Saturday, February 9, 2008

Persistence of Dali- Spellbound!

There are only two museums in the entire world that maintain most of the artwork of Salvador Dali. One is in Spain, the other is just about forty miles away from where I live. Last night was the opening of a new exhibit at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. My close and personal friend is the curator of education and his wife is in charge of PR and marketing. They were kind enough to put us on the guest list so we dolled ourselves up to mingle with the discreet and bourgeoisie.
This new exhibit reminded me of Dali and Commercialism, a show they had a few years back. The museum was converted into a multimedia haven, showing films, commercials; displays of Dali's books and perfumes and other ephemera were shown as well. Dali and Film is similar but it focuses solely on his involvement with film as well as the legacy of his influence. Each room had a different theme and showed a different film. In the reception hall they showed a Dali documentary. The bourgeois crowd was a bit noisy, and anyway they were there to be seen (scene?) so we left to the main gallery after speaking with some great people. One guy remembered me from the radio show (happens every five years).
We caught some of the newer paintings, including The Persistence of Memory (this painting normally lives in MoMA in NYC; I've never seen it!). In one of the smaller galleries they showed Destino which I'd seen in their previous show. My companion had never seen her so it was a joy to watch it with her.

This little seven minute film was to have been the first collaboration between Disney and Dali. I believe the backing was pulled so only the storyboard sketches survived. It wasn't until 2004 that the film was produced and completed, available only at museum showings.

Destino would have fit perfectly within Fantasia, but would have probably usurped all other animation.
We caught Un Chien Andelou, which seems to play everywhere all the time. Best of all they showed a loop of the dream sequence from Spellbound and had the actual backdrop of the film pulled up on the wall! This was a canvas mural which has to be seen to be experienced! They had two other pieces of art from that movie and you can actually read the camera instructions on the surface of the eyeball painting.

My companion had never watched L'age d'or so we sat in the gallery and watched the entire film while people came and went. This film was the second collaboration between Dali and Spanish director Louis Bunuel (the first being, of course, Un Chien Andelou).

I love the ending and it packs one of the greatest punchlines in cinema history. Watching L'age d'or in its entirety I thought of two later Bunuel films which were prefigured here: The Exterminating Angel and The Milky Way.
Although I didn't qualify for the free champagne, seeing the existing backdrop to a Hitchcock movie was sublime and intoxicating enough.
Other upcoming events at the museum include film lectures by John Waters.
For more information, check out the Salvador Dali Museum website.


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