt or Hollywood featur es), envisioning more abstract films concerned primarily with the sensual and expressions of the interior as opposed to exterior nature of its characters or subjects. The attainment of such an ideal cinema, they argued, was encumbered by the almost parasitic influence of the traditional arts. However, the idea of pure cinema, the desire to liberate film from the art forms that preceded it, is seemingly contradicted by a simultaneous insistence on synthesis in the arts. Canudos term seventh art (a label that was immediately adopted by his colleagues and which has b een used by film theorists ever since) not only affirmed cinema as a genuine art form, but implied an ultimate synthesis
15 of its six predecessors, which he divided into the spatial arts of sculpture, painting, and architecture, and the temporal arts of music, dance, and poetry. While he insists on distinguishing cinema as a unique art form, even perceiving a break with its technological predecesso r, still photography, Canudo also believed that the cinema is intrinsically attached to the other arts insofar as they constitute parts of the same artistic teleology. He predicted, for example, that the public would not truly understand this ultimate synthetic ability of cinema until le peintre et le musicien pouseront le rve du pote, et que leur triple expression du mme sujet sera mise en oeuvre de lumire vivante par lcraniste [the painter and the musician adopt the poets dream, so that their triple expression of the same subject can be brought to life in living light by the artist of the screen] (34). Apollinaire also refers to this ideal kind of synthesis, arguing of course primarily on behalf of poetry and making fewer references to music or painting. He finds it strange that poets have not yet taken to the cinema, un livre dimages [a book of images], to quench the thirst of esprits mditatifs et plus raffins [contemplative and more refined minds] who are left unin spired by mainstream industrial film (944). Jean Epstein argues even more pointedly in his 1921 treatise La posie daujourdhui [ The Poetry of Today ] that cinemas evolution depends on its association with modern innovative litera ture, and vice versa: Pour, ainsi, se mutuellement soutenir, la jeune littrature et le cinma doivent superposer leurs sthetiques [Thus, to mutually support each other, the new literature and cinema must superimpose their aesthetics] (170). While distinguishing what was specific to film, these writers also inevitably point ed to possible points of contact with the
16 other arts, and the peculiar ability of film to simultaneously exercise the essential functions of arts like dance, painting and poetry. Furthermore, some have suggested that the very term cinma pur was derived from the idea of posie pure (Pallister 66; Dozoretz 122, 126). The term posie pure (or its English equivalent, pure poetry) appeared from time to time in criticism in the eighteenth and late nineteenth centuries; in France, it was used to describe the poetry of Symbolist poets such as Baudelaire and Mallarm, and in England, Joseph Warton used it to describe the poetry of Shakespeare and Alexander Pope. In 1925, the term rea ppeared in poetry criticism when Henri Brmond, a member of the Acadmie Fran aise, gave a controversial lecture on posie pure, which he considered to be akin to prayer (Brmond used Baudeliare, Edgar Allen Poe, Mallarm, and Paul Valry to illustrate his argument). The lecture was published in 1926, and incited a long-lived debate about what exactly constituted and defined posie pure Valry, for his part, disagreed strongly with Brmond, defining pure poetry as poetry which results, by a kind of exhaustion from the progressive suppression of the prosaic elements of a poem [or, in other words] everything that without damage can also be said in prose (Wellek 83-84, 167). In Chapter 1, my analysis of Man Rays Emak-Bakia will further clarify the potential similarities between Valrys definition of posie pure and the concepts of poetic cinema and cinma pur However contradictory they might seem, the dual themes of defining cinema on its own terms and exploring its relation to (or its ability to synthesize) traditional art forms go hand in hand, and reflect, on a higher plane, the
17 modernists dilemma of redefinition of th e arts. Cinema, in all its novelty and unexplored possibilities, was potentially an escape from Canudos so-called Europe dcrpite, pourrie de traditions [decrepit Europe, decayed by tradition], and yet it also had the potential to revive th e established six arts in its discoveries and serve as a laboratory in which pain ters, choreographers and poets could explore new realms of their respective fields (32). It is also important to note that the advocates of cinma pur often fail to note a consistent distinction in their rejection of the traditional arts: they were fighting not against literature or theater per se, but rather the canonical theater re pertoire of the Comdie Franaise, the romantic, realist novels of the preced ing century, and their unimaginative cinematic adaptations which all seemed to them an attempt to save a cultural worldview that was fading away. The concept of a cinroman [cine-novel], invented in part by the Path company as a means of advertising pulp fiction serials published in newspapers (not, like the cinpome, a product of literary or film theory) was far from the inter-genre synthesis that intellectuals such as Chomette, Apollinaire, and Dulac envisioned (Weber 50). This distinction between the old a nd new literary worlds comes through more clearly in Andr Beuclers 1925 e ssay Le pome du visuel. Beginning his argument with a classic cinma pur disdain for les films courants [popular current films], which, for him, resemble le feuilleton, le vaudeville, le petit journal sportif, la carte postale [the seri al novel, vaudeville, the sports page, the postcard], he goes on the state that, freed from the yoke of stale literary trends and the capitalist system, film could become le pome par excellence [the poem par
18 excellence] (42). Jean Epstein makes th e distinction between canonical literature and the contemporary innovations of fellow authors by consistently referring to modern literature as films ideal partner ( La posie daujourdhui ). Germaine Dulac, one of the most consistent in her condemnation of dramatic, romantic literature in the cinema, extols films possibilits dexpression potique, philosophique [possibilities of poetic and philosophic expression] (52). Following Canudo, Apollinaire, and Delluc, their arguments all bear an important distinction between film influenced by classic artistic traditions and their imagined cinema: one of collaborative participation in the most modern artistic trends. The poets were not alone in comparing their art form to the cinema. Painters like Fernand Lger saw the movi e screen as their metaphorical canvas and choreographers saw it as their stage; Abel Gance and critic mile Vuillermoz called it the music of light and compared filmmaking to musical composition (Gance 60; Vuillermoz 54). But the descriptions of film as criture (writing, as Germaine Dulac called it in 1924), as having poetic potential, or as a livre dimages [book of images] stand out as being some of the most common metaphors for describing the peculiar nature of film (Dulac, Cinema 51; Apollinaire 944). To add to the statements of Epstein, Dulac, Apollinaire, and Canudo, the music and film critic Lon Moussinac wrote in 1925 that lexpression suprme du cinma sera le pome cingraphique [cinemas supreme expression will be the cinematographic poem]. In Moussinacs case, poetry seems to serve as a universal label for the highest, purest expression of
19 any art form (he precedes this sentence with the notion of a symphonic poem, lexpression supreme de la musique [the supreme expression of music]) (52). His connotative use of the word poetry brings up an important question: to what extent is the concept of poetic cinem a or cinematic poetry purely a metaphor for these theorists? The word poetic is often an umbrella term for a long list of generic adjectives (artistic, emotive, sens ual) or simply evokes a sort of refined sensibility. For example, in Chapter 1 I will explore the reasons why Man Ray subtitled his film Emak-Bakia a cinpome, despite the fact that Ray was a visual artist by trade, and the film is not based on an original poem. The cinpomes of Chapter 2, on the other hand, are both based on existing poems: Germaine Dulacs LInvitation au voyage is based on Baudelaires poem of the same name, and Robert Desnos and Man Rays toile de mer is based on an unpublished poem by Desnos. Each of these directors draws from recent developments in French poetry (from the philosophy of French Symbolism to more recent Dada and Cubist poetry) to create films th at challenge mainstream cinematic conventions and propose new paths for the de velopment of film art. Collectively, these films, all created between 1917 and 1930, are the remnants of a vibrant and unprecedented wave of exper imentation in film, which is both influenced by modern French verse and driven to a large extent by the theoretical contributions (whether in essays, treatises, and speeches or in the actual participation of film production) of the avant-garde Parisian literary community.
20 Chapter 1: Man Rays Emak-Bakia Three cinpomes made in the late 1920s seem to be the most clear and illustrative manifestations of the contemporary discourse about the relative futures of poetry and film and their potential point s of contact. In Man Ray and Robert Desnos toile de mer and Germaine Dulacs LInvitation au voyage the directors chose to base their films on existing poems (Desnos and Charles Baudelaires poems of the same names, re spectively). In addition, toile de mer is one of many films made at the time for which the poet wrote the scenario. Emak-Bakia, however, stands apart because of its apparent lack of connection to the realm of poetry, aside from Rays decision to subtitle it a cinpome : its author was a photographer by trade, and it is not based on an existing poem. It also lacks the consistent dreamlike narratives and representative imagery of the other two films; instead, Ray mixes cinma pur -style abstractions with absurd Dadaist imagery and short fragments of Surreal narrative sequences. Why, given Rays expertise in photography, did he see his film as a poetic enterprise, rather than simply a tangent from his usual work in visual art? A close reading of the film, along with a bit of historical information about Ray, his writings on Emak-Bakia his interest in the poetry of Stphane Mallarm, and his friendships with members of the avant-garde literary community in Paris provides a number of possible answers. There is some disagreement in scholarly work as to whether Emak-Bakia should be classified as a Dada or Surrealis t work. I would argue that this question of classification is not especially fruitf ul. A more appropriate approach to the
21 film, which befits Rays own playful and exploratory process, takes into account the multiple theories and lines of thought which seem to have inspired EmakBakia some of which are typically Dada or Surrealist, and others which belong to no specific ism. Considered as a poetic text, and considering Rays involvement with Surrealist poets such as Desnos, the film is most obviously a cinematic experiment in Surrealist automatism. But his decision to subtitle Emak-Bakia a cinpome also brings the work into dialogue with the theoretical writings of Ricciotto Canudo, especially the tension between defining film as a primarily visual or temporal art. Furthermore, Rays analytic approach to what Germaine Dulac was contemporaneously calling film syntax finds its counterpart in a tradition of formal and linguistic exper imentation in poetry that reigned among Parisian avant-garde poets before the advent of Surrealism. Rays web of acquaintances in Pari s, stretching far beyond the realm of photography, is something of a microcosm of the interconnectedness of the avantgarde community in Paris. Besides Desnos, Ray collaborated on works with a wide range of artistic icons including artist Marcel Duchamp, filmmaker Ren Clair, and composer Erik Satie (Penrose 70-71). The artistic and financial genesis of Emak-Bakia and the other two cinpomes also reflect the unique landscape of the French film industry after First World War. Man Rays films (which also include his 1923 film Le Retour la raison and Les Mystres du chteau du D in 1929) were financed not by large production companies of the time, but by individual investors and patrons of the arts. Emak-Bakia and toile de mer were funded by a wealthy American expatriate, Arthur Wheeler, and Les Mystres du
22 chteau du D was commissioned by the Vicomte Charles de Noailles and his wife Marie-Laure Bischoffsheim, two artis tically-minded and powerful patrons of avant-garde film in the 1920s (Elsaesser 15; Penrose 95; Noailles). LInvitation au voyage despite Dulacs connections with big producers of the time, was funded a single investor, Paul Guichard (Abel, French 413). The films premieres, like their financial sources, clearly distinguished them from the traditional process of f ilm production and distribution which had defined the industry in the previous decade. Le Retour la raison was first shown alongside other films and works of art at what is considered the last official manifestation of the Dada community, La Soire du Coeur barbe [The Evening of the Bearded Heart], organized by one of the movements founders, Tristan Tzara (Kuenzli, Man 94). Emak-Bakia was first shown to an audience of Rays friends from Paris Surrealist scene (Kuenzli, Introduction 4). While Dulac had hoped for commercial distribution of her film, it ultimately found its audience in Paris cin-clubs (Abel, French 413). The fact that these films were all made with the help of individual patrons and exhibited in artistic or avantgarde environments shows to what extent the revalorization of cinema as an art form had become a reality in both the motivations of the filmmakers and also in terms of the production and reception of experimental films. The means of making experimental films had come to resemble the artist-patron relationships, commissioning processes and exhibitions whic h usually belong to the realm of the visual arts.
