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"It is LSD without the LSD" - Salvador Dali

8/10
Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
8 May 2015

In what is counted as the only film Salvador Dali directed in his life - albeit with a co-director, Jose Montes Baquer - Impressions of the Upper Mongolia is an attempt to make what can only be described as a surrealistic art-documentary about the search for a Hallucinogenic Civilization in Upper Mongolia. Dali is the host here, as he discovers that this mountain has this white mushroom - which is more powerful, according to him, than LSD (and hey, he's trustworthy!) He sends explorers to see Upper Mongolia to get "all the geological virtues" (and, as he goes on, 'geological' is another word for a total LSD trip).

This is after an introduction which is beautifully deranged and, for Dali, rather serene at first with him describing going to sleep (well, yeah) and going through a door to see the objects of his past. Indeed the very opening of this project has Dali singing to himself as the camera goes through the frame of a painting - as perfect an opening as one could ask for. And we get images that are precisely startling and, really, outrageously funny: what we think we're being shown as a kind of dark and muddy painting is actually Hitler's mustache (!) And, as a sign of the times, we also hear Wendy Carlos' music from Clockwork Orange, and amid the classical music we also hear that early electronic soundscape. In other words, as Dali would also say, this is a "classic, rather than romantic... stereoscopically" experience.

He mentions explorers but, of course, you'll never really see them here. This is where the art-documentary aspect comes in, but with him as a kind of National Geographic show host of the dreamscape and, sometimes, going out into outer space. Much of 'Upper Mongolia' is him describing what we may/should be seeing in warped, colorful images that are meant to be the land and the sea of this island/mountain where the mushroom grows. At one point what's supposed to be the mushroom is, of course, the top of a white dome. All of this is Dali messing with the audience, but if you know what you're in for it's actually more... coherent than Un chien Andalou (this, too, is quoted in the film).

This was hard to find for many years, but thankfully it's now available to find on various sites online (Daily Motion and YouTube have it in full with English subtitles), though it should be said it's not exactly for the 'uninitiated'. This is Dali's 'Theater Museum Tour' about a mission, with touches of praise for, sincerely, of all painters, Vermeer, and it ends with him in a crowd - are they for him, did he arrange this, he's certainly a celebrity enough for it - in a giant hat with cut-outs and a mask covering part of his face. If you know that you're in for a free-wheeling, totally hallucinogenic experience, with those little details that make up his paintings so wonderfully (i.e. a hot air balloon in the sky outside his window as he paints in the foreground) then you'll get something out of it. If you're the kind of person that gets offended by a porn joke involving a ballpoint pen, look elsewhere.

PS: It's subtitle is that it's a "Homage to Raymond Rousell." I have to take his word for it, as I haven't read much of his poetry.

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