The three best sections of 8x8, an omnibus art film, show Alexander Calder building his mobiles (out of wire and tin cans) and setting them in motion, drawing the viewer into a playful, dreamlike world that resembles a kinetic, three-dimensional Joan Miro painting; "The Self-Imposed Obstacle," a psychoanalytic piece in which a man playing chess is prevented from moving his knight by his obsession with a coat rack (when he finally manages to sweep it off the board, a naked woman appears. Naturally.); and finally, standing head and shoulders above the rest of the film, "The Middle Game," with Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning (Mrs. Ernst), based on Tanning's idea but full of Ernst's motifs.
Loplop presents Ernst, as usual (in films, Ernst is always accompanied by birds). The narrow New York streets, stairway and plinth through which Mr. and Mrs. Ernst carry a mysterious object recall Ernst's collage novels ("A Week of Happiness," "The Hundred Headless Woman"). The second half of the section takes place in New Mexico, in front of rock formations that bear an uncanny resemblance to his great decalcomania compositions like "The Eye of Silence." Max and Dorothea represent king and queen, black and white, contemplation and action, etc., but basically they are making a sort of artistic home movie.
This being an avant-garde film, there is a lot of running water and time running backwards, which work best in Jean Cocteau's segment ("The Queening of the Pawn"), which nevertheless pales before "Orpheus." The segments in which middle-aged artists dress up as chess pieces and act out surrealist masquerades may have dated quite a bit, but they still remind us there was once a time when artists were not too proud to juxtapose poetry and silliness. The cigar-chomping men laughing at Ernst as he capers through lower Manhattan are the 1950s in a nutshell.
At times this film, the product of elderly European dadaists and surrealists, resembles a seminal film of the young American avant-garde that was shot in New York about the same time, "Star-Spangled to Death" by Ken Jacobs.
10 of 11 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?