Wednesday, March 14, 2012

L'étoile de Mer - 1928

Country: France
Director: Man Ray
Writer: Robert Desnos (poem)
Stars: Kiki of Montparnasse, André de la Rivière and Robert Desnos
Also Known As: Estrela do Mar (Portugal), Gwiazda morska (Poland), The Starfish (International - English title)
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Plot Keywords: Avant Garde | Experimental Film
Genres: Short
Two people stand on a road, out of focus. Seen distorted through a glass, they retire upstairs to a bedroom where she undresses. He says, "Adieu." Images: the beautiful girl, a starfish in a jar, city scenes, newspapers, tugboats. More images: starfish, the girl. "How beautiful she is." Repeatedly. He advances up the stair, knife in hand, starfish on the step. Three people stand on a road, out of focus. "How beautiful she was." "How beautiful she is."  
"L'Étoile de mer" is a classic piece of Surrealist cinema from the 1920's starring the adorable and timeless Kiki of Montparnasse, and also featuring the divine Robert Desnos. A lovely Surrealist poem written by Desnos accompanies the film, eloquently juxtaposing the images.
A great deal of the sequences are shot through a pane of glass, giving the film a diffuse, dreamy quality, although there are also many stunning shots in sharp focus. The uncanny motif of the starfish is the primary piece of Surrealist iconography, which reoccurs at several junctures, including a beautiful close-up that captures the sea creature's graceful delicacy in locomotion and its multitude of tiny pedicellariae.
Unlike the more striking and barbaric imagery of "Un Chien Andalou", another famous Surrealist short film produced in the same year by Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel, this film is more lyrical and sensuous, evoking with a sense of innate desire and mystery, the concept of the marvelous outlined by André Breton in the Surrealist Manifesto of 1924.
Kiki of Montparnasse superbly portrays the primeval Surrealist muse and heroine, unashamedly stripping off her clothes in one scene, peering nefariously over the edge of a newspaper in another, and slowly climbing a staircase brandishing a long shimmering dagger in one of the penultimate scenes.
This film was way ahead of its time, anticipating stylistic and thematic currents that weren't fully developed until the latter half of the 20th century such as narrative discontinuity, jump cuts, the femme fatale and the dream sequence. A must see for all cinéastes and lovers of the Surreal.

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