23 Emak-Bakia The Surrealists, and Automatic Writing The first day Man Ray set foot in Paris in 1921, his host and fellow Dada artist Marcel Duchamp introduced him to a group of Parisian authors and poets sitting at the Caf Cert. Rays new friends, who included Andr Breton, Philippe Soupault, and Robert Desnos, would soon become the founding members of Surrealism, one of the most far-reaching and influential artistic movements of the twentieth century (Penrose 68). As his involvement with this core of founders grew closer (he more or less joined their ranks by 1925), Ray became a pioneer in applying Surrealist concepts and processes to visual art (Kovcs 123). His contributions to the short list of comple ted Surrealist and Dada films (including Emak-Bakia, toile de mer and Anmic cinma ) while less well known, were just as groundbreaking. While toile de mer has many more recognizable hallmarks of Surrealist art (a vague eroticism, heavy-handed symbolism and a dreamlike narrative), Emak-Bakia may have been one of the first attempts to apply Surrealist creative processes to filmmaking itself. The sixteen-minute film begins with a self-referential image: Ray cranks the film of his camera manually, and his eye slowly fades in over the lens, staring straight at the audience. The next four minutes of the film are comprised almost entirely of abstracted moving forms, reflections and shadows photographed through prisms or bent lenses, along with what Ray called rayographs, which he created by scattering objects like pins and metal springs directly onto a strip of film and quickly exposing it to light, produc ing silhouettes of the objects in frantic motion on the screen. The abstract sequence is followed by four minutes which
24 come closest to a narrative, using mos tly recognizable and coherent imagery: multiple perspectives of a car driving down a country road, its the arrival at a house, and a man dressed in drag in th e house (played by Surrealist poet Jacques Rigaut) walking to the view of the beach from his window (Penrose 96). The film transitions from beach and water imagery into a sequence of stop-motion animated sculptures and then into anot her two-minute period of slightly less abstracted objects. The one intertitle of the film appears, La raison de cette extravagance [The reason for this extravagance], introducing another short sequence portraying a cars arrival at an apartment, and a man repeatedly tearing the collar off of his shirt, which transiti ons slowly into a sequence of extremely magnified, nearly unrecognizable shots of ri pped shirt collars. The film ends with an eerie trompe loeil shot of Kiki de Montparnasse (a Parisian socialite who often worked as an actress and model for Ray) opening and closing her eyes, her eyelids painted white with black pupils, and smiling. Thus the film ends with the somewhat mocking image of Kikis mysterious smile, suggesting that, like Kikis painted eyelid illusion, the entire film was meant to fool the audience. The film seems evasive and the abstractions, while entrancing, are dizzying and disorienting, especially if projected onto a large screen as they would have originally been displayed. Ray often refuses to show us the original sources of the forms and reflections, or the mechanisms by which they are distorted. Indeed, some audience members at the time were frustrated by techniques such as the rayograph: at the screening of Le Retour la raison which is almost entirely composed of visual abstractions and rayographs,
25 annoyed viewers shouted at the screen, provoking a brawl that had to be broken up by the police (Penrose 83). The films disorienting qualities and resistance to interpretation are, in fact, central to any understanding or appreciation of the film. They are also cited as the main reasons Emak-Bakia should be considered a Dadaist film. Dadaist films, such as Ray and Duchamps earlier Anmic cinma, are often characterized as creating a barrier between the film and the audience, abandoning narrative and any kind of symbolic order to the extent that the viewer is not emotionally drawn in (Kuenzli, Introduction 10). The Dada m ovement in general, which is generally agreed to have died off in 1922 at the Evening of the Bearded Heart, is often described as a reactive philosophy, dir ected towards undermining what Duchamp called a contemplative perspective of art, as well as the process by which works of art gain economic or aesthetic value in society (Elsaesser 17). Duchamps 1917 sculpture Fontaine [ Fountain ], a urinal turned upside-down and signed R. Mutt, is a symbol of the Dadaist anti-art attitude, often concerned more with destroying conventions and traditions in art than with offering a constructive alternative (Kuenzli, Introduction 2). In the same vein as Fontaine, Emak-Bakia might be considered an anti-film, meant to take advantage of the audiences passivity and stand in the most extreme contrast to the carefully composed stories and imagery of popular film. However, Ray is not simply interested in annoying the audience or creating barriers. In some of the seemingly Dada sequences of the film, such as the rayographs and the dizzying patterns of light, Ray seems more interested in
26 exploring the technical feats of cinematic technology. Ray approaches the camera not as a tool for capturing representative or emotionally evocative images or for reproducing human vision, but as a mechanical eye whose value lies in its capacity to visualize the world in formerly unimaginable ways Elsaesser writes that, in contrast to more content-heavy Surrealist films, Dada filmmakers were interested in manipulat[ing] the mate rials of technical reproduction (and not those of expression). This interest, he continues, parallels the history of the publics general reaction to films development: the first focus of attraction for a paying public was the machinery itself, its novelty, its intricacy, its basic effects. Only subsequently was this fascination displaced to the stories [and] the stars (26). Similarly, the reason for the lack of cohesive content in Rays film is because his interest lies less in the objects presented than in the multitude of different ways they can be perceived through the new technology. On the other hand, the lack of narrative and the jumps from one scene or unrelated line of thought to another were more likely in spired by Surrealist processes of automatism than by a purely Dadaist penchant for the nonsensical. Automatic writing was a creative process invented by the Surrealist authors Ray met in the Caf Cert in 1921. Influenced by the writings of Sigmund Freud, and with the overarching goal to liberate the human mind from the rational ordering that would tie it down, this core of Surrealist poets devised processes such as automatic writing (writing spontaneously in an unconscious or hypnotic state) and games like the game of truth and exquisite corpse (in which multiple participants would blindly combine words or illustrations to create
27 a collaborative work) in order to esch ew conscious intent and preconceived notions of poetry and enable a flow of ideas and images from the realm of the unconscious and the repressed (Caws, Introduction 448). Successful attempts yielded a flight of ideas and a rapid succession of images, in the words of Max Morise, as well as puns, wordplays and absurd juxtapositions such as Bretons famous example from Lautram ont, the chance meeting of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissection table (Morise 479; Caws, Introduction 448). The characteristic images that commonly come to mind at the mention of Surrealism, such as the disfigured bodies and lobster-telephone hybrids of Salvador Dali, are the evolved products of these initial exper iments in automatic writing. Rays photography in the late 1920s often featured typically Surrealist juxtapositions (for example, in his 1927 sculpture, which he also entitled EmakBakia Ray replaced the strings of a dismembered neck of a violin with a tress of human hair) (Penrose 113). Breton and the other members of the original group of Surrealists first attempted to explore automatism in the visual arts by making simple, spontaneous line drawings on different sides of a folded piece of paper, creating a final collaborative automatic image. More established visual artists used techniques such as frottage (rubbing the outline of a textured object with a paper and pencil) or randomi zed collage to hinder the influence of consciousness in creating the images (Fer 52). Ray was undoubtedly familiar with the c oncept of automatism, especially considering that his future collaborator Desnos was considered the most adept by
28 his peers at creating successful automatic poetry (Caws, Poetry 170-171). Ray himself called all of his films improvisations: I did not write scenarios. It was automatic cinema (Kuenzli, Introduc tion 3). The creative genesis of EmakBakia, along with Rays overall process, shares some of the spontaneity and chance of automatic writing. Driving in a sports car while on vacation in Basque country at a villa called Emak Bakia (Leave me alone in Basque), Ray nearly ran into a flock of sheep on the side of the road. Inspired by the near collision, he started his camera rolling and began throwing it high in the air and catching it, resulting in spinning, barely recognizable images of the sky, the field, and the flock of sheep: the first piece of footage he collected for the final sixteen minute film (Penrose 96). The entire scene is reproduced in the film, with a point-ofview shot from a moving car, blurred image s of sheep along the side of the road, followed by the spinning images from the thrown camera. For the rest of the film, Ray continued to shoot in an improvisational fashion, taking footage at various locati ons: on the beach, in the countryside, from a moving car, and seemingly in a photography studio (Kovcs 132). However, despite the clearly improvisational nature of Rays initial process and the rough, amateur quality of some of the footage, the finished film is not free of any signs of creative intent or organization. In fact, while Ray seems to have filmed at random, the finished film betrays a complex and carefully considered ordering and pairing of images. As some Surrealists later admitted, automatism was often a combination of conscious and unconsci ous influences, a method of discovery rather than an end in itself (Auster xxxix). Kovcs describes the process of
29 Surrealist automatism as taking Dadas love of the irrational object and integrating it into a totality of greater complexity and design (124). While Emak-Bakia lacks any coherent narrative, especially when compared to toile de mer, Ray uses association, repetition and internal references to reveal consistent themes or fragments of ideas. The mo st dominant theme that rises from the apparent chaos of the work is the metaphorical and literal distortion of visual perception. At several transitional points in the film, Ray uses visual metaphors of eyes and sight. The last, most memorable occurrence is the final shot of Kiki de Montparnasse, with her double set of eyes. This image seems to reference the Surrealist dichotomy of conscious and s ubconscious vision: when the woman is asleep, she is not blinded, but has a new set of eyes as she enters the world of dreams and a purely subjective mode of perception (Kovcs 133). One might consider the rest of the film in relation to this image: all of the fragmented narratives and optical experiments might compose a single, scattered cinematic dream. Several prominent Surrealists directly compared the experience of watching a film to that of dreaming; Robert Desnos compared the dark cinmathque to a childs bedroom: That da rkness was the darkness of our rooms before going to sleep. Perhaps the screen could match our dreams (Virmaux 204). Perhaps, like Antonin Artaud with his scenario for La coquille et le clergyman Ray was attempting to create a film which developed according to the laws and logic of the unconscious.
