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The Starfish More at IMDbPro »L'étoile de mer (original title)

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13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

A Surrealist coup of untold unspeakable unearthly allure.

Author: ruedesursulines
14 January 2006

"L'Étoile de mer" is a classic piece of Surrealist cinema from the 1920's starring the adorable and timeless Kiki of Montparnasse, and also featuring the divine Robert Desnos. A lovely Surrealist poem written by Desnos accompanies the film, eloquently juxtaposing the images.

A great deal of the sequences are shot through a pane of glass, giving the film a diffuse, dreamy quality, although there are also many stunning shots in sharp focus. The uncanny motif of the starfish is the primary piece of Surrealist iconography, which reoccurs at several junctures, including a beautiful close-up that captures the sea creature's graceful delicacy in locomotion and its multitude of tiny pedicellariae.

Unlike the more striking and barbaric imagery of "Un Chien Andalou", another famous Surrealist short film produced in the same year by Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel, this film is more lyrical and sensuous, evoking with a sense of innate desire and mystery, the concept of the marvelous outlined by André Breton in the Surrealist Manifesto of 1924.

Kiki of Montparnasse superbly portrays the primeval Surrealist muse and heroine, unashamedly stripping off her clothes in one scene, peering nefariously over the edge of a newspaper in another, and slowly climbing a staircase brandishing a long shimmering dagger in one of the penultimate scenes.

This film was way ahead of its time, anticipating stylistic and thematic currents that weren't fully developed until the latter half of the 20th century such as narrative discontinuity, jump cuts, the femme fatale and the dream sequence. A must see for all cinéastes and lovers of the Surreal.

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11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Beauty indeed

Author: davidgoesboating from Australia
6 March 2007

I saw this (and several other films by Man Ray) as part of a DVD collection of avant garde shorts.

This one, however, stood out above all the rest. This director clearly had an ability to capture the surreal and dreamlike that David Lynch or Jan Svankmajer would envy. I was simply in awe throughout the 16 minutes this was on screen.

One great aspect, though, about this short film, was the music. Now, the music may not have been part of Ray's original intentions, but it fitted this film perfectly - haunting and hypnotic. Reminded me a lot of some of the incidental music from Tarkovsky's Stalker.

This short definitely gets a 10.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Le soleil, un pied a l'etrier, niche un rossignol dans un voile de crepe

Author: TheFiendsThatPlagueThee from United States
21 February 2009

This film made me feel like I was out for a walk on a warm summer's night, exhausted, full of wine and feeling no pain. It evoked that sense of being half awake and half asleep with the covers pulled up to the neck. Nothing seems to make any sense and yet you feel that it could, that it should and that it would, if only...

Hypnotic and full of images that are thrown together in odd ways and filmed so that one's perception of the objects is distorted, this is a visually very interesting little film.

Another user, ruedesurulines, describes this film beautifully when he or she states "this film is more lyrical and sensuous, evoking with a sense of innate desire and mystery, the concept of the marvelous". I can't find anything else to add to that.

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A relaxing and pleasantly visual film

Author: Polaris_DiB from United States
18 March 2006

More avant-garde film-making by Man Ray, this work follows a roughly impressionist quality to its film-making. Shot mostly through warped lens and (I think) prisms, we follow a rough narrative about a love triangle, or something like it, and a man obsessed yet afraid of the beauty of the woman he's attracted to.

This is another of those many films that not only asks for multiple viewings, it requires it. Every time you view it again, you see something or something else fits in so that it becomes an even larger work.

Don't worry, though... this isn't one of those hard-to-watch films that don't make any sense and you have to stick with it just to "get it." On the contrary, it's a relaxing and pleasantly visual film that works more as a treat for the eye than a lengthy condescending piece of symbolism. It's based on a poem by the great Robert Desnos, and is very poetic in that quietly beautiful way. If anything, the best part of this film is how Ray's mise-en-scene always directs the eye simply to the right part of the screen, so that almost no work is done by the spectator to just sit back and experience it. On the other hand don't go into this film if you're really tired.


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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

THE STARFISH {Short} (Man Ray, 1928) **1/2

Author: MARIO GAUCI ( from Naxxar, Malta
15 January 2014

This Man Ray short has a modicum of plot – or, at least, its imagery is essentially related. A woman, possibly a prostitute, picks up a client but, when she undresses, he unaccountably gives her the brush-off! He had 'sung' the woman's praises in the intertitles – but it appears that he admires beautiful things in general and, indeed, he eventually becomes infatuated with a starfish! The woman, scorned, attacks the sea- creature with a knife...

It is a typical example of experimental cinema from this era, which also unleashed the likes of Germaine Dulac's THE SEASHELL AND THE CLERGYMAN (1928; the main reason I picked up this Kino DVD collection in the first place!) – with a similar aquatic reference, no less! – and the Luis Buñuel/Salvador Dali collaboration UN CHIEN ANDALOU (1929), both of which also boasted overtones of eroticism and violence. Even so, the most notable effect here is the frequent distortion of the image, as if it was being shot through stained-glass windows!

