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Images du monde visionnaire is a film which would match very well with UBUWEB. But in this case the place to go is Canal-U a French website for medical films. And it’s indeed not an experimental but an educational film which was produced in 1963 by the film department of Swiss pharmaceutical company Sandoz (best known for synthesizing LSD in 1938) in order to demonstrate the hallucinogenic effects of mescaline and hashish. Still it shares many traits with some of the more interesting efforts in avant-garde film making of its time. Maybe the most remarkable about it is that it is the only venture in film of notable French writer and painter Henri Michaux who wrote several accounts of his experiments with drugs. In charge with the filmic translation of Michaux’ prescriptions was director Eric Duvivier (a nephew of Julien Duvivier) whose other films include an adaptation of Max Ernst’s collage novel La femme 100 têtes. Sceptical from the start about the success of such an undertaking Michaux was said to be quite disappointed by the result. But the following conversation with famous photographer Brassaï shows Michaux in a different mood.
[quote] Paris, Friday, 21 February 1964
I telephoned Michaux
Me: I very much enjoyed your film about hashish and mescaline. The incantations and extraordinary images create a spellbinding effect, combined with the excellent music. Sometimes one can be really bowled over…
Michaux: I’m glad to hear you like my film. You are a good judge… The cameraman I worked with carried out my ideas and my ‘cutting’ very conscientously.
Me: I’m sorry that this film won’t be seen by the general public, that it won’t be shown in cinemas. Don’t you think it should go on general release?
Michaux: Yes, it’s under discussion. But only if the drug addict himself and the doctor who introduces the film are cut. But they would keep my voice.
Me: So really, although the film has been shown five or six times, very few people have been able to see it. The Salle de Géographie was completely packed when I went; I couldn’t find a seat. I watched the film while lying on the floor at the feet of Jean Paulhan and Dominique Aury…
From Sayag, Lionel-Marie, Brassaï The Monograph, Boston 2000
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