30 From this perspective, the references to vision are purely metaphorical. But several other representations of visi on seem to go further than an extended metaphor for the dream state, especia lly when considered along with the sequences of visual abstraction. Ray seems to be interested in the concept of the cameras lens as a displaced or mech anical double for the human eye. For example, the opening shot of the film, in which Rays eye appears through the lens of the camera, seems to serve as a metaphor for mechanical or cinematic vision, and a representation of the camer a as two-way medium of perception. Through the cameras optics and via the vi ewfinder, Ray literally watches his subject, through the cameras objective vision (the French word objectif means both objective and lens). In the opposite direction, we see, through the camera, Rays eye, the cameras lens as a metaphor for Rays artistic perspective. Thus the very first shot of the film suggest s that cinema lets us temporarily view the world through an exterior mode of perception: first, through the objective, mechanical eye of the cinematograph (a kind of vision that Jean Epstein described as the inhuman glass stare), and second, through the purely subjective artistic eye of the films author (Sitney 34). The second reference to sight marks the end of the first abstract passage, as Ray cuts from spinning, blurred figures to a sharp close-up of an eye opening, over which fades the superimposed image of a cars headlights. The composite image works as both an associative trans ition (it is followed by the sequence of a car driving down a country road) and as another play on altered modes of perception. The eye opening, which introduces a sequence of representational
31 images, may represent the shift to a second mode of perception which is closer to that of the human eye, but is still subject to a range of experimentation. Ray no longer uses prisms, extreme close-ups and optical distortion to disorient the viewer; instead, he throws the camera in the air, or erratically films a passing landscape from a moving car, or creates an echoing image of a woman repeatedly stepping out of a car. The eye, like a third headlight attached to the front of the car, makes the audience member a first-person witness to unfamiliar or impossible perspectives. Ray also seems to hint at this theme through his juxtapositions of abstract and representative imagery. One of the most striking instances in the film occurs right at the beginning, after the shot of Ray behind the camera with his eye superimposed over the lens. The first shot is a few seconds of a rayograph, most likely of salt strewn along a strip of film. The image of salt granules in frantic motion resembles a blizzard or splatters of white paint, and is followed by a shaky shot of bright white daisies in a field. The rayograph technique is, of course, a very automatic process: the material is thrown at random onto the film, exposed to light, and then put in motion by a projector. Ray most likely had no idea what the final effect of each rayograph would look like in motion; I was generally unable to guess what the original objects were until Id read Rays descriptions. As for the white daisies, Ray could have taken the footage at any point in the filmmaking process. The choice to pair the two image s together as an introduction to the film, however, seems completely intentional: the white daisies, which remain the only representative image among the first four mi nutes of abstracted footage, clearly
32 resemble the splattered white effect of the rayograph, as if Ray suddenly focused the camera to reveal the original source of the images. The juxtaposition of these two images suggests that all of the blurre d and distorted images that follow, as unrecognizable or even nausea-inducing as they may be, have some kind of connection to common, worldly objects and visual symbols. Or perhaps these unrecognizable images are those very object s perceived in a radically different way: isolated from their physical or logi cal context, extremely magnified, seen from an inhuman or mechanical pers pective, sped up or slowed down. Ray was aware that the film seemed a bit scattered: Emak-Bakia is neither completely abstract, like Le Retour la raison nor consistently narrative or representational, like toile de mer In fact, Ray called the narrative sequences punctuation to the more abstract seque nces. The whole film, he wrote, was a collection of fragments which he described as follows: Just as one can much better appreciate the abstract beauty in a fragment of a classic work than in its entirety, so the film tries to indi cate the essentials of contemporary cinematography (qtd. in Penrose 96). The optical sequences, as he called them, are inventions of light-forms and movements, and the final film is neither an abstract film nor a storyteller (qtd. in Kovcs 133). In this light, the lack of cohesion in the film and Rays avoida nce of any conventional cinematic logic is something more than a Dadaist reactionary approach to filmmaking or an adherence to Surrealist automatism. If, as Germaine Dulac argued in the same decade, there is a dominant film syntax which communicates narrative, emotion, or a sense of time and place, Rays interest lies in toying with it and
33 pulling it apart into what he sees as its essentials: plays of light and shadow, movement, its ability to create illusions of cause and effect, of magical occurrences, or of seeing from impossible perspectives. Even the narrative sequences, such as the man in drag sitting in his apartment, seem as if Ray plucked them from their context in some unknown intri guean essential fragment of a story. In this sense, Rays approach to cinema in Emak-Bakia strikingly mirrors modern poets appro ach to traditional poetic language and forms. A consideration of how the very conception of poetry in France had been revolutionized in the century that came before clarifies Rays decision to title his illogical, fragmented experiment in film a cinpome Emak-Bakia and Formal Experimentation in French Poetry In the latter half of the nineteenth century, Symbolists like Mallarm, Rimbaud, and Verlaine began to break with the traditional, rigid versification of French poetry, introducing the vers libre [free verse] as well as new descriptive techniques and rhetorical devices, and expe rimenting with the visual presentation of words on the page. The techniques we re, in part, a rebellion against traditional poetic modes of artistic representation, forgoing traditional romantic description or exposition in favor of oblique seman tics based in the power of suggestion (Gunning 109). These reinventions of the French poetic tradition enabled such innovations as the prose poem and visual poetry, which grew in popularity throughout the beginning of the next century (Jones 94). With late nineteenthand early twentieth-century poems often resembling the paragraphs of a novel or
34 an ideogram, poetry could no longer be defi ned simply by its formal attributes. Instead, the writings of some of the most formally innovative early twentieth century poets (especially those whom Breunig groups as Cubist poets, including Apollinaire, Blaise Cendrars, Jean Cocteau, Pierre Reverdy, and Raymond Radiguet) were increasingly defined by th eir experimentation with language, their breaking of rules, or an intentional obfuscation or blurring of meaning (Breunig xiv-xxviii). Mallarm, as one of the most influential Symbolists, was an important predecessor to these poets. One of his most important gifts to the French tradition is his interest in words as aesthetic objects in themselves, functioning not only as denotative signs but as visual objects, phys ical marks on the page, and as units of sound. His attempts to symbolize or expr ess the original inspiration of the poem become so complex that the expression subsumes the sentiment (Fowlie 18). Like other Symbolist poets, Mallarm used descriptions inspired by the sensation of synesthesia (the blending of the sensory perceptions, such as color and sound). Some of Rimbauds more experimental poems, such as his sonnet Voyelles (a synesthetic poem, associating vowel letters with the names of colors) were extremely influential to both poets such as Paul Derme, who played with disassembling and reorganizing language vi sually on the page, and painters such as Robert Delaunay, who began to incorpor ate verbal/visual synesthesia into their artwork (Breunig xxv, 140,156). Thus, by the time Ray was working in Paris, what often defined poets was not simply their choice of form, length or a different linguistic register (as some
35 may have defined it in earlier centuries), but their experimentalism. The poem increasingly became a laboratory for the destruction, playful examination, and reconstruction of language. Near the end of his life, poet Paul Valry, who lived through the heights of both Symbolism and Surrealism in France, described the difference between prose and poetry as comparable to walking and dancing: prose, like walking, is utilitarian and directed at a definite object while poetry, like dancing, is a system of acts [ ] having an end in themselves (223-224). Valry illustrates what he sees as the poets approach to language by asking his audience to consider a word from the common language such as TIME isolated from its meaning in a sentence: [it] takes revenge [ ] makes us believe it has more meaning than functions. It used to be only a means and now it has become an end (210-211). For Valry, the poets dancing with words is directly opposed to a habitual, natural, or utilitarian mode of communicating. He uses the same idea to define his conception of posie pure [pure poetry] which may have served as a model for the concept of cinma pur We can see Valrys example of isolating the word time reflected in the poetry of these decades: Cendrars scatters three words across two pages, Radiguet breaks the words of three verses into individual letters and arranges them into a verbal jigsaw puzzle, Dadaists perform phonetic poetry composed of chuckles, onomatopoeias, and rumblings (Breunig 255-260; Thomas and Winspur 44). In The Structure of Modern Poetry, Friedrich describes this modern trend in French poetry as an aesthetic of disorientation, disintegration of the familiar, loss of order, incoherence, fragmentism, [ ] depoetici zed poetry, [ ] brutal abruptness,
36 dislocation, astigmatism, alienation (8-9). The result, Thomas and Winspur argue, was not simply rubble, but paths leading to new possibilities, an inauguration of a new symbolic order th at would respond to conventions that were as yet unknown (44). In this light, the search for a cinematic equivalent of rhyme, meter, form, or any other recognizable formal attribute of poetry in Emak-Bakia is pointless. Avant-garde poetry, by the 1920s, was no longer defined by those standards and was often defined in opposition to them Instead, the poetic elements of EmakBakia lie in Rays aggressively analytic a pproach to the traditional narrative or representational mechanics of the medium. As Mallarm highlights the sonorous qualities of words, Ray turns the relatively unexciting subjects of his optical sequences into purely sensual visual obj ects, divorced from their function as recognizable symbols. The narrative se quences present the audience with a familiar form of continuity filmmaking (albe it filled with bizarre Surreal content), which he precedes to break down into increasingly unrecognizable, decontextualized parts. Ray dwells on this process most explicitly in the scene where the man repetitively rips off his collars and throws them onto the floor. The beginning of the scene, in which a car stops on a small city street and lets out a well-dressed man who enters the building, is a rudimentary example of the continuity filmmaking techniques established by mainstre am directors: as a representation of physical space, time, and action is estab lished, the cuts between shots from different perspectives (above the car, from the perspective of the man, from the
37 street, from inside the foyer of the building) go by unnoticed by the audience. After we are transported in side his room, where he stands over a box filled with white, curved, paper-like objects, the sequence of events begins to lose its coherence. After we see the man ripping several of the strips and throwing them into a pile, Ray shows us the pieces fly up into the air one by one in reverse motion. We then see a wider shot of the man, who tears the collar off his shirt as another faceless man disappears behind a cu rtain in the background. Then we see a graceful, slow shot of a curved, stiff white collar spinning horizontally around its middle axis in front of a black background. Slowly, another more magnified perspective fades in to create a superimposed image, which yields to an even more unrecognizable pattern of spinning, elastic white lines on black. The transition from the narrative, representational sequence to the abstracted ripped collars represents a move from mainstream film vocabulary into a purely visual exploration of optics. The image of ripped collars serves as an apparently arbitrary bridge between these two modes. The second half of this scene (along with almost all of the abstr act sequences of the film) could also be considered an ideal exercise in the theoretical concept of cinma pur In fact, it is remarkably similar to a film made by the inventor of the term Henri Chomette. His Jeux des reflets et de la vitesse ( Plays of Reflections and Speed ), which premiered one year earlier in 1925 but which is much less well-known than Emak-Bakia, is a hypnotic study of kaleidoscopic and fast-moving shapes and textures. While the abstractions occasionally suggest real-world objects, Chomette avoids any sugges tion of narrative or objective imagery. The fact that
38 Ray alternates between establishe d cinematic vocabulary and optical, cinma pur sequences is one of the characteristics that sets apart Emak-Bakia from purely abstract films that came before (Chomettes film was also preceded by the extremely abstract, geometri c films of German filmmakers Hans Richter, Viking Eggeling, and Walter Rutmann). Instead, Ra y presents several cinematic modes, hints at relationships between its disparate elements, and in some cases actually illustrates a progression from one to the other. In this progression, Ray reveals the basic mechanical functions of the camera (recording optical information onto celluloid via a series of lenses) as the scaffolding of narrative films illusions of space, time, cause and effect. The slow transformation of the shirt collar from an mundane object into a polymorphous white abstraction could perhaps be compared to Valrys isolation of the wo rd time in a grammatical or linguistic vacuum. Furthermore, Emak-Bakia is not the only film in which Ray made a comparison to poetry. toile de mer of course, was based on Desnos poem. The title of his 1929 film, Les Mystres du chteau du D [ The Mysteries of the Chateau of Dice ] is a reference to Mallarms most ambitious formal experiment, Un coup de ds jamais nabolira le hasard [ A Roll of the Dice Will Never Abolish Chance ]. When Ray was commissioned by the Vicomte de Noailles to create a short film starring guests to his chateau, the cube-like architectural elements of the building made him think of the dice of Mallarms poem (Penrose 95). Throughout the film, he riffs on the theme of dice-rolling and chance, and uses
39 special effects and bizarre staging to turn the chateau itself into a fantastic and alien place. Perhaps not coincidentally, Wall-Romana notes that Mallarms late poetry coincided with the dbut of the cinmatographe and makes a convincing argument that Un coup de ds was partly an application of cinematic principles to poetry. Wall-Romana points to a quote by Mallarm on the topic of using photography in literature: Si vous [employez] la photographie, que nallez-vous droit au cinmatographe, dont le droulem ent remplacera, images et texte, maint volume, avantageusement [If you [use] photography, why not go straight to the cinmatographe whose unreeling [unfolding] will replace, images and text, many a volume, advantageously] (qtd. in Wall-Romana 132). Wall-Romana argues that this concept of droulement [unfolding, unreeling] is present in Mallarms preface to Un coup de ds and constitutes a new literary advantage that the poet saw as a possible future for poetry (137). But there is one glaring question that comes up in comparing Rays breaking down of filmic narrative and image to similar trends in poetry: Why is Emak-Bakia not more appropriately connected to cubism in painting, or Rays previous work in photography? Why is his technique not more akin to the modern painters approach to the canvas, the intentional flouting of traditional paintings illusions of perspective and realism? One might ask why Ray didnt call EmakBakia a cintableau [cine-painting] rather than a cinpome One possible answer lies in a seemingly simple but important quality of film, one which theorists of the time saw as extremely important in any effort to
40 pinpoint the essential qualities of cinema: temporality. This is perhaps one of the most foundational elements in the redefinition of film as a poetic form. Temporality as one of the essential char acteristics of cinema shows up in film theory as early as Canudos Theory of the Seventh Art, in which he argues that the greatest synthesis of film is that of th e plastic and the temporal: it is able to bring to visual representation the linear temporality of the performing, literary, and musical arts. This dichotomy of the arts stretches back in aesthetic theory to Enlightenment philosopher Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, who argued for a distinctly separate consideration of poetry and painting because of their respective bases in time and space (Wall-Romana 135; Guyer). In his essay Le pome du visuel, French author Beucler argued that film could evolve into the purest form of poetry precisely because of its existence in time: il se situe dans la dure pure [it is situated in pure duration] (Beucler 42). Beucler seems to be suggesting that th e linear nature of cinematic time, which exists in duration (like a melody), repr esents a progression from poetry written on a page, whose duration only exists in the readers mind. This also recalls Mallarms Un coup de ds, in which the horizontal stretch of words across a wide expanse of paper makes even the form of the poem impossible to absorb in a single glance and thus exaggerates the pauses the reader experiences between words and phrases. Film can possibl y perform poetrys unique, temporal presentation of information, symbols, or ordered words on a page to an even more concentrated degree, its presentation in time being completely controlled by the author. Later in the century, experiment al filmmaker Michael Snow demonstrated
41 this principle to an extreme in his film So Is This Several pages of prose are presented to the viewer, one word at a time, with each word appearing on screen for a carefully calculated duration, creating an unsettling experience of reading in which the flow of words is no longer controlled by the reader. The temporal nature of cinema, then, is one of the main foundations for an aesthetic comparison between film and poetry, as well as the many theoretical attempts to lay out a system of film langua ge or syntax. As I explain in Chapter 2, the most extreme interpretations of this connection would be explored in greater detail both by cinphile poets like Blaise Cendrars and directors like Germaine Dulac. But in any approach to film-poetry synthesis, it is important to note this principle as a simple but crucial step towards the abstract concept of a cinpome It is likely that Ray saw the raw images immediately transformed into a textual work of art simply by virtue of its temporality, or its ability to juxtapose frames, shots, and sequences in time. The same kind of comparison cannot be made with, for example, one of Rays still photographs, or a single frame of a film for that matter. This is perhaps the most basic reason that Ray considered EmakBakia as something more than simply an extension of his still photography. But this matter also brings an analysis of Emak-Bakia back to the dual paths in early film theory regarding cinemas relationship to the other arts. There were the two seemingly contradictory fo rmulations regarding the autonomy of cinema: cinema as a synthesis of the traditional arts and the cinma pur ideal of an entirely new aesthetic founded on cinemas differences. With Emak-Bakia Ray (perhaps unknowingly) illustrated their convergence. It is a film which, in
42 Rays approach to the project, resembles or draws from the most innovative developments in the literary world: automatism, the dissection of narrative and representational film syntax. But the final product of Rays efforts does not really resemble a poem, uses barely any text, and in addition bears no resemblance to fiction or theater-inspired movies. It is also (while obviously drawing from Surrealist and Dada aesth etics and Rays experience in the traditional visual arts) an entirely different kind of artwork when compared to Rays still photographs or sculptures. Emak-Bakia while rightly called a cinpome is a work with no true equi valent outside of cinema.
