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Emak-Bakia Date: Tuesday 07 December, 2004
1926 Art / Fantasy Réalisation: Man Ray
Réalisation: Man Ray
Photo: Man Ray
Scénario: Man Ray
Distribution: Kiki of Montparnasse, Jacques Rigaut
Durée: 21 min; NB, muet
A series of unidentifiable black and white images, flashing flakes, dancing pins… A neon sign broadcasts the day’s news. Then, more unfathomable images, perhaps a corridor traversed in a state of drunken intoxication or half-sleep… The images become more abstract, more erratic, and finally we see a woman’s eye between a car’s headlights. The car is driving along country lanes and stops. The woman driver steps out, again, and again… At a party, the woman dances the Charleston… On a beach, the woman sunbathes… as fish swim in the water. More incomprehensible images, involving revolving objects, a dancing silhouette, and lights dancing in a black void. A woman awakens… And the reason for this extravagance? A man drives his car into town and enters a tailor’s shop. Discarded shirt collars are piled up. The man removes his own shirt collar. As it falls, it revolves and gradually becomes a formless white shape mingling with black space. A woman has garishly made-up eyes. But she is really asleep, and these are false eyes painted on her eyelids. She opens her eyes…
Of the small handful of films which the great surrealist artist Man Ray made in the 1920s, Emak-Bakia is arguably the one which adheres most closely to the principles of Dadaist surrealism. It is also perhaps the most baffling of Man Ray’s films, involving some of his most extraordinary abstract visual imagery, with far less recognisable images than his other films, such as L’Étoile de mer and Les Mystères du château de Dé. The film is in fact closer in style to Man Ray’s 1923 experimental short film, Le Retour à la raison, and uses some of the techniques which the artist invented for that film. The title “Emak-Bakia” was taken from an old Basque expression, which translates as "Don't bother me."
Whilst (as with most abstract works) the film’s interpretation is left mainly to its spectator, similarities with Man Ray’s other films can easily be divined. A recurrent theme in the artist’s films (and indeed surrealist art in general at that time) is the relationship between dreams and desire. Freudian notions about the subconscious shaping our conscious thoughts and acts can easily be discerned in much of surrealist art in the 1920s. It is no surprise that Man Ray’s films have the character of a hazy dream, with strong sexual undertones. Emak-Bakia could, for example, be interpreted as a woman dreaming about her own intimate desires, transposing her conscious sensual experiences into a chaotic, revolving morass of abstract thoughts. We see both of her worlds in this film, both inextricably intertwined and forever inter-dependent – the physical world of corporeal pleasures, and the inner world of her mind, which no man can ever hope to interpret.

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