Friday, March 18, 2011

Joe's One Stop Dream Shop

Dreams That Money Can Buy(1947)
Directed By Hans Ricther
Painter and film theorist Hans Richter and some of his friends in the old time surreal avant-garde gang; Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Max Ernst, decide to get together and direct a surprisingly accessible (for these guys this is "Oceans 11"), film about a man who sets up a business selling dreams to people, who cant have any of their own.
After all, as our narrator Joe informs us, "If you can look inside yourself, other people shouldn't be any problem".
Assorted characters come into the Dream shop, a gangster, a repressed banker, an overzealous pamphleteer, a blind man, a bored housewife, etc, and all are given dreams, each one directed by a different surrealist; Ernst, Duchamp, Ray, etc.
Which alternately, delight, offend, disturb, and annoy there patrons.
In that respect it's a little like an anthology film, with each dream, a story in the story, the best of which is a satire of conventional 1940's relationships, staring two mannequins who fall in love and get married.
It's a surprisingly charming and funny little feminist music video (I want the song from this sequence!).
Though the rest of the music is handled by experimental composer John Cage, who gives the film both a traditional comedic tone and one of ambiguous minimal drones and squeaks.
The narrative of the framing tale, that is the story of Joe, owner and dream weaver of the business, is also distinct in that, none of the characters mouths move, and when dialog does take place on screen it comes as voice over, usually with one characters monologues followed by the others.
Most of these are spoken in a kind of Beat style rhyming (this is also a decade before any of the big Beat writers Keroac, Ginsberg, etc, start publishing.).
Though this rhyming can take a minute to adjust to, it gives the film a much needed sense of rhythm and continuity, as a good framing story should.
If you like early avant-garde films or the artists involved, this is an absolute must see, but if your also just interested in early comic fantasy, stories about dreams, poetry, or just watching something visually different, that doesn't just dismiss narrative as a nuisance, it's worth the price of admission.
Few films see the relationship of dream, cinema, and audience this clearly or eerily, but don't take my word for it...

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