“Experimental feature color film written, produced, and directed by surrealist artist and dada film-theorist Hans Richter. Shot for $25,000 in a Manhattan loft, it opened in New York in March 1947, and went on to win the Venice Film Festival Award for the best original contribution to the progress of cinematography.
Collaborators included Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Alexander Calder, Darius Milhaud and Fernand Léger. The film won the Award for the Best Original Contribution to the Progress of Cinematography at the 1947 Venice Film Festival.
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Joe/Narcissus (Jack Bittner) is an ordinary man who has recently signed a complicated lease on a room. As he wonders how to pay the rent, he discovers that he can see the contents of his mind unfolding whilst looking into his eyes in the mirror. He realises that he can apply his gift to others (“If you can look inside yourself, you can look inside anyone!”), and sets up a business in his room, selling tailor-made dreams to a variety of frustrated and neurotic clients. Each of the seven surreal dream sequences in the diegesis is in fact the creation of a contemporary avant-garde and/or surrealist artist, as follows:
Desire: Max Ernst (Director/Writer)
The Girl with the Prefabricated Heart: Fernand Léger (Director/Writer)
Ruth, Roses and Revolvers: Man Ray (Director/Writer)
Discs: Marcel Duchamp (Writer)
Ballet: Alexander Calder (Director/Writer)
Circus: Alexander Calder (Writer)
Narcissus: Hans Richter (Director/Writer)
Joe’s waiting room is full within minutes of his first day of operation, “the first installment on the 2 billion clients” according to the male narrator in voiceover, whose voice is the only one we hear in the non-dream sequences.
Directed by: Hans Richter
Produced by: Kenneth MacPhersonHans Richter
Written by: Josh White, Man Ray (uncredited:”Ruth Roses and Revolvers”), Hans Rehfisch, Hans Richter, David Vern
Starring: Jack Bittner, Libby Holman, Josh White
Music by: Louis Applebaum (segment “Narcissus”), Paul Bowles (segments “Desire” and “Ballet”), John Cage (segment “Discs”), David Diamond (segment “Circus”), Darius Milhaud (segment “Ruth, Roses and Revolvers”)
Cinematography: Werner Brandes, Arnold Eagle, Peter Glushanok, Meyer Rosenblum, Herman Shulman, Victor Vicas”