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

An American in Paris

Author: tieman64 from United Kingdom
7 December 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

An early silent film, "The Starfish" (1928) is a sixteen minute short by Surrealist Man Ray. Accompanied by a Robert Desnos poem, the film unfolds via dreamy, surrealist imagery, most of which sees a man pursue a mysterious woman. Dreams and reality collide, Ray smears Vaseline on his camera lens, and desire teases continuously.

"The Starfish" was released several months before "Un Chien Andalou", the famous short film by Surrealist's Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel. Like Dali, Ray worked across a variety of mediums, but is best known for his paintings.

8/10 - Worth two viewings.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

eerily pleasant and beguiling, with a soft eroticism and reverie for the sea

Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
10 May 2015

For most of The Starfish, one of the experimental/surrealist films from the painter Man Ray, we see everything through a kind of gauze or fuzzy filter over the camera. It has the sort of appearance that one might have looking through one of those glasses in a Church. Perhaps it's meant to evoke the religious, 'through a glass darkly' sort of thing, only this isn't dark so much as warped to make things obscured and out of focus and reach.

What we see in the first moments is a man and woman walking together, going up to a room, and we can make out a woman disrobing (maybe not all the way, but close to it), and the man leaves her in bed. Then a flow of images come forward - not quick at all, but in the wave that comes with a hallucination under a psychedelic or in that weird wave right before you go to sleep, if not outright dreams: a starfish, close-up, in slow-motion; twelve different shots of starfish and starfishes in glasses (four across, three up); and the woman in bed or the man walking alone.

What does all this mean? Should it matter to decipher it? At the time this film was one of many in the wave of surrealists coming forward - it was either this or another of Ray's films that screened with Bunuel's debut Un chien Andalou in 1929 - and in here, there's nothing THAT scandalous about it for today. It might have been for the period though: just the thought of a woman disrobing, or just showing her legs, as she does, albeit out of focus (and we can see when the camera goes in focus part of her leg and foot) was unthinkable for a prudish, mass collective audience. And if Man Ray was Catholic, as several of the surrealists and dadaists like Dali and Bunuel were, that was part of the point, to provoke himself as much as the audience around him with these startling images. There may also be violence invoked here as well, with a woman stalking up stairs with a knife.

Some inter-titles come up from time to time here, and the most intriguing and poetic come at the start: "Women's teeth are objects so charming... that one ought to see them only in a dream or in the instant of love." Could this be a clue as to what the film is "about" if anything? Or is it all part of the piece itself, leading a viewer through a stream of images and contrasts - think the soft flesh of a woman's skin with the scaly outside of a starfish itself - and about what a woman's presence means in general? Teeth being invoked is also curious and unsettling - why only in love or a dream? Perhaps for Man Ray, teeth are what the eyeball was to Bunuel.

Or, again, as in a dream, everything means something else to that person. Starfish isn't as direct or confrontational as Bunuel & Dali's dreamscapes, but it does what it should by bringing the audience along through images that, at that time and rarely since, no one has seen quite like before. Visualizing such an inner-sanctum as the subconscious is one of those things cinema does well, and Man Ray shows it.

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Qu'elle n'est pas belle

Author: Thomas ( from Berlin, Germany
4 December 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"L'étoile de mer" or "The Starfish" is a 15-minute short film from almost 90 years ago. IMDb says it runs for 21 minutes, but all version I found were shorter, maybe less frames per second. Anyway, the director here is famous photographer Man Ray and it is a black-and-white silent film, which is not uncommon for 1928 anymore, although the silent era was slowly coming to its end at this point already. Do not be fooled by music you may hear while watching this. The original is silent. I personally did not see much beauty in this film I must say. It really is a bit on the pretentious side and style over substance. I guess his photographs must have been better if Max Caulfield saw something in him, like many others do as well. But in terms of Man Ray, being a great filmmaker I am not convinced. Yet? We will see. I may be a bit biased as I am usually not too big on experimental movies. I do not recommend "The Starfish".

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2 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Did he say 'mer' or 'merde'?

Author: F Gwynplaine MacIntyre from Minffordd, North Wales
1 June 2008

I've always found the dilettante Man Ray and his artistic efforts to be deeply pretentious, and I've never understood why his work attracts so much attention. Apart from his Rayographs (which he invented by accident, and which are merely direct-contact photo prints), his one real contribution to culture seems to be that he was the first photographer to depict female nudity in a manner that was accepted as art rather than as porn. But surely this had to happen eventually, and there's no real reason why Ray deserves the credit. The critical reaction to Man Ray reminds me of the story about the Emperor's New Clothes.

"L'Étoile de merde" ... whoops, "de mer" ... features a lot of blurry photography and a recurring visual theme of a starfish, which is never explained. Starfishes have the fascinating ability to regenerate lost limbs -- and even to regenerate entire duplicate bodies -- but, if that has anything to do with this movie's theme, Ray neglects to say so. I was much more impressed by this movie's title cards, which (in French) manage to include rhymes, a pun ('Si belle, Cybele') and some portmanteaux.

As so often in Ray's work, there is indeed a beautiful young woman seen in this movie. Unfortunately, the photography is (largely) so blurred that we have little opportunity to appreciate her. I'll rate this mess one point out of 10.

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