43 Chapter 2: LInvitation au voyage and toile de mer toile de mer and LInvitation au voyage are two films which have direct intertexual relationships to poems. While making Emak Bakia, Man Ray drew from modern poetic processes (automatic writing and an analytic breaking down of traditional models of representation) to create an original cinpome. In these films, the directors take on the cha llenge of translating particular poems their themes, their language, their rhetor ical devicesinto cinema. Their very different approaches to this task reflect the differences between the cinma pur theory of films absolute autonomy from other art forms and the Surrealists less restrictive approach to the medium. Adapting a poem by Baudelaire, and completely forgoing intertitles, Dulac draws from Symbolist poetic theory while illustrating her theory of how film has its own syntax, analogous to but distinct from language. Desnos, adapting his own poem in collaboration with Ray, plays with Surrealist juxtapositions of text and images and finds new ways to employ his distinctive rhetorical devices despite the restrictive and necessarily straightforward language of the scenario. Dulacs LInvitation au voyage Germaine Dulac, unlike Desnos a nd Ray, was a filmmaker first and foremost. From her first film, which she directed in 1915, until her death in 1942, she made an astonishing variety of films, from cinma pur abstract films (such as her film Thmes et variations in 1928) to relatively mainstream features, serials,
44 and documentary newsreels (Pallister 66; Reynolds). Most famously, she directed what many critics have dubbed the fi rst long-form Surrealist film, La Coquille et le clergyman in 1927, two years before Luis Buuel and Salvador Dal directed the better-known Surrealist film Un Chien andalou She was perhaps just as prolific in her theoretical writings and speeches, publishing articles in the most influential film journals and making freque nt tours of cin-clubs in France and abroad (Abel, French 253-255). Dozoretz counts at least twenty-six films and thirty-one journal articles on cinema by Dulac (1). She was among a very small number of women at the time who managed to create successful careers in an industry overwhelmingly dominated by men. Only recently has her role in the growth of 1920s French film received some degree of recognition, thanks to the work of feminist film historians (Reynolds, par. 2). Dulac has been described as the heart of the [cinematic] avant-garde, its cupid, its muse (Dozoretz 42-43). This is partly because she was one of the only filmmakers who continuously adapted to the evolving conception of what exactly constituted avant-garde cinema in the twenties and thirties. In her early career, she was one of the biggest figures in what is now called Impressionist film, a grouping of artistically minded filmmakers from the early 1920s (Dozoretz 5-7). Along with Impressionist filmmakers Abel Gance, Marcel LHerbier, and Jean Epstein, she was among the inaugural members in 1921 of Canudos Club des Amis du Septime Art [C.A.S.A., Club of the Friends of the Seventh Art] (Weber 48). Impressionist filmmakers introduced new stylistic techniques and widened the scope of the industrys esta blished narrative structures, but they
45 stopped far short of pure sensual abstraction or the radical imagery of the Surrealists. When the more radical cinma puristes and Surrealists came of age in the latter half of the twenties, Dulac was perhaps the only member of Canudos C.A.S.A. who continued to remain on the forefront of art film, exploring the new ideas of avant-garde cinema in her writings and lectures, and putting the ideas into practice in a few of her own short films (Gauthier 132). But in addition to her more artistic films, Dulac often worked within the commercial industry she vehemently criticized. One such example is her surprisingly mainstream serial, Gossette ; but as Weber writes, Il faut bien vivre [One has to make a living], and unlike Man Ray, Dulac made her living in film, not in the traditional visual arts (51). Given her multiple influences in commercial, Impressionist, and pure cinema, it is more understandable that LInvitation au voyage is difficult to place into only one of these categories. By 1927, when Dulac made the film, she was surely familiar with the work of Surrealists and with recent trends in abstract cinema. But certain characteristics clearly distinguish her film from Man Rays and Robert Desnos cinpomes, as well as from Dulacs own La Coquille et le clergyman The most obvious difference is that LInvitation au voyage has a relatively clear narrative which takes place during the course of an evening. Dulac also uses stylistic optical experime ntation not for purely visual ends, as in Chomettes films or Rays Emak Bakia but as a metaphorical tool which informs the narrative and the characters emotional states. Finally, at nearly forty minutes, the film is much longer than most low-budget avant-garde films being made at the
46 time. Considering these facts, it might be tempting to categorize her film as a somewhat conservative throwback to Impressionist film, having more in common with commercial features than with the s horter, more formally ambitious films of the second wave of avant-garde filmmakers. But LInvitation au voyage was actually an ambitious experimental film for Dulac. She filmed it in a hiatus between two paying jobs, and on a shoestring budget provided by a single producer (Abel, French 413). She had conceived of the project at least four years before commencing production, mentioning it in a 1923 interview as a project in which she hoped to put her conceptions cinmatographiqes [cinemat ographic conceptions] into practice (Entretien 27). The film was still much too short for a commercial release, and was screened almost exclusively in the cin-club circuit (Abel, French 413). Furthermore, while LInvitation au voyage lacks the most recognizable hallmarks of latetwenties avant-garde cinema (such as fast cutting, total abstraction, and confrontational imagery), their absence does not correspond to any lack of progressive ideas or theoretical foundations on Dulacs part. On the contrary, LInvitation au voyage serves as an important illustration of the very particular conception of film which Dulac had been developing throughout her career, which remains surp risingly consistent despite changing trends in the avant-garde community. Most visibly at work in the film are two theoretical concepts which serve as pillars in Dulacs general film theory, which will later point to the unique ways in which Dulac drew connections between Symbolist poetic theory, langua ge, and film. The first of these is founded on a
47 strong belief in subjective cine ma: Dulac believed that the cinmatographe was primarily a tool with which a director can exteriorize the interior, communicating the thoughts and emotional st ate of the filmmaker herself or her imaginary subjects (Dozoretz 150). Th e second is Dulacs analogy between cinematic techniques a nd language. But the way in which these ideas tie together Dulacs film and Baudelaires poem is best approached through an examination of the two works differences. Baudelaires LInvitation au voyage (Appendix) was first published in the original 1857 version of Les Fleurs du Mal Inspired by Baudelaires onetime lover actress Marie Daubrun the poem resembles a French ballade in form, alternating between twelve-verse stanzas and a repeating two-line refrain (Wright 38). The male speaker addresses a woma n who he calls my child, my love, enticing her with romanticized, ornate descriptions of an escape to an exotic paradise. Highly sensual descriptions of landscapes and inanimate objects evoke vivid representations of a harbor where the two lovers stand at sunset, and their destination, a beautifully decorated bedr oom lit by drenched, mysterious sun. The second twelve-verse strophe, in partic ular, appeals primarily to the senses, describing the amber-scented calm, wa lls with eastern splendour hung, and the surfaces of tables polished by the palm reflecting rare flowers. But these highly descriptive passages contrast with the general vagueness of the poem and its veiled narrative. Ther e are many things left unsaid about the speaker, the woman, and the context of th is invitation: the addressee is never described, aside from a comparison between her treacherous, tea r-filled eyes
48 and the landscape of their destination, wh ich is also left unnamed. Baudelaire gives no clue as to whether the woman is indeed the speakers lover or wife. The vague nature of the two subjects relationship leaves much room for interpretation. The poem could be read as an innocent, purely romantic speech to the speakers wife or lover. Perhaps the repeated refrain, describing an ideal world where everything is impossibly beautiful and ordered, is an attempt to soothe a troubled mind. A similar reading might see this refrain, along with the almost hyperbolic description of this paradise (their vessel com[ing] from the ends of the earth) as manipulative, envisioning th e poem as an act of predatory seduction towards an unhappy woman. In her film, Dulac fills in the narrative gaps of this last, much darker interpretation of Baudelaires poem. After the title appears, Dulac cites several lines (1-3 and 15-17) from Baudelaires poem in an intertitle, followed by a brief introduction and synopsis signed Germaine Dulac: Une femme, nglige par son mari, se rend un soir dans un bar pour se distraire. Elle y rencontre un officier de la marine. Quand ce dernier apprend quelle a un enfant, il met aussitt un terme leur relation. Une histoire simple qui se passe dintertitres. Jai essay de transmettre lide travers les images. Jespre que les spectateurs soutiendront ma tentative. [A woman, neglected by her husband, goes to a bar one night to distract herself. She meets a navy officer. When he
49 realizes that she has a child, he puts a quick end to their affair. A simple story which forgoes intertitles. I tried to communicate the idea through images. I hope that the audience will support my attempt.] A sign, LInvitation au voyage, hangs over the entrance of this bar, which is the main setting of the film. Inside, the walls are painted with palm trees, exotic birds, sailboat riggings and steering wheels. The bar is full of young sailors and women mingling and laughing, and on a stage, performers and musicians entertain the clients. The score to the film often matches up with the musicians performances. The protagonist (simply credited as la femme [the woman]) enters and sits alone, concealing her face in a large fur coat. As she watches the buzz of motion in the bar, there are flashbacks to the womans domestic life, where she sits in an armchair sewing next to her husband, who reads the newspaper and incessantly checks his watc h. Back in the bar, a handsome young captain vies for the womans attention befo re joining her at the table. The couple interacts wordlessly during the middle section of the film. The woman is extremely flattered, and begins to relax, removing layer after layer of clothing. Images begin to appear, seemingly springing from the sailors gaze or from the sound of a musicians violin, of the wo man and the sailors imaginary voyage: the sea on a sunny day, waves crashing, the captain and woman together in an embrace on the deck of a huge sailboat, their decorated bedroom. Back in the bar, the woman looks by turns anxious and exh ilarated. The sailor begins to caress and kiss her hand, and buys her a toy sa ilboat from a vendor walking around the
