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Dali Dimension: Decoding the Mind of a Genius, The
It may not be much of a stretch (no pun intended) to see the connections between Salvador Dali's melting watches, morphing bodies and other dreamscapes and Sigmund Freud's theory of the unconscious. Dali's early work especially seems to be at times a painterly examination of the nooks and crannies of the realities we experience when we sleep. What The Dali Dimension makes abundantly clear, however, is that the Freud-Dali connection is but the tip of the camembert cheese, as it were; Dali spent a lifetime fascinated by emerging scientific discoveries, whether they be psychological, as in Freud's case, or physical, as in the theories of Einstein. This extremely engaging documentary makes a cogent effort to prove that the sometimes baffling world of Dali's paintings actually is not as random as it may first appear, and that it literally illustrates many ground shaking scientific advances of the 20th century.
Surrealism, the movement with which Dali is most associated (whether rightly or wrongly I'll leave to the art historians among you), might be seen as the artistic response to the horrors of World War I and its rapidly dehumanizing industrial aftermath. Dali joined the movement in the late 20s and quickly became its most flamboyant spokesman, as well as contributing some of the movement's most lasting images. Looking at Dali's painting over the course of his lifetime, however, one could almost make the argument that he was a suprarealist--the accuracy of his representational segments is astounding, something worthy of the great Renaissance masters. What sets Dali apart, obviously, is the juxtaposition of these more realistic elements with other visual non sequiturs, setting up a dialectic which can trip up the conscious mind and help unlock the vast subterranean reaches of the unconscious.
The Dali Dimension goes into fascinating detail showing Dali's lifelong interest in all of the physical sciences (there's a great archival photo showing Dali holding one of the early magazines popularizing scientific exploits), and indeed contains abundant archival footage of Dali himself waxing poetic on various scientific matters. Did you know, for example, that Dali actually met Freud? Dali's recounting of the meeting is one of the comedic highlights of the film. But beyond that, Dali's inquiring mind was not just titillated by some of the scientific advances, specifically sub-atomic particle physics (which are depicted in some of his "atomizing" faces of the 1950s), but was also strangely prescient, as in his famous juxtaposition of the crucified Jesus on the geometric form known as the hypercube. The scientist who built the first model of the hypercube got to meet Dali and makes no bones about Dali's perhaps self-important claim that the artist had been a prophet, painting the image years before the model was built. The film shows how even something relatively routine like Dali's signature was influenced by a stroboscopic film of milk splattering.
If there's one shortcoming to the film, it's this very self-aggrandizement on the part of Dali, something which ultimately set him at odds with his Surrealist kin. But personally I found it kind of charming in a "roll your eyes" kind of way--what other artist is so supremely confident and weirdly articulate (though very heavily accented in English) about everything from the poetry of nuclear holocaust (no, I'm not kidding) to the vagaries of psychoanalysis? This far-reaching genius of Dali is what sets his artistic efforts apart from the pack, and what also makes this documentary a very illuminating and thought-provoking effort.
Plus, when was the last time you got to hear a sentence like "the cheese has a future and past" intoned solemnly in a documentary? It's become my new surrealist creed.
Generally The Dali Dimension provides an above average full frame image with solid colors and good detail in the contemporary interview segments. No surprise, but some of the archival footage is degraded, with abundant grain, faded colors and/or poor contrast, and other damage. The video presentation does offer some really neat color interpolations of the actual pieces of art onto what were originally black and white photographs.
The standard stereo soundtrack is an aural equivalent to the imagery--fine for the contemporary segments, sometimes slightly degraded in the archival ones. Dali's accent is extremely hard to decipher at times--luckily there are subtitles. The film is available in either English, Spanish or French, with English subtitles.
A host of really interesting extras supplement this disc. Five featurettes offer interviews with various collaborators and friends of Dali, focusing on Dali's Library, The Origin of Life, Holography, Antimatter and the Hypercube.
The Dali Dimension is one of the most consistently thought-provoking pieces I've had the pleasure to watch recently. Part art history, part scientific treatise, part philosophy lesson, it's a fascinating amalgam that properly mirrors its subject's many-tiered intellect. Highly recommended.
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet