Thursday, June 15, 2006


Dunno if you have any sorta affinity for the old time avant-garde and/or underground films that used to make such a splash in the sixties to the point where I can even remember Alan King and Paul Lynde (as a Warhol-inspired filmmaker showing a flick of a soft-boiled egg) making sport of 'em on some tee-vee comedy/variety series, but I gotta say that I've had an interest in the stuff ever since my obsessions got the best of me around the time I was about fifteen. However, I can't say that I've seen a film of the "underground" variety like DREAMS THAT MONEY CAN BUY...true it's directed by longtime avant garde father figure Hans Richter and it features segments from everyone from Ferdinand Leger to Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp (with John Cage musical backing!), but in many (most?) ways this one resembles a low-budget (albeit in color) late-forties attempt to get an underground film into the urban theatre market. From what looks like a poverty even on Poverty Row company (I mean, who were "Films International of America" anyway?) backing this feature (77 whole minutes!) to the typical zilch-style acting, DREAMS THAT MONEY CAN BUY comes off like some of the greatest experimental minds of the early/mid-twentieth century somehow trying to cash in their artistic chips trying to get a film out and rake in something for all their surrealistic efforts. After all, you can't eat accolades. I wonder if 1) this film was ever released to the general public and if 2) it made any sorta impact amongst whoever might have seen it because there's a certain smarm to this 'un that reminds me of those "Adults Only" films of the same stratum, only without the seaminess or general gratuity (albeit a bitta boobs in the Duchamp segment which probably meant it certainly wouldn't play Pennsylvania given their stringent censorship board!).

You could call DREAMS THAT MONEY CAN BUY an ingenious collaboration although I'd be lying to you if I didn't say that certain parts tended to bore the living daylights outta me. The segment with mannequins "directed" by Leger was way too artsy-cutesy for my digestion (if you will, think of a filmed variation on the same frilliness that went into those early Warhol shoe graphics) while the part featuring the Alexander Calder mobiles whirling in light/shadow play came off more or less like something outta some classroom film they used to show us when we were kids. Even the Man Ray one was a bit obtuse. But heavens-to-Betsy if I didn't groove to the Duchamp contribution (basically a remake of his ANEMIC CINEMA) complete with a nude descending a staircase and John Cage playing a prepared piano that sounds more or less like a gamelan, which I think was the point of Cage inventing it in the first place anyway! And yeah, it's interesting seeing these artistic segs framed by what looks more or less like a z-movie dealing with a man who people pay to look into their dreams, complete with the beautiful skirt and the tough guy gangster even though there's a strange combination of artistic pretense and cheesiness that keeps me from liking this any more than I do. In all, DREAMS THAT MONEY CAN BUY recollects a lotta the early talkie-period avant garde features from THE BLOOD OF A POET to ECSTASY, and maybe this one will grow on me to the point where I could enjoy it as much as I do those other now-classic flickers of some importance. But for today, I'd rather just look at Richter's debut film exercise RHYTHMUS 21 which is much shorter and to the point, and if you tuned in earlier you could have actually seen the film via Youtube, who have since yanked if from their site so tuff turds.

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