50 bar. After catching sight of her locket which contains a small photograph of her child, the sailor leaves to dance with a girl and makes a show of ignoring his former date. The protagonist, dejected, sits alone for a moment fingering the toy boat, and then slips out of the bar and sneaks into bed before her husband gets home, leaving her locket and toy boat at the bar. The film ends after the captain hands the girl some money, returns to th eir table and regretfully contemplates the toy boat and photograph of the womans child. The degree of flexibility Dulac allowed herself in her interpretation of Baudelaires poem has led to some criticism. Citations of LInvitation au voyage in Dulacs filmographies portray it as a minor work in Dulacs uvre, and only make a short note of the films original loose inspiration from the nineteenthcentury poem. One repeated claim (for wh ich I have not been able to find any original, primary source) holds that the film is only based on the first three lines of the poem. Richard Abel, based on this assumption, goes as far as to say that the films narrative as well as its disc ourse owes almost nothing to Baudelaire ( French 414). Only the most inattentive viewing of the film, and a general unfamiliarity with Dulacs film theory, could lie behind such readings. The idea that Dulac was only interested in the first three lines of the poem ignores, at the most superficial level, the entire visual reconstruction of the bedroom in the second stanza, complete with polished an tique furniture, exotic flowers, and a mirror, not to mention her citation of three other lines at the beginning of the film. Furthermore, Dulac might have been able to defend her adaptation by citing the very artistic philosophy of Ba udelaire and the Symbolist poets. In her
51 development of a conceptual framework with which to approach film, Dulac consistently used examples from music and poetry to support her axioms regarding the nature and experiential qualities of art in general. Dulac loved the work of turn-of-the-century French composer Claude Debussy and the writings of Symbolist poets Mallarm and Baudelaire (Dozoretz 144). Not coincidentally, Debussy (sometimes called an Impressionist composer) is closely associated with these poets, and was a friend of Mallarms. Among the composers numerous works inspired by poetry by Baudelaire and Mallarm, his groundbreaking Prlude Laprs midi dun faune [ Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun ] was a response to Mallarms poem Laprs midi dun faune [Afternoon of a Faun]. Baudelaire also a ppears in other films by Dulac, most notably La Souriante Madame Beudet, in which the heroine reads from the poem La mort des amants [The Death of L overs] in a way that counterpoints [ ] her banal life (Dozoretz 71). In her comprehensive review of Dulacs film theory, one of Dozoretzs most thoroughly argued theses is that the central concepts underlying developments in turn-of-the-century music and Symbolist poetry provided a foundation for her film writing (71). Before explaining Dulacs interest in Symbolist poetry, an important distinction must be made. In my discussion of Emak Bakia I drew connections between the ideas behind cinma pur and the breakdown of poetic form and language which characterized avant-garde French poetry in the early twentieth century. While this destruction of poetic conventions would surely have been unthinkable if not for the formal experiments of the Symbolists, the Symbolist
52 poets themselves had very different ideas of what they hoped to accomplish. In order to understand how Dulac drew from these poets, it is important to distinguish Baudelaire and Mallarms pe rsonal theories of poetry from their works influence on later generations of avant-garde Cubist or visual poets. These later generations, though indebted to the innovations of the Symbolists, were often completely at odds with thei r predecessors idealistic conceptions of art and representation. While Dadaist poets such as Tristan Tzara, for example, were partly interested in breaking dow n language into meaningless sounds to reveal the arbitrariness of linguistic si gns, Baudelaire and Ma llarm believed that the language of poetry allowed the artist and the reader access to transcendental Truths. This belief in the symbolic power of art is the reason for the movements name. Dulacs film theory clearly builds upon these concepts while remaining specific to the art of cinema. Her c onstant emphasis on the communication of subjective, interior experience rather than realist sequences of events evokes the Symbolists desire to express and exteriorize an tat dme (a mood, or for the Symbolists, a primordial emotional state) (Dozoretz 74). Mallarm uses the word la ligne [the line] to explain the multidirectional transmission of an abstract artistic ide [idea]; this ligne connects the poet with the artwork, the reader, and finally with the Divine (Dozoretz 83). This kind of transmission occurs in art that evokes a feeling or an atmosphere, rather than pure mimesis. Dulac clearly makes use of this idea in her essay Images et Rythmes [Images and Rhythms], in which she argues that cinema can provide a traduction indite de la vie intrieure [ ] le seul choc des images peut traduire
53 tous les tats dme [unedited translation of interi or experience [ ] the shock of the images alone can translate every tat dme ] (emphasis added) (45). Furthermore, Dulac was intrigued by the idea that film could reproduce the sensations evoked by other works of art. She writes that the definition of cinematic action is Sensations peut-tre plus que suite de faits ... Sensations de musique, de philosophie et de posie, plus que de drames [Sensations, perhaps, rather than sequences of events Sensations of music, of philosophy and poetry, rather than drama] (Le Cinma 52). For Dulac, the essence and value of a work of art lies partly in the reader or viewers experience of itthe sensations and emotions it evokesand it is this e xperience that she hoped to capture on the screen. This perspective on translati on of subjective experience through and between works of art provides an e xplanation for Dulacs freewheeling interpretation of Baudelaires poem. Dulacs introduction at the beginning of the film also refers to this inventive approach to adaptation, and recalls the Symbolists unique concept of lIde : Jai essay de transmettre lide travers les images [I tried to communicate the idea through the images] (emphasis added) ( LInvitation ). Dulac decides to forgo intertitles because what would normally serve as the true narrative (i.e. the womans evening at the bar) is not extremely important to her: it is only the scaffolding of the artwork, upon which she builds layers of atmosphere, metaphors, symbol s, and suggestions. Intertitles belong to the realm of narrative film, mere representations of sequences of events. Instead, Dulac
54 tries to communicate an tat dme, and the very basic narrative itself by using images alone as her raw material. According to Dulacs own theory of film, the important characteristics of LInvitation au voyage should be found in the expressionistic, highly metaphorical representation of the privat e workings of her characters minds. One of the ways that Dulac symbolizes these abstract ideas is through the intrusion of two secondary narratives: th e womans banal domestic life with her husband, and the scenes of the ocean, the sky, and the imagined paradise. These cutaways sometimes work as flashbacks, other times as an exteriorization of fantasies, and other times serves as th e language with which the sailor and the woman communicate, usurping the conventi onal function of dialogue intertitles. The characters never even open their mouths as if theyre speaking; instead, the images are sparked by body language, subtle facial expressions, and gazes. This technique is very successful; one mi ght not even notice that no dialogue whatsoever occurs in the film if Dulac did not draw attention to its absence. But the effect on the viewer is completely different than the traditional dialogue of realist films. One particularly well-crafted example takes place after a violinist comes to the couples table and begins to serena de them (at this point, the films score changes to the melody of a solo violin). Dulac cuts to a close-up of the woman, who appears hypnotized. A close-up of the bow moving across the violins strings is superimposed over her face. Dulac fades into footage of waves crashing on a shore, then the woman standing on the deck of a sailboat. Dulac cuts back to
55 the woman at the table, still lost in thought, and fades to a close-up of the captain, staring into the camera with a look of intense concentration. The footage of the waves reappears, followed by an image of the man on the sailboat deck in uniform, and finally a soft-focus image of the womans face superimposed on the sail. A moment later, Dulac returns to the table, where the captain now seems to be lost in thought himself. His face dissolves into the oceans horizon, where seven ghostly sailboats materi alize one after another, before fading into a close shot of a womans breasts. This slow-moving collage of images forces the viewer to interpret their significance and causality. The sources of these images are not always clear: at some points, they seem to be visualizations of the violinists music; at others, the womans or captains private thoughts. At one point it seems as if captain is telepathically projecting these images onto the womans consciousness, as though he is describing all the images in detail to her. But the representation of these fantasies is consistent throughout the film regardless of how they seem to be summoned. This suggests that this repe titive motif of the waves, the ocean, and the sailboat represent together a transcendental ide of luxe, calme, et volupt, the refrain of Baudelaires poem. For Dulac this ide does exist, simultaneously, in the minds of the sailor and woman, as well as in the melody emanating from the violin. But in this sense, Dulac also departs from Baudelaires focus on the destination (emphasized by the repetition of L [There] in the refrain), rather than the voyage. For the woman, tire d by her domestic existence and her inattentive husband, the atmospheric, ephe meral, textural representation of the
56 ocean symbolizes not only the transcendent notion of Paradise, but also the tat dme of a daydreamer longing for escape. Dulac sometimes blurs the boundary between the bar narrative and the voyage imagery, such as when the captain invites the heroine to peer out a porthole in the wall of the bar. Outside, she sees a beautiful perspective of the ocean on a sunny day. She looks back at the captain, smiling, and then back through the porthole, where she is shocked to find that the view has changed to a derelict storage room: the porthole is fake, simply a decoration in the bars marine motif. The occasional disappearance of barriers between these two settings and narratives levels makes the viewer unsure of what really exists in the reality of the story and what is illusory, imagined, or dreamed. This is clearly Dulacs intended effect; she believed that the objective narrative of a film (if it exists at all) should be inseparable from the em otional narrative which underlies it. Similarly, the bar called LInvitation au Voyage is not simply a physical setting; its boundaries are sometimes shared with the subjectivity of the protagonist herself. If Dulac had been completely faithful to the poem in the most literal sense, the film would probably be reduced to the decontextualized dream images: the footage of marine landscapes and th e imaginary bedroom reconstructed from Baudelaires poem. Dulac could have easily retained the anonymity of the poems subjects through metaphors of visual obscurity. The narrator and addressees identities and pasts could have remained completely blank. But what would have been lost in this hypothetical, more literal transposition of the poem?
