Fifth Avenue Surrealism

In 1941, as the world was unraveling with war on every continent, the Fifth Avenue Playhouse (66 Fifth Ave., now the Parsons School of Design Gallery), presented the first New York Surrealist and Fantastic Film Festival.

The theater was one of the premier art houses in Greenwich Village for many decades. A small venue, only 273 seats, it was an anchor on a stretch of Fifth that included the historic vintage bookshop Dauber and Pine.

 

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“In presenting this Surrealistic and Fantastic Film Festival,” wrote the managing directors of the Playhouse, “we don’t expect to revolutionize the motion picture industry. Nor do we expect that Cocteau and Man Ray will have the same appeal as Gable and Boyer. Indeed many movie goers will probably be frightened by the title of this series. It is not intended to conjure nightmares. We offer it merely to whet the jaded film appetite …

“The surrealistic, abstract or fantastic film is designed purposely to disturb and shock one’s balance. Surrealism attempts, we are told, ‘to discover and explore the more real than the real world behind the real.’ In surrealist film it is never the plot that receives attention but rather the wealth of innuendo which accompanies each action and which forms an emotional pattern far richer than the usual straight story …

“We would not be the least perturbed if our audience feels inclined to engage in verbal and even pitched battles. Some purpose will then have been accomplished. For these pictures will either release your inhibitions, phobias and frustrations, or you will emerge with an entirely new set of complexes.”

 

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One thought on “Fifth Avenue Surrealism

  1. David Leopold

    13 years later they commissioned Al Hirschfeld to create a mural of popular film stars. He dew his iconic work, The Movies which included silent stars through Gina Lollabridga and Alec Guinness. You can see the work here: http://www.alhirschfeldfoundation.org/piece/1954-movies#result_info_6743 They often used a detail of the mural on their programs. The original drawing was acquired by the Whitney, and it was later published as a limited edition etching by George J. Goodstadt.

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