An Existence of Nonsense - Surreal and Absurd Cinema - Thur. Aug. 7th - 8PM

Oddball Films presents An Existence of Nonsense - Surreal and Absurd Cinema with works by Man Ray, István Szabó, René Clair, Eugene Ionesco, Franz Kafka, Jan Lenica and Luis Buñuel. Realism is overrated and this program explores the magnitude of creative expression when freed from the constraints of rational and linear structures. Man Ray's surrealist classic L'Etoile de Mer (1928) captures the furtive, flirting moments of sexual desire, ever so dreamily obscured. István Szabó's A Dream About a House (1972) demonstrates the absurdities of war when contrasted with the consistencies of the familial unit. Rene Clair's Entr'acte (1924) disrupts all sense of reason through seemingly random juxtapositions that defy convention and construct new associations with familiar events and objects. Jan Lenica's hip animated reimagining of Ionesco's Rhinoceros (1965) paints an absurd picture of the dangers of conformity. Also from the mind of the great Eugene Ionesco, the bizarrely funny adaptation of The New Tenant (1975). And from Luis Buñuel, one of the forefathers of both surreal and absurd film, an excerpt of The Exterminating Angel (1962). For the early birds, a bleak adaptation of one of Franz Kafka's final works, A Hunger Artist (1984).  All this beautiful nonsense will be screened on 16mm film from the archive.

Date: Thursday, August 7th, 2014 at 8:00pm
Venue: Oddball Films, 275 Capp Street San Francisco
Admission: $10.00 Limited Seating RSVP to or (415) 558-8117


L’Etoile de Mer (B+W, 1928)
a.k.a. The Star of the Sea and The Starfish
Directed and written by Man Ray.
Based on a poem by Robert Desnos.

A classic of Surrealist cinema, Man Ray’s L’Etoile des Mer (Starfish) is a haunting, dreamlike ode to subconscious sexual desire, inspired by a poem from Robert Desnos and starring the iconic Kiki of Montparnasse.

"Some of the most complete and satisfying works of art have been produced when their authors had no idea of creating a work of art, but were concerned with the expression of an idea." - Man Ray.

"In the modernist high tide of 1920s experimental filmmaking, L’Etoile de Mer is a perverse moment of grace, a demonstration that the cinema went farther in its great silent decade than most filmmakers today could ever imagine. Surrealist photographer Man Ray’s film collides words with images (the intertitles are from an otherwise lost work by poet Robert Desnos) to make us psychological witnesses, voyeurs of a kind, to a sexual encounter. A character picks up a woman who is selling newspapers. She undresses for him, but then he seems to leave her. Less interested in her than in the weight she uses to keep her newspapers from blowing away, the man lovingly explores the perceptions generated by her paperweight, a starfish in a glass tube. As the man looks at the starfish, we become aware through his gaze of metaphors for cinema, and for vision itself, in lyrical shots of distorted perception that imply hallucinatory, almost masturbatory sexuality." - Donald Faulkner

A Dream About a House (Color, 1972)
Part of István Szabó's trilogy Budapest, Why I Love It, this bizarro poetic paean to his birth city starts out with a fish-eye travelogue of classic edifices before happening upon a strangely choreographed street scene. Time and space are compressed and the distinction between indoors and outdoors eradicated as assorted personages eat, sleep, marry, die, and chop wood, all out in the open. The camera pans and zooms fluidly to follow various figures, who not infrequently turn to wave back at us.

Entr’acte (B+W, 1924) 
This extraordinary early film from director René Clair was originally made to fill an interval between two acts of Francis Picabia’s new ballet, Relâche, at the Théâtre des Champs- Elysées in Paris in 1924. Entr’acte is a surrealistic concoction of unrelated images, reflecting Clair’s interest in Dada, a radical art form relying on experimentation and surreal expressionism. Clair’s imagery is both captivating and disturbing, giving life to inanimate objects (most notably the rifle range dummies), whilst attacking conventions, even the sobriety of a funeral march. The surrealist photographer Man Ray also puts in an appearance, in a film which curiously resembles his own experimental films of this era.

Rhinoceros (Color, 1965, Jan Lenica)
Filmmaker and multitalented artist Jan Lenica's checkered career has encompassed excursions into music, architecture, poster-making, costume design, children's book illustration, and all aspects of filmmaking. It is, however, for his animation that he is best known, particularly his collage and "cutout" films, which have their roots in the art of Max Ernst and John Heartfield. The films have influenced the work of Jan Švankmajer and Terry GilliamIn this film, Polish master Lenica utilizes cutouts creating an animated adaptation of Eugene Ionesco’s brilliant play about the oppressive and manipulative power of conformity.

The New Tenant (Color, 1975)
Based on the absurdist play by Eugene Ionesco, “The New Tenant” is an existential spectacle of terrifying simplicity about a man overwhelmed by his objects.  Wry and bizarrely funny, the lead character continues to clutter his empty apartment with more and more repetitive furniture until he is walled in and the whole city is awash in one man's belongings.

The Exterminating Angel (Excerpt, B+W, 1962) 
Luis Buñuel who is often considered the grandfather of absurdity constructed intricate and intense social and political critiques into some of the most absurd stories ever told on film. Perhaps best known for his experimental film “Un Chien Andalou” he made in collaboration with Salvador Dali, Buñuel adapted surrealist ideology and applied it to his narrative films. In “Exterminating Angel” a bourgeoisie group of people gets stuck in the living room of a mansion at a dinner party and cannot leave the room. The exit is right in front of them and there is nothing stopping them from leaving, but each time a person approaches the exit they forget what they were doing. Soon the whole city is in uproar about what to do as no one can figure out how to get out. After several melt downs, a herd of sheep and a plot to murder many of the party attendees they realize all they have to do is ‘retire’ for the evening and they can leave. Buñuel used the language of film as if they were dresses in a closet, trying them on at his fancy before going out.

For the Early Birds:

A Hunger Artist (B+W, 1984)
A hauntingly bleak adaptation of one of Franz Kafka's last works directed by John Strysk.  Josef is a hunger artist, once revered and rich until his craft of fasting fades from public favor and he is relegated to freak-show status; eventually withering away to death.  A stark depiction of the fickleness of fame and the transparency of humanity.

About Oddball Films
Oddball films is the film component of Oddball Film+Video, a stock footage company providing offbeat and unusual film footage for feature films like Milk, documentaries like The Summer of Love, television programs like Mythbusters, clips for Boing Boing and web projects around the world.

Our films are almost exclusively drawn from our collection of over 50,000 16mm prints of animation, commercials, educational films, feature films, movie trailers, medical, industrial military, news out-takes and every genre in between. We’re actively working to present rarely screened genres of cinema as well as avant-garde and ethno-cultural documentaries, which expand the boundaries of cinema. Oddball Films is the largest film archive in Northern California and one of the most unusual private collections in the US. We invite you to join us in our weekly offerings of offbeat cinema.