57 Dulac might have considered it a relin quishing of her position as a cinematic auteur (author in French, a term meant to emphasize the directors role as an artist). Her subjective reading of the poem, in which the female addressee of the poem becomes the subject, would have also been rendered irrelevant. She argued, in many essays, that an exclusively mimetic approach to translation was counterproductive to cinemas development, if not futile: Le cinma n'est pas un instrument qui nous a t donn pour reproduire servilement nos formes de penses anciennes [Cinema is not an inst rument given to us in order to servilely reproduce the likeness of our old ways of thinking] (Le Cinma 51). A purely literal, objective translation of only the visual imagery of Baudelaires poem would have contradicted the Symbolists artistic agenda. Baudelaires words are meant to evoke an ide and an tat dme and Dulac is interested in exploring these more metaphysical ideas, rather than the formal or textual characteristics of the poem itself. But in addition to her interest in Symbolist aesthetics, Dulac also explores analogies between film and language in her film writing and in LInvitation au voyage. In her essays and lectures, Dulac often used the term film syntax when enumerating cinematic t echniques and conventions. In a 1931 lecture, she explained several elements of this syntax in detail: Le Fondu. Le Fondu enchan. La Surimpression. Les Dformations. Les Dessins Anims [The Fade. The Crossfade. Superimpositions. Distortion. Animation]. In the introduction to her lecture, she says that some consider film syntax barbare, autant quelle me parat, moi, facile, simple, souple manier en comparaison de
58 celle qui rgit lcriture et le verbe [primitive and ungainly, while to me it seems simple and easy to manipulate compared to that of writing and the word] (Les Procds 31). It appears that Dulac was one of the only directors to take the film-language analogy, hinted at by many other theorists, so seriously. But Dulac never implies that this connection is anything more than an analogy. Her interest in defining the basics of film syntax was part of her larger goal of exploring cinemas means of expression in contrast to that of the novel or the play. It is a nouvelle criture [a new form of writing] (Le Cinma 51). Returning to the scene sparked by the violinist, we witness Dulac utilizing several techniques outlined in her film syntax. The extensive use of fades and superimposed images (which serve as transitions between the bar scene and the marine imagery) are, for Dulac, some of the most fundamental ways to suggest connections between disparate shots: La surimpression, c'est la pense, la vie intrieure [Superimposition is thought, interiority] (Les Procds 37). By slowly combining two images (such as the womans face and the violin) instead of cutting, she suggests a direct connec tion rather than a clash between the subjects of her film. It also replaces the traditional function of the intertitle, which communicated the thoughts of the ch aracters through words as if cited from the direct discourse of a realist novel. While Desnos and Rays toile de mer includes intertitles which are presumably lines from Desnos own poetry, Dulac attempts to completely distance herself from the written word. Earlier in the film, Dulac includes an amusing scene to make this textimage dichotomy more e xplicit, and perhaps to condition the audience to
59 anticipate her experimental discourse. After the woman first sits at a table in the bar, a waiter approaches her with a cocktail menu. When we cut to her perspective, we are surprised to see the cocktail menu written in the Hebrew alphabet. It suddenly switches to Cyr illic, then Arabic, and finally English (Cocktails: Cherry Gobbler; Rose Cocktail; Pick me up etc.). She looks up at the waiter, mystified. Dulac cuts to a split-screen shot, with the waiters face on the left, and empty, black space on the right. The waiter pretends to talk, twitching his eyebrows and his face, without moving his lips. Simultaneously, images of liquor bottles appear one afte r another, suspended over the black background of the frames right half. They end with an image of a finished cocktail in a glass. Dulac cuts back to a wide shot, and the woman nods to the bartender, who leaves to make her drink. The scene is almost comically literal, but it makes Dulacs point completely clear: the primary means of expression in cinema is the image, not text. The bart ender describes the ingredients of a cocktail in the same way the captain seduces the woman and Dulac reinterprets Baudelaires poem: through ima ges alone. Written (or spoken) language is as foreign to cinema as the Hebrew alphabet is to the Frenchwoman. One of the few other theorists of the time who further explored the idea of film language was Blaise Cendrars, a member of a short-lived literary and artistic movement in France called simultanisme Cendrars central argument in his essay LABC du cinma is that film is verbal, and is in fact a renewal of the earliest forms of language: he writes that before the introduction of the Phoenician alphabet to Greece, writing, mnemonic, ideographic, or phonetic, was always
60 pictorial (153). At the end of this s hort, poetic essay, after breathlessly running through a paragraph-long history of the written language, he arrives at the invention of the cinmatographe and envisions a new synthesis of the human spirit, toward a new humanity their language will be the cinema (154). These relatively rudimentary explora tions of cinemas linguistic qualities are notable because they presage an extremely influential movement in film theory that came to fruition more than half a century later: film semiology. In the 1970s, French film theorist Christian Metz was one of the first to seriously undertake the project of applying semio logy, developed by linguists such as Ferdinand de Saussure, to film. Semiology literally means the study of signs, and its adherents began to use this new conception of language (as a system of arbitrary signifiers) to demonstrate how all forms of communication and expression, whether visual, aural, temp oral, or spatial, function by the same mechanisms as the written and spoken word. Metz takes up the same questions as Blaise Cendrars and Dulac and explores them in several volumes with the rigor of a philosopher: how can one codify the matire(s) de lexpression [raw material(s) of expression] in cinem a? To what extent does le langage cinmatographique [cinematographic langua ge] intersect with the languages of the written word, painting, dance, or music? (Metz 17). Dulacs attempt at a codification of cinematic t echniques, in other words, was a concept that did not fade into obscurity after the end of her career. Considered in conjunction with her film theory, Dulacs unique process of adapting a poem for the screen becomes not only comprehensible, but appears to
61 be guided by a very specific set of princi ples regarding the relationship between film and the written word. Her decision to radically reinterpret the poem and recontextualize its themes of desire, seduction, and escape is partly informed by her familiarity with Symbolist theory and her belief that the subjective experience and ide of a work of art can be transposed to film. But it is also a bold exercise of her belief that the particular means of cinematic expression are beholden to no other art form, including the poetry and music which inspired her throughout her career. In the last shot of LInvitation au voyage Dulacs hand, holding a pen, enters a blank frame and signs Fin [The End] followed by her signature. With this final flourish, she affirms her status as a cinematic auteur and claims the film as her own work of art, inspired by but not derivative of Baudelaires poem. LInvitation au voyage is not only an homage to a particularly inspiring poem; it is also an experiment in how film might find its own voice, and its own language. Robert Desnos and Man Rays toile de Mer If Emak Bakia and LInvitation au voyage are distinguished primarily by their distance from or proximity to poetic texts ( Emak Bakia being an original cinematic poem with no parent text, and LInvitation au Voyage being a cinematic interpretation) then toile de mer lies somewhere in between on this continuum. The night before leaving for a reporting mission in the Caribbean, Desnos read his original poem to Man Ray and Kiki de Montparnasse from a crumpled sheet of paper he pulled from his pocket (Hedges, Desnos, a nd Ray 208). This poem was never published, and has seemingly disappeared; Sitney makes note of the
62 questionable nature of this original poem, and wonders if it ever existed at all (26). Thus the intertextual comparison which is possible between Baudelaires poem and Dulacs film is impossible with toile de mer Furthermore, the project was highly collaborative, and seems to have developed in two steps: first, Desnos creation of a simple shot-by-shot script from the poem, and second, Rays production of the film in Desnos absence. Most criticism about the film has focused on Rays contribution to this project in comparison to his work on other films; Desnos involvement in the film had been underestimated until Hedges discovery of the manuscript, written in Desnos hand, in 1986. While the discovery of an original poem could clar ify the extent to which Desnos altered and adapted it for the screen, the texts at hand (including the manuscript, Desnos published poetry, and the finished film) provide a number of insights as to how the poet attempted to negotiate between the freedom of poetry and the restrains of the film script. Unlike all of Rays other films, toile de mer bears traces of a narrative. The first shot is of a circular glass window or door swinging open. The manuscript describes a couple walking togeth er (the woman is played by Kiki de Montparnasse) on a rural path before sharing a brief moment at the womans apartment. In the next scene, the couple m eet in a city street, where the woman is selling newspapers. She gives him a starfish in a jar. We see the man alone, examining the starfish under his desk lamp. During the middle section of the film the narrative disappears, and we move from one seemingly unrelated shot to another: a man chasing after newspapers blowing in the wind; footage of the
63 woman reclining at home in her apartmen t with bottles of wine, bananas, a book, and a starfish; the man examining his hands, his palm lines drawn in ink; the woman slowly and menacingly walking up stairs with a knife; a shot of the Sant prison in Paris; the woman in a Phrygian costume; footage of flames and water. In the final shots of the film the narrative resurfaces: the man and woman meet again on the path of the beginning of th e film, but a second man appears (played by Desnos), taking the woman with him. The male protagonist, if he can truly be called one, is left alone wa tching as they walk into the distance. The film ends with an image of a Kiki reflected in a mirror with the word belle written on it, which is then shattered. The last shot is of the circular glass window swinging shut. Decades after the film was made in 1928, Ray and Desnos recollected the writing process which led up to the project: Desnos shared his poem with Ray, who described it as cinematic, consisting of fifteen or twenty lines, each line presenting a clear, detached image of a place or of a man and a woman. Desnos also recalled that he intentionally wrote the poem in a form propitious to the apparitions and the ghosts of a scenario (qtd. in Hedges, Desnos, and Ray 208). In the screenplay manuscript, Roman numerals from one to thirty explain each shot or sequence in simple, sparse langua ge filled with ort hographic mistakes. For example: I. Un homme et une femme dans la rue. Marche. Leurs jambes. Les jambes de la femme. Elle sarrte. cest dans la rue. Elle ajuste sa jarretire. on voit sa jambe.
64 [I. A man and a woman in the street. Walk. Their legs. The womans legs. She stops. in the middle of the street. She adjusts her garter. we see her leg.] (Hedges, Desnos, and Ray 216) One might imagine, given Rays description, that the original poem was composed of a similar series of matter-of-f act images. In fact, in his recollection of the films creation, Desnos does not distinguish between the poem and the manuscript which he handed to Ray before leaving. Ray omits any reference to the manuscript, mentioning only the cinematic poem. His description of the poem as consisting of only fifteen or twenty lines is the only concrete fact which suggests that the manuscript, which consists of thirty-three lines, is not, in fact, the original poem or a slightly more fles hed-out, revised version (Hedges, Desnos, and Ray 208). Whether or not the poem and the script are one and the same, anyone familiar with Desnos betterknown works would notice that this particular form (a listing of objective images in relatively clear language) bears very little resemblance to his poetry. The most recognizable characteristic of Desnos poetry is his playful and subversive appr oach to language: nouns used as verbs, homonyms, puns, paradoxical phrases, and a staggering variety of other grammatical tricks make the experience of reading his poetry analogous to looking at an optical illusion (Caws, Surrealist ). His 1922-23 Rrose Slavy [which, in spoken French, sounds like Eros, cest la vie or Eros is Life] is a collection of one hundred and fifty absurd statements playing with spoonerisms and phonetic mirroring, such as Rrose S lavy demande si les Fleurs du Mal ont
65 modifi les moeurs du phalle: quen pens e Omphale? [Rrose Slavy asks if the Flowers of Evil changed the mores of the phallus: what does Omphale think?] (Desnos, Corps 33). During the height of his association with the Surrealists, such clever linguistic punning was co mmonplace (the phonetic mirror technique in Rrose Slavy, for example, is also featured in Duchamps film Anmic cinma ). The absurd results of these experiments reflected the Surrealists interest in the power of linguistic ambigui ty and suggestion to stir the unconscious (Caws, Surrealist 58-60). But even after his shift away from Surrealist themes towards more consistent poetic subjects (i ncluding a large number of love poems written in the second person) Desnos con tinued to make extensive use of these linguistic techniques. One effect of these devices is the continual stifling of imagery in the readers mind. Because Desnos intere st lies so firmly in the phonetic qualities and malleability of language, in the suggestiveness of particular words or of impossible sentence constructions, it is quite difficult to find any description of a setting, person, or object in Desnos poe ms which can actually be imagined. Desnos intentionally makes it impossible for the reader to conjure up an image in a poem like Un jour quil faisait nuit [ One Day When It Was Night], in which he writes the paradoxical phrase Alors nous avancions dans une alle dserte o se pressait la foule [So we advanced onto a deserted path which was crammed with a crowd] (Desnos, Corps 83). It seems as though Desnos wishes to avoid any opportunity for the reader to create a c ohesive mental image or to establish a point of spatial or temporal orientation while reading his poetry. Consequently,
66 the idea that Desnos wrote the toile de mer poem as a sequence of concrete images is very surprising. The very function of a screenplay, whose purpose is the verbal description of photographic image s, seems contrary to Desnos literary agenda. But despite the void which separates the dcoupage form (a simple shotby-shot description of a film) from Desnos particular style of poetry, the poet was actually a great admirer of film, and one of the most vocal proponents of Surrealist cinema. In addition to his film criticism, Desnos seemed particularly attracted by the screenplay form. toile de mer was not Desnos first script; his unfilmed scenario, titled Minuit Quatorze Heures [Midnight at Two OClock] was published in 1925 in a special edition of Les Cahiers du mois devoted entirely to screenplays (Dumas 135; Abel, Exploring 58). Altogether, Desnos had started or completed at least fifteen scripts by the end of his life (Caws, Surrealist 26). In her preface to a 1965 reprint of Minuit Quatorze Heures, MarieClaire Dumas addresses the question of why Desnos (along with other Surrealist poets) saw the cinema as a potential outlet for his poetry. She notes the sparseness of the script, the objects simplement nomm[s] [simply named] instead of described in poetic or Surrea list language. Other av ant-garde poets and authors of the 1920s, including Philippe Soupault, Blaise Cendrars, Pierre AlbertBirot, and Jules Romains, wrote screenplays in a very similar format to Desnos manuscript. Many were published in literary journals such as Les Cahiers du mois but almost none of them were ever filmed (Abel, Exploring 58-64). Their
67 lack of camera angles and t echnical details suggests that they used the literary form of the film racont (a dcoupage intended for reading audiences outside the film industry rather than for a director) as a loose model, perhaps because this was the most common screenplay form available to them (65). Their embrace of the scenario format, which necessarily reverses the priority of verbal language over film ima ge is intriguing, first because these particular scenarists were primarily writers and poets, not filmmakers or visual artists, and second because they likely doubted that their scripts would ever graduate from the pages of literary journals to the screen (67). The result, then, was that their expression crite [ ] se trouve modifie par sa vise cinmatographique [written expression [ ] ends up being modified by its cinematographic aims], as Dumas writes of Minuit quatorze heures (137). The dcoupage form depends on the readers familiarity with cinematic conventions, in order for the intended di stance, the intended scale or dimension, and the intended movement of the images to appear in the readers imagination, as Louis Delluc observed on the topic of published scenarios (qtd. in Abel, Exploring 66). In other words, whether their scripts were destined for print or screen, poets like Desnos were forced by the format to express their poetic ideas through suggestions of cinematic time a nd plausible imagery in a way that no previous literary form necessitated. But the opportunity to evoke surreality through imagery as well as language was something th at some Surrealist poets saw as a boon to their movement. En renonant ainsi une mystique de lexpression , le pote tente
68 de donner une prsence plus authentique au surrel [By renouncing the mystique of expression , the poet attempts to give a more authentic presence to the surreal], Dumas writes (137). Desnos and other Surrealists believed that the experience of watching a film in a darkened movie theater came very close to the experience of dreaming. Desnos forays into cinema were an attempt to achieve true surreality by combing impossible and marvelous elements with real photographic images, or, in his own word s, arracher un lambeau au merveilleux et le restituer la robe dchire du rel [to tear a shred from the marvelous and restore it to the ragged robe of the real] (qtd. in Dumas 138). Despite the fact that the language of the screenplay seems to be completely at odds with the lack of imagery in his poetry, toile de mer is still very much a continuation of Desnos poetic agenda. The same poetic devices he uses to evoke the marvelous in his writing are applied to the imagery of the film. Thus, the most characteristically Desnosian rhetorical devices, which seem glaringly absent from the simple language of the manuscript, reappear upon watching the film. For example, Caws notes that one of the most recurrent devices in Desnos poetry is the play of the repeated phrase against its own variants. One of many examples can be found in his poem De la fleur damour et des chevaux migrateurs, in which the verse Je parle de la fleur et de la fort et non des tours [I speak of the flower and of the forest and not of towers] reappears throughout the poem in slight variations (Caws, Surrealist 83). Another example is his poem Ctait un bon copa in [He was a good friend], in which the titular verse is repeated seven times with small variations: Ctait un triste
69 copain Ctait un drle de copain C tait un copain [He was a sad friend He was an amusing friend He was a friend] (Desnos, Corps 86). Another noticeable device in Desnos poetry, which Caws calls the fixed gaze, is the obsessive focus on and presence of a thematic object or word, such as the anemone in his long poem Sirne-Anmone . The anemone serves as a perfect Desnosian symbol because it lends itself to so many comparisons and metaphors: each mention of the anemone in the poem adds a new layer to its symbolic power. It is described as a sea creature, an astre [star], as giving birth to the sirne [mermaid], as a flower in the poets garden, and is compared to the iris of an eye (Desnos, Corps 151). Through repetition and vari ation, Desnos symbols accrue multiple, often contradictory layers of meaning. However, they are not simply traditional polysemic symbols, like a rose in a Shakespearian sonnet; they are Surrealist symbols, intended to embody or signify unconscious fear, desire, or anxiety. They often alternate, over the course of the same poem, between fetishistic objects and nightmarish monsters. Caws points out that Desnos repetition and variation of words or phrases has a variety of functions in different poems: sometimes it mimics the circular thinking symptomatic of an ide fixe (obsession), other times it resembles a chanted incantation, and sometimes it suggests a state of intoxication or hypnosis in the poems speaker. The theme of obsession, in particular, is ubiquitous in Desnos poetry: Caws describes him generally as Desnos the poet, melanchol y and mocking, obsessed and aware of his own obsessions ( Surrealist 28).
