Visits and Portraits (1947, Alain Resnais)

Some of the earliest-listed Resnais shorts, a series of short portraits of different artists from the year before his Van Gogh, and three years before Gauguin and Guernica. I was surprised to come across these online. Not sure if they were released with no sound, but the copies I found were completely silent, with no music, no clever Marker or Cayrol or Queneau commentary, so I looked up info on each artist online.

(Mis)information: NY Times bio gets the dates wrong but claims these were indeed silent, Films de France says the 16 minute Hartung film is in color and runs 90 minutes (and is “passable entertainment”). Richard Neupert’s French New Wave book says these were made after Resnais dropped out of film school in 1945 and did his military service in 1946. “Resnais credited these shorts about painting as valuable testing ground for making still images come alive through editing and camera movement.”

Visite a Óscar Domínguez

Some time-lapse painting, and did I see a stop-motion statue?

Mid-Centuria: “Óscar Domínguez (1906-1957) was a Spanish Surrealist painter … During the 1940’s, his paintings were strongly influenced by Picasso with whom he had become friends while living in Paris.”

Visite A Hans Hartung

Groovy looking dissolves in this one.

Wiki: “Hans Hartung (1904-1989) was a German-French painter, known for his gestural abstract style.” The nazis tried to arrest him for being too cubist.

The artist (smoking, of course) scratching out a spiral:

Visite a Cesar Domela

Aha, an opening credit for commentary by A.F. Delmarle – so these were not originally silent. This one’s in rougher shape. Shows him using cutouts and tapping a paintbrush to get texture, sanding objects which will be affixed to the canvas, then last couple minutes is a showcase of finished(?) works.

Wiki: “César Domela (1900-1992) was a Dutch sculptor, painter, photographer, and typographer, and a key member of the De Stijl movement.”

Visite a Felix Labisse

No commentary credit here, just an opening Hegel quote then a long pan down two mighty collages. Works shown focus on naked women and birds, two of my favorite things, and are super awesome and disturbing, reminding me of Dali-meets-Woodring.

Wiki: “Félix Labisse (1905-1982) was a French Surrealist painter, illustrator, and designer.” IMDB says he has cinema experience, appearing in Zero for Conduct and a couple Henri Storck films.

Visite a Lucien Coutaud

Sci-fi landscapes, nudes and angular craziness.

M. Adair: “Lucien Coutaud (1905-1977) was a French surrealist painter and engraver … He had 40+ years success with his artwork which has varied widely from painting, drawing, print-making, costume designing and illustrating … Coutaud has also designed opera, theater and ballet sets.”

Portrait de Christine Boomeester

With piano music. Nice bit at the end showing her beginning a painting, lighting a candle, then a title card says “at dawn,” the candle has burned down and painting is complete.

Askart: “Christine Boomeester (1904-1971) was active/lived in Italy, Netherlands, France, Indonesia … known for abstract paintings.” She was also married to Henri Goetz.

Portrait de Henri Goetz

The big one, twice as long as the others. The usual slow zooms and pans across the paintings (even a spiraling zoom into one), but also more process exploration, showing progression of the artist over a few years, a series of drawings with each one inspired by details in the previous, and the month-long process of creating a new painting – which is burned at the end (can’t tell if it was a reproduction).

Wiki: “Henri Bernard Goetz (1909-1989) was a French American Surrealist painter and engraver. He is known for his artwork, as well as for inventing the carborundum printmaking process … Goetz showed the film to Gaston Diehl, leading Diehl to commission Resnais to create the film Van Gogh in the following year. Resnais went on to win an Academy Award in 1950 for the Best Short Subject, Two-reel film for Van Gogh.”

Mouseover to fill in the shapes:

All these were “presented by Andre Bazin,” co-founder of Cahiers du Cinema and mentor of the French New Wave, who rarely appeared in any film credits himself. Can’t find evidence that Henri-Georges Clouzot knew Resnais, or saw his art documentaries before making The Mystery of Picasso.

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