The Best Movie About African Art is still today “Les Statues Meurent Aussi”
If you haven't seen it yet the movie “Les Statues Meurent Aussi” from 1953 was directed by Alain Resnais & Chris Marker, banned in France for fifteen years.
Here is how it begins, the words spoken over darkness: “When men die, they enter history. When statues die, they enter art. This botany of death is what we call culture.” And then, as if to prove his point, the film’s image lights up to show us the ruins of a few outdoor sculptures, speckled with sunlight and wizened by age and corrosion—strange botanical specimens.
What follows, over a striking montage of indoor specimens and some of their strolling museum spectators (first white ones, then a single black woman), is a kind of existential poetics of both art and history: “An object dies when the living glance trained upon it disappears. And when we disappear, our objects will be confined to the place where we send black things: to the museum.” Alain Resnais’s Eisensteinian editing meanwhile peaks as an accelerating succession of graphic images reaches a gorgeous crescendo and epiphany in a cut to the head of an African swimmer rising from underwater to the surface of a river. […]
This gradually turns into a remarkable duet between Marker’s literary fervor and a detailed as well as despairing political vision—a combination of speculative art history, precise journalism, and a grim meditation on the various places and functions Africa and its separate cultures have assumed within white civilization—and Resnais’s musically and rhythmically orchestrated illustration of and counterpoint to this extraordinary text. Both of these strains can be said to embody, empower, and enhance as well as accompany the other, but it would be pointless to try to synopsize either Marker’s multifaceted argument or Resnais’s elaborately composed and articulated assembly of images, much less attempt to describe how effectively they complement one another. It appears that this film took years to put together, but it moves with a fluency and directness that is never labored.
To read more about the movie click here
The movie include African Art objects from the collections of Gaston Durville, Jacob Epstein, William B. Fagg, René Gaffé, René Rasmussen, Madeleine Rousseau, etc .. ( see http://amzn.to/2f2BtX1 )
These days, you can watch it on YouTube, including English subtitles (turn on the captions).
Looking back, this still is a formidable film today, that became anti-colonialist and anti-racist but also also denigrates the commercialization of African art and it's western appropriation :
NOTE: Click CC button to add English subtitles. Go to properties to change font size.
A printed catalog from an exhibition in 2010 in La Monnaie de Paris La Monnaie de Paris. The catalogue provides the complete and systematic inventory of the 135 artworks filmed by Alain Renais and Chris Marker in 1935 in major private and museum collections. Several reflection texts about the scope of the movie and the context of realization accompanies this large inventory. with objects from this movie can be bought on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2f2BtX1 “Ode au Grand Art Africain: Les Statues meurent aussi”
More books I liked here: http://users.telenet.be/african-shop/amazon_store.htm
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