70 In his scenario, the titular toile de mer (a starfish, or literally sea star) serves as the central repetitive symbol, like the anemone in Sirne-Anmone. Desnos wrote that the poem was inspired by a starfish he had purchased in a second-hand store, which evoked to the poet the embodiment of a lost love (Hedges, Desnos, and Ray 208). In almost every scene specified in the manuscript, the starfish is present. Its first appearance is in the street where the man and woman meet. It is encased in a glass jar, which the woman is using as a paperweight for her newspapers. The wo man gives it to the man, and throughout the rest of the film Desnos occasionally cuts back to the man alone in his apartment, examining the starfish under his desk light. In this case, the starfish indeed embodies Desnos idea of a lost love or an elusive Other, rendered inaccessible by a layer of glass. But it also reappears as a predator and an omen of death: the first shot of the man in his apartment is followed by close-up footage of a live starfish eating a sea urchin. Later, when the woman walks up the stairs with a knife, the starfish is seen lying on the railing, and is later superimposed over an image of the knife clutched in the womans hand. Rays addition of the first and last shots of the film, showing a circular window opening and closing, also refers to the starfish encased in glass, seeming to suggest that by watching the film the viewer temporarily enters the starfishs jar and consequently the poets state of enchantment. The symbol of the starfish is also evoked by a number of visual and textual cues and juxtapositions. Desnos wr ites in the manuscript that the shot of the walls of Sant prison should be followed by an image of the starry night sky.
71 Like the anemone des cieux [anemone of the sky/heavens] in SirneAnmone, the toile de mer is also compared by verbal and visual association to a cosmic toile (Desnos, Corps 151). The intertitle belle comme une fleur de chair [beautiful like a flower of flesh] is followed by images of the man staring at his outstretched hand, with the lines of his palms drawn in black, creating a series of visual and verbal associati ons between a blossoming flower, a human hand, and the starfish. To search for the meaning of every invocation of the starfish, as Hedges attempts to do by dr awing obscure connections to alchemy in her essay Constellated Visions, seems like a purposeless project. The omnipresence of the starfish symbol in the film serves the same purpose as the verbal repetition and permutation of Desnos poetry: the symbol takes on all the resonances of myth, and conveys th e poets almost maniacal obsession or ide fixe (Caws, Surrealist 77). It becomes unclear whether the starfish represents the woman, or if she simply becomes one association in the poets transfiguration of the starfish. Thus, the repetitive rhetorical devices and thematic fixations of Desnos poetry do, in fact, exist in the manuscrip t and in Rays film. Desnos creates equivalent effects in cinema by continuously returning to the image of the starfish in new contexts and letting its eerie significance build. This is also the most noticeable device in his script Minuit Quatorze Heures, the pervasive symbol being a circle or ball. First, a wo man and her lover find the womans husband drowned in a lake, ripples in the wate r creating circles around his body. In the surreal narrative that follows, Desnos specifies dozens of shots with circles
72 centered in the frame, including the circular patterns cast from a lamp onto the ceiling, the sun and moon, coins, a croquet ball, the characters pupils, and napkin rings. Eventually a huge black ball appears in the story, rolling through the city, following the guilt-ridden lovers, and finally swallowing up their house (Desnos, Minuit). The circles are present in everything, down to the most mundane objects, following the characters like a consta nt reminder of guilt or an omen of death. The technique of the fixed g aze in Desnos screenplays has a similar effect on the viewer as its correlative in his written poetry: it links the apparently disconnected parts of discourse [ ] by the rapid transfer of close attention and breaks down the logical patterns and hab its of looking (Dumas 75). While watching toile de mer the connective tissue of realist narrative falls apart, and instead the viewers find themselves anticipating the ubiquitous presence of the seemingly fateful toile in every image and intertitle The viewer thus experiences the poets seemingly fatefu l obsession with the woman, and the starfish indeed becomes the embodiment of a lost love, at once intensely desired, inaccessible, and feared. Denos and Rays choice of such bizarre intertitles is also significant when considering the contemporaneous theoretical dialogue about films relationship to the written word. In stark contrast to Dulacs philosophy, Desnos championed the creative use of intertitles in film: Everyth ing that can be projected on the screen belongs in the cinema, letters as well as faces [ ] it is in the mind that the quest for purity must occur rather than in a subsidiary technique (qtd. in Sitney 22). Only some of the intertitles in the final film appear in Desnos manuscript. It is
73 unknown whether the lines added afterwards came from the original poem which inspired the film, or were culled from existing poems by Desnos, or if Desnos wrote them in the editing process. But their style and vocabulary (puns, permutations of phrases and particularly Desnosian vocabulary) are definitely characteristic of Desnos poetry. Along with Duchamps film Anmic cinma (consisting of seemingly nonsensical phrases in the style of Desnos Rrose Slavy), toile de mer was one of the first avant-garde films to claim equality of title and image (Sitney 22). In both films, the traditional explanat ory function of text in cinema, in which the titles are subordinated to the images, is abandoned in favor of text as a unit of intellectual montage (i.e. juxtapositions which force the viewer to think on a metaphorical or dialectical level). Among the fifteen intertitles in toile de mer not one of them has a diegetic function as narration or as dialogue spoken by the characters. With the exception of the title quelle est belle [how beautiful she is], which appears several times in conj unction with images of the woman, none of them bear any literal or logical relationship to the images which precede or follow them. Instead, the discursive void between the text and images creates what Sitney calls a [space] of figuration in which the relationships are synthesized or imagined by the viewer. T hus the line belle comme une fleur de chair and the image of the mans palm do not inform each other descriptively, causally, or even metaphorically. Rather, they bring to mind the recurring image of the starfish, or create an experience of the uncanny through the implied hybridization of the human and inhuman fe atures. In this light, the image and
74 intertitle have more in common with Bretons chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on dissecting table; their absurd juxtaposition are intended to evoke the Surreal and s tir the viewers unconscious (Caws, Introduction 448). In the seemingly arbitrary pairings of intertitles and images, Sitney sees the fear of castration and the vagina dentata The first title, les dents de femmes sont des objets si charmants [womens teeth are such charming objects] appears unexpectedly during the couples walk down a tree-lined path. If the image following this title were of the woman smiling, writes Sitney, the function of the text would have been a banal literalization. But instead, Ray cuts to an image of the woman stopping and lifting he r dress to fix her tights. Sitney believes that the linking of these two ima ges is meant to spontaneously evoke the unspoken and unseen vagina dentata (29). The figure of the vagina dentata (and the related fear of castration) is suggested again in the shot of the starfish eating a sea urchin, and in the intertitle Si belle Cyble? [So beautiful! Cybele?]. In Greek epic poetry, followers of the cult of Cybele, the mother god of the Phrygians, castrated themselves in a fit of madness (Sitney 31; Great Mother). Desnos returns to this reference later when Kiki de Montparnasse is seen wearing a robe and a Phrygian cap. Separated, the intertitles and the images alone would not suggest this subtext of castration, or the theme of the vagina dentata It is through their synthesis that Desnos and Ray attempt to call forth these motifs, not through the images or in the words per se, but in the viewers mind, creating a truly Surrealist experience of art.
75 Through the use of these techniqueshis experimental approach to the relationship between image and intertitle, his symbolization and transfiguration of the starfish through visual and text ual associationsDesnos overcomes the disparity between the very unique forms of the poem and the film script. It seems that in the process of adapting his poem, Desnos did not see the limitations of the new medium in comparison to the written word, but instead hoped that it might expand the range of poetic e xpression. After all, Desnos did not, like Dulac, adhere to such strict ideals of cinematic purity and subsequently refuse himself the use of text; his words are still there, perhaps pulled directly from one of his own poems. But the addition of visual c ounterpoint brings formerly unattainable layers of meaning to these words. In this sense, toile de mer is a bricolage (collage, or a tinkering with the materials at hand) of text and image, and more figuratively, of poetic and cinematic sensibilities and techniques. Ray and Desnos conception of this film as a multimedia work of art (not simply a film or a poem, but a seen poem) places it in a tradition of multimedia Surrealist works, such as Bretons novel Nadja, which was published in the same year as toile de mer. Breton scatters photographs and illustra tions through his text which serve as counterpoints (often cryptically or metaphorically, rather than illustratively) to the unfolding of the novels story. These photogr aphs often function in the same way as the intertitles in Desnos and Rays film. Film also allows Desnos to link th e surreal language of his poetry, virtually untranslatable into the visual (such as the intertitle le soleil, un pied ltrier, niche un rossignol dans une voile de crpe [the sun, one foot in the
76 stirrup, nestles a nightingale in a veil of crpe]) to moving images which are, in turn, essentially untranslatable into la nguage. The photographic image brings an element of reality, concrte [et] obsdante [concrete and haunting] to the surreal merveilleux [marvelous] of Desnos poetry (Dumas 136). And conversely, Desnos application of his poetic devices (s uch as the play of the repeated phrase against its own variants) to cinema tic montage transforms the mundane photographic image of the starfish into surreal symbol replete with meaning. For a poet who spoke often of the marvelous as part and parcel of everyday life, as existing in the most ordinary things, perhaps the cinema, a medium which makes reality creatively malleable, might enable the ideal synthesis of the Surrealists, which Breton described in the first Surrealist Manifesto as la rsolution future de ces deux tats, en a pparence si contradictories, que sont le rve et la ralit en une sorte de ralit absolue, de surralit [the future resolution of these two statesof the dr eam and of realityso contradictory in appearance, into a kind of absolute reality, a surreality ] (Conley 7; qtd. in Dumas 137). Both Dulac and Desnos approached the task of cinematic adaptation knowing that there were no clear corre latives between the mediums; their inventive approaches to this task are the ultimate source of their films experimentalism and originality. In LInvitation au voyage, Dulac emphasizes the lack of correspondence between mediums by concentrating on the extratextual, subjective qualities of the poem and by overtly avoiding references to textual or formal specifics. At the same time, Dulac incorporates her interest in
77 Baudelaires poetry and the Symbolist poetic theory into her project of declaring films autonomy as an art form. Desnos adaptation of his poetry for toile de mer, on the other hand, is an example of the Surrealists departure from the cinma pur theoretical community. Combining text and image in unprecedented ways and synthesizing poetic and cinematic sensibilities, Desnos effectively abandons the debate concerning the autonomy of individual art forms in the greater quest to, in the words of poet Philipe Soupault, transposer le surrealisme lcran [transpose Surrealism to the screen] and consequently expand the expressive range of Surrealist art in general (Soupault, Entretien 29).
