By Frank, Alison; Stanovnik, Jelena; Thomas, Ellen
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Additional info for Reframing reality : the aesthetics of the surrealist object in French and Czech cinema
41 Reframing Reality The close-up of blood-spotted cash offers an example of juxtaposition of objects within the frame. The camera initially draws attention to the banknotes and the drops of blood to fulfil a narrative goal: it clearly shows that Louis was completely wrong in his assumption that his old friend Émile would blackmail him. The object, a pile of banknotes, thus serves denotatively to move, via Émile’s blood, from Louis’ offer of material compensation that is rejected to Émile’s offer of friendship that is accepted.
A film such as Jean Renoir’s Elena et les hommes/Paris Does Strange Things (1956), by contrast, exemplifies the way in which objects later became entirely dependent on character for their significance. One object, a daisy, is emphasised as early as the film’s title sequence, but is meaningless except in relation to the charming princess; it is the characters who embody the themes in this film, and the object exists as a mere physical and semiotic accessory to the characters. À Nous la liberté was chosen for this study because objects in the film become hybrid not only as a result of a conjunction of historical and technological factors that influenced cinema’s development; Clair’s own aesthetic choices and expressive concerns also contribute to the creation of hybrid objects.
45 The surrealists would discover this conflict when they attempted to put their theories of automatic cinema and filmed dreams into practice. Although the surrealists were also excited by cinema’s ability, through montage, to bring together different realities, their attention to film form was again shaped by its usefulness to their own movement. As a result, the surrealists continued to believe that cinema would be a useful tool for exploring the unconscious, even when their practical experiments with film form suggested that this was not the case.