Michael Löwy
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Savage art
Michel Zimbacca’s L’Invention du monde
in Surrealism and film after 1945
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L’Invention du monde is one of the most important surrealist documentary films. Produced in 1952 by Michel Zimbacca, with the help of Jean-Louis Bédouin, it presented views of the ‘savage arts’ – objects, dances, music – with a commentary by the poet Benjamin Péret; all three were active members of the Parisian Surrealist Group. For the surrealists, the magic relation to nature and the intensity of the marvellous were essential components of ‘savage’ culture and artefacts, in opposition to the oppressive capitalist and mercantile modern Western civilisation. Their interest in savage art is therefore directly linked to their anti-colonialist commitment. L’Invention du monde shows artefacts from the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Oceania, taken from the exhibits of the Musée de L'Homme (Paris), or from private collections, such as those of André Breton and Claude Lévi-Strauss, but also uses photos from museums around the world, as well as a few cuts from ethnographic films. The documentary is not an ethnographic film, but a poetical composition, based on a strong belief in the universality of human spirit, drawing on the infinite resources of the unconscious (in the Freudian meaning).

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Surrealism and film after 1945

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