26th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival
Translucent Being: Man Ray
Man Ray: A Film Painter
The American artist Emmanuel Radnitsky (1890–1976) is better known by his pseudonym Man Ray. A multifaceted artist and a key figure of the interwar avant-garde, Ray was born into a family of Russian Jewish immigrants and spent his childhood in Brooklyn. While at high school, he received a scholarship to study architecture, but he decided instead to follow his dream of being an artist and subsequently worked a series of different jobs. Eventually, he studied fine art, thus gradually gaining access to artistic circles and discovering the European avant-garde. He began to photograph around 1914 and soon held his first exhibition. Thus began his definitive inclusion into the world of art, where one important experience was his meeting with Marcel Duchamp. Ray used new techniques to create original works of art. From 1921 to 1940, he lived in France, where he created most of his films. He was long known primarily as a Dadaist, a leading member of the Surrealist group, and the creator of four films. Between 1985 and 1996, however, several other films of his were discovered. Although none of them were intended for public viewing, they have helped to expand our understanding of Man Ray’s approach to film. Of special note are his visual sketches of his works of art, such as Autoportrait ou Ce qui manque à nous tous. For some of the films, it is difficult to ascertain their authorship with absolute certainty, and so we can only guess that they are the work of Man Ray. Even so, they are a valuable witness of the avant-garde of the 1920s. The reason for Man Ray’s departure from film at the turn of the 1920s and 1930s was not the emergence of sound but the increasing dependence on outside financing for filmmaking, his resistance to the collective viewing of films, and (as he himself admitted) the fact that he actually did not like moving images.