Man Ray

Scen.: Man Ray. Int.: Kiki de Montparnasse. DCP. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

In 1923, Man Ray improvises his first film. This movie, boldly surrealist, is called Le Retour à la raison. Subsequently, he renews the experience with Emak Bakia in 1926, L’Étoile de mer in 1928 and Les Mystères du château de Dé in 1929.
In 2023, Jim Jarmusch and Carter Logan, the founding members of the group Sqürl, compose a soundtrack to the four films as if they were forming one unique piece.
Return to Reason celebrates the 100th anniversary of Man Ray’s cinematic œuvre, restored for the first time in 4K. It reveals the unique dialogue between two multitalented artists, and creates an undefinable object, a piece of visual music that resonates through its modernity and poetry.
“We feel very proud to be Man Ray’s backup band. I think ultimately what we’re trying to do, and what Man Ray did, was create a sort of ecstatic state. A place that exists in a little space between consciousness and unconsciousness, between dream and wakefulness, and between reality and the surreal world.” (Jim Jarmusch)

Le Retour à la raison deconstructs cinema in all its aspects. On the one hand, Man Ray emphasises the fragment, or series of fragments, denying any sense of unifying wholeness (independently of the principle of unity: story, theme, style). He explains his choices in a piece published in “Close Up” in 1927: “You can appreciate the abstract beauty of a classical work much better through a fragment than the whole; in a similar fashion, this film attempts to reveal the essential elements of contemporary cinema”. However, the film also negates the fundamental components of the medium itself: its material base and the use of light. Instead of filming, we have the “rayogram”, a direct printing/impression on the negative; there is no division between individual frames, but rather a violation of the tiny gaps that are normally rendered invisible during projection, and there is a deliberate lack of respect for the chemical nature of the celluloid base. Moreover, movement is not recorded but deliberately constructed, and the traditional boundaries of the representation of space and objects are overturned (high/ low, the tidy organisation of the frame, proportionality, perpendicular framing, and a prism-effect that duplicates the same shot in a single image). Similar violations are also applied to the treatment of time (repetition) and the notion that the various elements should be coherently linked (heterogeneity of the successive images).

François Albera, Avanguardie, Il Castoro, Milan 2004

Produced by Womanray and Cinenovo. Films directed by Man Ray restored with the support of Cineteca di Bologna and La Cinémathèque française at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory. Music composed and performed by Sqürl (Jim Jarmusch and Carter Logan). Elements held by La Cinémathèque française, Centre Pompidou, Library of Congress