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

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

A surreal alternative to Un Chien Andalou

10/10
Author: stalker vogler from Xanadu
26 September 2007

I've seen this one a few times in the hope of "getting it" but it becomes more and more mysterious with repeated viewings. It's no wonder, the movie is surreal and like the more famous (or infamous) Un Chien Andalou it supports different interpretations or none at all if you don't want to give it. Unlike Bunuel's movies from the same period, L'etoile de mer is poetic the shots are filmed out of focus making large parts of the film seem to be caught up in glass. Just like Un Chien Andalou, the "subject" seems to be something related to unfulfilled desire, frustrated love and a love triangle. The beautiful Kiki de Montparnasse who was Man Ray's muse (he used her in a series of photographs in the 20's) is the representation of beauty. Her beauty is either of glass, or of fire and thus unattainable by the male character who tries but cannot have her. This perspective on the woman's beauty is what makes him eventually loose her for good in favor of another man. I hope this is O.K as far as interpretations go, but you can just watch it and enjoy the beautiful imagery and techniques, the movie is overtly experimental and it has some ideas that make it quite modern for its time. And then again, given that "its time" was a period when there was no gap between cinema and art one wanders what is wrong with cinema today, when we either have blockbusters or "artsy flicks" that try to look fancy but lack a great deal of substance.

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11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

A Surrealist coup of untold unspeakable unearthly allure.

10/10
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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9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Beauty indeed

10/10
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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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

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

7/10
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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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

A relaxing and pleasantly visual film

9/10
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.

--PolarisDiB

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

6/10
Author: MARIO GAUCI (marrod@melita.com) 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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An American in Paris

7/10
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 19 people found the following review useful:

Did he say 'mer' or 'merde'?

1/10
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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