Le Retour à la raison (1923)

Emmanuel Radnitsky (in art Man Ray) taught himself photography in order to reproduce his own works of art, which included paintings and mixed media. In 1921 he began to make photograms, which he called "Rayographs" (an object is placed between a light source and photo-sensitive film, in contrast to traditional photography where photographic film captures light reflected off an object). In the 1920s, he also began making moving pictures. He was disappointed that he was recognized only for his photography and not for the filmmaking, painting, sculpture and other media in which he worked.

Le Retour à la raison (Return to Reason, 1923) is one of the first Dada movies: it consists of various animated textures, Rayographs and the torso of Kiki of Montparnasse (Alice Prin), illuminated in striped light. For Le Retour à la raison, Man Ray sought to extend the rayograph technique to a moving image. He sprinkled salt and pepper on one piece of film, pins on another, illuminated the film for a few seconds, then developed the film. Man Ray added additional sequences to make the film of sufficient length to have an impact.
It also features a small segment of his work Danger.
This short film is a highly creative, non-narrative exploration of the possibilities of the cinema medium: the emphasis is, in fact, on playing with the possibility of representing light, shape and movement on film.
You can buy Photographs by Man Ray: 105 Works, 1920-1934, Man Ray (Artists of the 20th Century) and Unseen Cinema - Early American Avant Garde Film 1894-1941.

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