From Max Ernst’s collage to Jean Desvilles’ cut-out animation
Transposing Une semaine de bonté to film
in Surrealism and film after 1945
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A few years before Lawrence Jordan’s cut-out animations, Jean Desvilles made a film in 1961 animating Max Ernst’s surrealist collage novel, Une semaine de bonté, published in 1934. The essence of animated film being movement, transferring and adapting a book to film necessarily involves a redefinition of collage. Desville’s process is indeed not just an adaptation, but a genuine transposition. For instance, while Ernst endeavoured to erase all traces of the collage process, Desvilles detached the figures from the background when animating them. Far from obliterating Ernst’s efforts and the collage process itself, Desvilles renewed Ernst’s collages with cut-out paper animation, but also with other film techniques, such as a flickering effect within the frames hung on the walls as in Ernst’s original work, a vibrating effect for the figures, and figures superimposed over figures. From collage to cut- out, several problems arise as to how Desvilles’ movie is to be understood in the context of post-1945 surrealist film. Far from being unfaithful to Ernst, this frame-by-frame cut-out animation is a way of showing Ernst’s work on screen rather than in a book, a film as an exhibition, and a kind of film on art.

Surrealism and film after 1945

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