Other than the works of Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine, Being John Malkovitch ect…) are there really any other good surrealist films in modern cinema?
Because I’m in a rush, I won’t my usual formatting.
La Moustache (2005)
Songs from the Second Floor (2000)
You, the Living (2007)
La Antena (2007)
The Cell (2000)
The Fall (2008)
The Science of Sleep
Taste of Tea
Is Big Fish Surreal of Fantasy? Where do we draw the line?
Aren’t all movies surreal?
I know that this post has just started and I’m glad that most of the films listed appear to be genuinely Surrealist. But, to often, that artistic label is applied to anything that’s “weird,” “out of the ordinary,” nightmarish, or dreamlike. I once read an article that said that Robin Williams and Steve Martin were Surrealists!
Obviously, Surrealism has a very precise history in painting, sculpture, poetry, and other art forms, as well as cinema. But the term can be overused. Andre Breton, the author of the Surrealist Manifesto (1924), was still alive when LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD premiered and he said that as long as he lived MARIENBAD should not be called surrealist. He died 5 years later, but I don’t think MARIENBAD is surrealist.
To get down to cases, probably the chief American exponent of Surrealism is David Lynch.I think there are enough narrative and stylistic elements in most of his films to qualify him as an “real surrealist.”
anybody that would call “marienbad” surrealist doesnt really know what the term means.
I’d put David Lynch in that category. (But I like Kaufman better.)
The line is vague, but I think there’s definitely one to be drawn.
Fantasy is a very broad term, but I think “fantasy” generally posits an alternate world where some of the physical laws, or at least the history, is markedly different from our own. It’s not our world, but it’s cohesive. Lord of the Rings and Willow are great examples, because any magical power demonstrates an alternative to standard terrestrial physical laws.
In surrealism, on the other hand, the world of the story isn’t cohesive… there are no consistent internal laws established to be followed. One person can occupy two different bodies, or can appear in two places at once; objects lose their literal meaning and become purely conceptual or metaphorical. Landforms float; clocks melt; bodies fold in on themselves. Surrealism is about creating a rupture in the consistency of OUR world, and it does this to expose the psychological mechanisms we use to understand our reality.
Lynch and Kaufman are true surrealists, questioning our basic assumptions about continuity and cohesion of the outside world. I think Big Fish only counts if you read it as an actual portrayal of the father’s life, rather than reading it as his fictional account. If there’s a clear explanation (i.e. the events take place in a character’s imagination, but that character lives in a well-behaved reality), I wouldn’t call it surrealism.
How about Samuel Beckett’s short film, entitled “Film,” with Buster Keaton? http://www.youtube.com./watch?v=nILNz3qNZr8
Fellini has his own sort of brand of surrealism, and Neil Jordan borrowed from that for his excellent Breakfast on Pluto, which I just saw.
Those 4 would qualify as surreal right?
Films by Luis Bunuel
Un chien andalou
El ángel exterminador
Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie
Le fantôme de la liberté
Sorry, these are not “modern” at all…
I think they’re surreal, Berjuan.
Hmmm… I delayed on posting my reply & thus it looks a bit Johnny Come Lately (there was only the OP showing when I wrote it … honest!)
But unless I missed it, no mention of Terry Gilliam.
I would say a lot of the aforementioned films are rooted more in magical realism than in surrealism – Naked Lunch, Gozu, Taste of Tea, Eternal Sunshine, and the works of David Lynch are some examples. Un Chien Andalou is closer to what I always understood surrealistim to be. I wouldn’t classify Last Year at Marienbad as either one, personally – it’s unique among films in that way – not an easy one to put a label on anyway.
@ Susan M: In 1925, Franz Roh coined the term “magic realism” (magischer Realismus in German) to a group of neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) painters. That New Objectivity style also developed in German cinema.
But “magic realism” has generally been applied to Spanish and South American literary works. I imagine that the recent PAN’S LABYRINTH would be a good example, but I would hesitate to call that film surrealist.
Obviously, there’s a fine line between the two styles, but I don’t see the “magic” in Lynch’s work. I see straight surrealism.
@ Frank P. Tomasulo: Thank you – I understand your point of view, and I am familiar with the term’s origins – both in literature and the visual arts. In fact, my introduction to magic realism was through Latin American literature. Though the term originated there, it has since been used in reference to works by writers from all other areas of the globe – Gogol, Kawabata, Kafka, Rushdie, Grass. In any case, the term is used to describe works in which magical or fantastical elements enter into an otherwise “normal” or realistic narrative.
Earlier in 1925 as you mentioned, F. Roh used the term to refer to works in the visual art form that illustrate pedestrian subject matter in a kind of hyper-realistic way to reveal a “hidden interior” – a reversal of the literary concept. Since then however, the term has been used in reference to works that are based in reality but are infused with fantastic elements and overtones. With the exception of John Stuart Ingle’s paintings, the term is presently used to describe visual works more similar to the literary concept of incorporating fantastic elements into realistic settings.
I’m not an expert in either literature or the visual arts, which is why I was careful to say that I differentiate these films based only on my understanding of these terms. I think the term “surrealism” as applied to the visual arts, is often applied too broadly. From what I’ve studied and observed about surrealism, is that as a visual expression, it is a more direct depiction of the subconscious – without thought narrative elements i.e. linearity, chronology, character development, and so on. There is a very random and nonsensical quality to surrealist works. This is the reason I hesitate to use it in reference to Lynch’s works, because although they delve deeply into the subconscious and have strong dreamlike ( or more nightmarish, probably) elements, they still follow a coherent and cohesive narrative -
unlike Un Chien Andalou.
But yes, I agree that Pan’s Labyrinth would qualify as a very good example of tradtional magic realism cir.1960 in both its form and its Spanish origin.
theres a difference between the terms “surreal” and “surrealism/surrealist”. i think we can use the first very broadly, but the second with great moderation.
“The Man Who Wasn’t There” (2001) would seem to fit.
Slipstream – Anthony Hopkins
the term “modern” is also being (mis)used/interpreted here (or at least it needs to be put into context) do you in fact mean in “contemporary” cinema (as your reference to Kaufman/Jonze suggests)?
anyways … i venture to put forth Raoul Ruiz as one of the important practitioners of “surrealism” in cinema, and he has been for decades (although he is not comfortable with being labeled a “surrealist” filmmaker, he has stated his interest and application of the surrealist ‘automatism’ technique as a means of “examining different levels of consciousness” in his films) …