Anemic Cinema (1926)

Duchamp used the initial payment on his inheritance to make Anemic Cinema and to go into the art business (Calvin Tomkins). The film was shot in Man Ray's studio with the help of cinematographer Marc Allégret. Various versions were made in 1920, 1923 and eventually in 1926.
This is the only film directed by French artist Marcel Duchamp, whose name is associated with the Dada and Surrealism movements. As with similar avantgarde works made by Man Ray, Hans Richter or Fernand Léger, there's no plot, only moving shapes and objects, in an attempt to deny the vision of art as contemplation and ecstasy. This characteristically dada film by Marcel Duchamp consists of a series of visual and verbal puns with nonsense phrases inscribed around rotating spiral patterns, creating an almost hypnotic effect; an exploration of wordplay intermixed with optical illusions.

A spiral design spins dizzily. It's replaced by a spinning disk. These two continue in perfect alternation until the end: a spiral design, a disk. Each disk is labelled and can be read as it rotates. The messages, in French, feature puns and whimsical rhymes and alliteration. The final message comments on the spiral motif itself.
The spinning wheel is a recurring theme/movement in Duchamp's works: Bicycle Wheel (1913), Nude Descending a Staircase (1912) and his Rotorelief (1935).
Duchamp explains that he enjoyed watching the wheel spinning. Thus, we can guess this short film is a moment of ectasy or spiritual meditation.

1 comment:

Larry said...

FYI: the soundtrack for this film is incorrectly attributed to composer Donald Sosin. The music was actually composed by me. Find out more at