Close Up

13 November - 4 December 2017: Close-Up Film Course: Surrealism and Cinema from Luis Buñuel to David Lynch


Surrealism is one of the art movements that has had the strongest influence on cinema and its impact has lasted to the present day. Emerging at the beginning of the 20th century when cinema was still in its infancy, its focus on dreams and the unconscious made it particularly apt to help shape the new art of moving images. Rejecting a rational approach to the world, the Surrealists led by André Breton sought to free mankind from artistic as well as moral and social conventions, liberating imagination to reveal the deeper connections between dream and reality. Their revolutionary artistic techniques had a political dimension and aimed at shaking up the established order in the widest sense. Central to this art of revolt were themes of violence and desire, their subversive intensity deployed to shock audiences out of their complacent worldviews.

This course will introduce the influence of Surrealism on cinema from the beginnings of the movement through to 1960s psychedelia and experimentation, up until its more recent incarnation in the films of Guy Maddin and David Lynch

Week 1 – The Beginnings of Surrealist cinema
Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí’s Un chien andalou (1929) and L’âge d’or (1930), Germaine Dulac’s The Seashell and the Clergyman (1928), Jean Cocteau’s The Blood of a Poet (1931)

Week 2 – 1960s-70s Surrealism
Georges Franju, Jean Rollin, Walerian Borowczyk. Surrealism and psychedelia in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973)
Week 3 – Eastern European Surrealism
Jaromil Jireš’s Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970), Karel Zeman’s The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (1962), Věra Chytilová’s Daisies (1966), Jan Němec’s The Party and the Guests (1966)

Week 4 – Contemporary Surrealism
David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, Guy Maddin, Jan Švankmajer

Virginie Sélavy is the founder and editor of Electric Sheep, the online magazine for transgressive cinema, and the co-director of The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies – London. She has edited the collection of essays The End: An Electric Sheep Anthology, and has written a chapter for Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema of Jean Rollin and contributed to World Directory Cinema: Eastern Europe and Film Locations: Cities of the Imagination – London. Her work has appeared in various publications, including Sight & Sound, Rolling Stone France, Cineaste and Frieze. She gives sessional lectures at Ravensbourne as well as regular papers and presentations on topics ranging from sado-masochism in cinema and women exploitation directors to Michael Reeves, sorcery and the counterculture.

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