78 Conclusion The concept of a cinpome a true synthesis of film and poetrywas perhaps a chimerical notion. Poets bor rowed cinematic conventions, characters from popular films, and elements from the scenario form to enrich their poetry; filmmakers such as Dulac and Ray drew fro m recent trends in poetrys analytic approach to language and the artistic ph ilosophy of Symbolist poets to inspire their films. The merit of these experiments lies not in their ability to truly synthesize film and poetry into a single art form, but in the fantastic, perhaps unexpected products of their application of foreign processes and paradigms to film, and their willingness to imagine cinema as a blank slate. Like the study of alchemy, the dual ideals of cinma pur and cinema as artistic synthesis ended up being more memorable for their incidental discoveries (new kinds of imagery and formal structures, the birth of abstract cinema, the innovative use of intertitles and text, new conceptions of cinematic histoire and rcit2) than for their original motivations. Perhaps this is the reason why so few critical studies of these films see their original inspirations as anything more than historical trivia. But the success and experimentalism of these films cannot be dissociated from their poetic inspirations and influences. Ray approached Emak Bakia with the mentality of a modern poet and the process of automatic writing in mind; the result was one of the first films almost totally devoid of any human forms or faces, representational imagery, or trad itional narrative. The surreal imagery, 2 In French critical theory, histoire refers to the events of a story and rcit to the narration of the events.
79 highly metaphorical montage, and unique use of intertitles of toile de mer are the result of Desnos insertion of his own Su rrealist poetic discourse into the film script. And in her attempt to represent and reinterpret a poetic text on screen, Dulac portrays a dynamic range of emotion not through dialogue, histrionic acting, or the conventions of conti nuity filmmaking, but by establishing a completely new cinematic logic governed by careful juxtaposition of imagery. These films were radical departures from the mainstream cinema of the time, and despite their age (and popular cinemas gradual adoption of experimental film techniques and aesthetics) they retain much of their original novelty today. Poetry was certainly not the only tradition that avant-garde filmmakers turned to in their attempt to elevate cinema to an art form, and poets were not alone in their fascination with the new technology. But considering that commercial film in the 1920s was more i ndebted to the realist narrative of nineteenth-century novels and plays than to visual arts or music, the use of the term poetic cinema seems especially a ppropriate. The dichotomy of poetic and prosaic language, of Valrys dancing a nd walking with language, served as a perfect analogy to describe a kind of film which would dance with cinemas unique means of expression rather than subordinate these means to the illusion of narrative or to the faithful documentation of reality. In addition, poets were crucial to the birth of film theory and criticism not only because they loved and found inspiration in cinema, but because they were at the helm of the avant-garde press that enabled this dialogue.
80 Emak-Bakia, Invitation au voyage, and toile de mer did not, like so many early silent films, fade into obscurity or irrelevance. After World War II, Frances first wave of avant-garde film, forgotten for nearly two decades, found an enormous revival in the United States, thanks to the efforts of European curators at New York Citys Cinema 16 and San Fr ansiscos Art in Cinema film society institutions which served as Americas version of Frances cin-clubs In particular, toile de mer Emak-Bakia, and several films by Dulac came to be considered more or less canonical works by the American experimental film community (MacDonald 5). Man Rays technical and optical innovations in Emak-Bakia and Retour la raison certainly served as a source of inspiration during the renaissance of abstract film in the 1960s, such as Stan Brakhages use of cameraless filmmaking processes (many of which seem inspired by rayographs) and Harry Smiths enormous oeuvre of abstract film. But in addition to the legacy of these particular films, the belief in a distinct affinity between poetry and film was not restricted to France, nor did experimental filmmakers abandon these id eas after the end of the 1920s and its generation of artists. On the contrary, in almost every decade since the 1920s, poetry has been undeniably presentwhether as visual text, an aural counterpoint to images, formal or thematic inspiration, or in synthetic experimentsin the cinematic avant-garde. In the early y ears of at least four well-known national traditions of avant-garde film, poetry a nd the concept of poetic cinema was present and formative in theoretical literature and in the films themselves. Given the wide geographical range of these tr aditions, their contemporaneousness, and
81 the small size of these inaugural communities, it seems clear that many of these traditions conceived of the notion independently. For example, in 1921 (several years before the appearance of any French cinpomes ) Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand directed Manhatta widely considered the first American avant-garde film. Mostly composed of stylized urban and industrial landscapes in New York City, Manhatta is punctuated by lines from Walt Whitmans poetry, which is often superimposed onto the images themselves, floating over skylines (Mac donald, Poetry and Avant-Garde 3). Russian and German filmmakers and theorists, especially Victor Shklovsky and Hans Richter, used the same prose-poetry analogy as their French contemporaries: Richter, for example, declared that all experimental film could be labeled film poetry, while commercial film could be considered film novels (Kuenzli, Introduction 6; Wexman 239). During the 1930s, after the advent of sound film, British and American filmmakers such as John Grierson, Basil Wright, and Pare Lorenz incorporated recordings of recited poetry into some of the most noteworthy documentaries of the Great Depression and World War II (Macdonald, Poetry and Avant-Garde 5). Jean Cocteau, one of the most important French filmmakers of the 1930s, began his career as a poet and author and made his directoria l dbut with his film Le Sang dun pote ( The Blood of a Poet ), incorporating oneiric imagery an d scenes from his novels and poems. Americans Williard Maas and James Broughton, perhaps the most widelycited experimental filmma kers of the 1940s, used poetry as aural accompaniment to their films; MacDonald writes that Broughtons films in particular reveal what
82 was understood in the 1940s and 1950s as a poetic sensibility. In the 1950s, Maas joined other luminaries of experimental film, such as Maya Deren, in a seminar called Poetry and Film at Cinema 16, revisiting the theory and practice of creating poetic film (Poetry and Film 39). In Italy, Pier Pasolini, a poet and one of the most controversial European directors of the 1960s and 70s, considered his poetry and his films part of the same artistic project and wrote essays on notion of poetic cinema. The sub-genre of cinepoetry still exists in todays experimental film community; a quick search on the internet shows that since 2000, cinepoetry festivals and screening seri es have taken place in cities such as New Delhi, Berlin, New York City, Chicago, and Paris. Many of these filmmakers and authors diverged from the early dialogues about film and poetry, proposing new ways of comparing the two media and more in-depth formulations of cinematic langua ge. My central goal in this thesis was to research and summarize the historical, textual and artistic evidence of poetrys influence and inspiration for early French experimental film, and to explore the manifestations of this influence in a few exemplary films. But the more general study of avant-garde poetry and film c ould lend itself to a wide range of philosophical, theoretical, and historical scholarship. A more comprehensive study, including the theory of film semiologists and la ter filmmakers like Cocteau, Pasolini, Brakhage and Brought on, could shed further light on the influence of early French film theorist s and experimental filmmakers. Because the proto-film theory of Canudo, Dulac, and other early film scholars is above all a development of cinematic aesthetics, it would be interesting to compare the
83 theoretical discourse of the 1920s to ear lier aesthetic philosophies (for example, Lessings writings on ekphrasis and compar ative aesthetics). Finally, a more updated look into the points of contact between experimental film, recent technological advances, and c ontemporary poetry is in order. In March 2009, for example, the Harriet Monroe Poetry Ins titute in Chicago announced its inaugural project: an investigation into implementing and elevating the profile of poetry through new-media platforms (Poetry). toile de mer Invitation au voyage, and Emak Bakia have been remembered and appreciated primarily for their aesthetic value, their imaginative imagery, and their technical innovations. Bu t they are crucial to the history of film because they are also artistic statem ents, conceived not simply to please an audience or make a profit, but to communicate a vision of cinemas future which had, up to that point, only existed in the imaginations of early film theorists, industry outsiders, and visionary cinphiles In this sense these films are, in the history of cinema, comparable in importance to the first Impressionist paintings the publication of Rimbauds hallucinogenic free verse poetry, or Arnold Schoenbergs first pieces of atonal music. Such works opened up entirely new realms of poetry, sculpture, and music because their creators strongly believed that their particular medium of expression still had entirely new ranges, vocabularies, and formal possibilities that had yet to be discovered. The experimental filmmakers and poets of Paris, hoping to steer cinema and poetry into new and unprecedented territories, considered the cinpome a means of breathing new life into poetry and of eleva ting cinema to the level of a true art
84 form. While intersections of cinema and poetry never managed to spread from the outermost fringes of the film industry, the concept of film-poetry synthesis led to some of the most innovative and ambitious works by Frances first generation of avant-garde filmmakers, and has maintained a quiet but steady presence throughout the most important chapters in the history of experimental film.
85 Appendix LInvitation au Voyage [Invitation to the Voyage] (1857)3 3 (Baudelaire 74-77)        Mon enfant, ma soeur, Songe la douceur Daller l-bas vivre ensemble! Aimer loisir, Aimer et mourir Au pays qui te ressemble! Les soleils mouills De ces ciels brouills Pour mon esprit ont les charmes Si mystrieux De tes tratres yeux, Brillant travers leurs larmes. L, tout nest qu'ordre et beaut, Luxe, calme et volupt. Des meubles luisants, Polis par les ans, Dcoreraient notre chambre; Les plus rares fleurs Mlant leurs odeurs Aux vagues senteurs de l'ambre, Les riches plafonds, Les miroirs profonds, La splendeur orientale, Tout y parlerait l'me en secret Sa douce langue natale. L, tout nest quordre et beaut, Luxe, calme et volupt. Vois sur ces canaux Dormir ces vaisseaux Dont lhumeur est vagabonde; C'est pour assouvir Ton moindre dsir Qu'ils viennent du bout du monde. Think, would it not be Sweet to live with me All alone, my child, my love? Sleep together, share All things, in that fair Country you remind me of? Charming in the dawn There, the half-withdrawn Drenched, mysterious sun appears In the curdled skies, Treacherous as your eyes Shining from behind their tears. There, restraint and order bless Luxury and voluptuousness. We should have a room Never out of bloom: Tables polished by the palm Of the vanished hours Should reflect rare flowers In that amber-scented calm; Ceilings richly wrought, Mirrors deep as thought, Walls with eastern splendour hung, All should speak apart To the homesick heart In its own dear native tongue. There, restraint and order bless Luxury and voluptuousness. See, their voyage past, To their moorings fast, On the still canals asleep, These big ships; to bring You some trifling thing They have braved the furious deep.
86  Les canaux, la ville entire, Dhyacinthe et dor; Le monde sendort Dans une chaude lumire. L, tout nest quordre et beaut, Luxe, calme et volupt. Field, canal, all things in sight, Hyacinth and gold; All that we behold Slumbers in its ruddy light. There, restraint and order bless Luxury and voluptuousness.
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