Dali in Hollywood


Dalí: Painting & Film

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Destino is the major work explicated by dozens of storyboard drawings in ink, with full-scale paintings in oil on Masonite to solidify such an image as the ball surrounded by a Dalinian landscape. The film as realized five or six decades later is but a fraction of the work intended, as the digital technique is incapable of rendering many subtleties and the direction overlooks them (the observing eyes in Dali’s sketch look so intensely that one projects a hand and arm from its eyeball, this becomes a 3-D modeled statuary group without dramatic force), and at the same time it is one of Dali’s greatest creations, eight months of daily labor at Disney Studios left so much material that the work has been communicated, and even in its incomplete state must have influenced Disney’s tenderly surrealistic view of femininity in the 1951 full-length animation Alice in Wonderland.

Dali’s oil paintings and a painted backdrop show that Hitchcock’s Spellbound received his every care. Ingrid Bergman wears glasses and Gregory Peck has no moustache, but the resemblance to Gala and Dali is the understanding no-one else has, in England, anyway.

Tantalizing sketches and notes for Moontide, which was to have been directed by Fritz Lang, and La Femme Surréaliste, which was to star the Marx Brothers, are summarily included. Video screens run Impressions de la Haute Mongolie, Chaos and Creation, Warhol’s screen test, L’Age d’Or and Un Chien Andalou. A multiplane glass box and a scenario for Babaouo (with a poster) announce an unrealized film of “young Anna Kareninas” and bicyclists with bread-loaf hats, a central image.

Portrait of Colonel Jack Warner is a meticulously-fashioned conveyance of the great producer’s likeness and that of his dog, the craft is in the lapels and manicured hands and tie and every element of the composition, disposed as foreground to a classical allegory of the muse and the actor easy and straightforward in its acknowledgment of this giant in the cinema, an intimate, grinning portrayal.

Subtlety is the mainspring of all the paintings assembled in the curators’ production of the traveling show, they admit Persistence of Memory, a diminutive masterpiece, to indicate the glories of self-evident works not present. Rather, the meaning of Dali’s works is to be teased out of them, a plain language to be associated with Freudian analysis and surrealist poesy, they are built from the inside out and always express cogent thoughts and themes that baffle the Telegraph and the Los Angeles Times (during the war years, Dali exhibited at a gallery in the Ambassador Hotel).

Metamorphosis of Narcissus shows a middle case, its tiny dancing figures in the background ignore (as though it were Auden’s Icarus) the mythological character transformed from immemorial self-indulgence to an egg-born flower in hand.