Friday, July 13, 2007

Download Impression de la Haute Mongolie

Download "Impression de la Haute Mongolie" (Impressions of Upper Mongolia)
DOWNLOAD AVAILABLE ON REQUEST (and bribe!)
http://imdb.com/title/tt0347238/ says Runtime: France:70 min I have a version that runs 50min, french narrations, spanish (or catalan?) subtitles. 500mB
Metamorphosis of Hitler's Face into a Moonlit Landscape with Accompaniment, 1958

Impressions de la haute Mongolie (1976/Salvador Dali/José Montes-Baquer/Germany)

Homage to Impressions d'Afrique (1909), a free-associative poem wrote by Raymond Roussel (1877-1933), even though he never visited Africa. The film is dedicated to this french author, forefather of the Surrealists, who developped a formal constraint system to generate inspiration from dislocative puns.
Dali does the very same thing with this chimerical pseudocumentary leading us to the mysterious realm of High Mongolia where a gigantic white soft mushroom grows, many times more hallucinogen than LSD! From his studio-museum in Cadacès (Spain), he proceeds to report on the alleged scientific expedition sent out by himself to retrieve this precious treasure, with newspaper clips and newsreel. Childhood memories (like the picture above) are the opportunity to explain more throughoutly the source of his inspiration. This bucolic landscape is in fact a close up of Hitler's portrait (his nose and moustache) turned to the side!
Wholly daliesque, this film experiment piece together astonishing combinations on superimposed images, fading in and out, switching scale with odd perspectives. Dali invents a filmmaking process and apply his very language to cinematic purposes, bending the rules to serve his desperate need for originality. Travelling through a microscopic close up of paintings or rough surfaces, his voiceover commentary gives sense to the landscapes taking form under his eyes. We get the chance to see some of his art, and watch the artist being his egotico-paranoid self (in french). A delirious experience, beautifully crafted. The backdoor into Salvador Dali's twisted mind.

This brought back to my recollection fond memories of me wasting hours staring at abstract motifs on tacky wallpapers, marble tiles or on geometrical rugs, discovering unmistakenable faces and curious monsters or animals, that would later stand outs everytime I'd lay my eyes in this area. The mind always tries to rationalize in an anthropomorphical way an image devoid of meaning, lacking recognizable features. The same game of discriminating shapes in the cumulonimbus. And suddenly we blink for a second and it's all gone, impossible to spot again like it was before, even though we know it's right there before our eyes. I used to trace them over, as it was a rich generator of original shapes, but it never looks as real when the hand "improves" by filling the blanks on paper, adding a missing eye, or connecting dots. The creature emerging from a stain appears genuine and evident in its alien context only. Dali operates the same doctoring overlapping his drawings on the footage to hint us how to understand his vision then takes it away and let our imagination build the rest, like a collective visual palimpseste.

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Dalí also delved into the realms of filmmaking, most notably playing a large role in the production of Un Chien Andalou, a 17-minute French art film co-written with Luis Buñuel that is widely remembered for its graphic opening scene simulating the slashing of a human eyeball with a razor. Dalí collaborated again with Luis Buñuel on the 1930 film, L'Âge d'Or, and went on to write a number of filmscripts, very few of which made it past conception. The most well-known of his film projects is probably the dream sequence in Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound, which heavily delves into themes of psychoanalysis. He also worked on a Disney cartoon production Destino; completed in 2003 by Baker Bloodworth and Roy Disney, it contains dream-like images of strange figures flying and walking about. Dalí completed only one other film in his lifetime: Impressions of Upper Mongolia (1975), in which he narrated a story about an expedition in search of giant hallucinogenic mushrooms. The imagery was based on microscopic uric acid stains on the brass band of a ballpoint pen on which Dalí had been urinating for several weeks.

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In 1976 Salvador Dalí made a film with José Montes Baquer called Impressions of Upper Mongolia, Hommage to Raymond Roussel, partly in response to a brief correspondence with the French author and forefather of the Surrealists. The origins of its making are as surreal as the film itself.

Salvador Dalí and José Montes Baquer in the Alphonse XIII suite at the Hotel Meurice during the making of Impressions of Upper Mongolia, 1976
Salvador Dalí and José Montes Baquer in the Alphonse XIII suite at the Hotel Meurice during the making of Impressions of Upper Mongolia 1976
© WDR

CHRISTOPHER JONES How did you meet Salvador Dalí,and what were the circumstances that led you to make the film, Impressions of Upper Mongolia?

JOSé MONTAS BAQUER In 1974 I was making a documentary in New York about audio-visual art in the USA. To familiarise myself with this work, I went to a video art conference entitled 'Open Circuits, the Future of Television' at the Museum of Modern Art. Later that evening, over dinner with some friends, we started a discussion about which artist it would be good to get involved in our film project, and we soon agreed it had to be the greatest one around - Salvador Dalí. Luckily, I was introduced to him by two ladies he held in great esteem, one of whom was an Italian princess, Vicky Alliata, who was taking part in the MoMA conference. Thanks to her, I received an appointment - at eleven minutes past eleven o'clock at the St Regis Hotel, New York, where Dalí had his winter quarters. He arrived very punctually, and warmly welcomed us in his dark, pinstriped suit. He led us to one of the salons he had rented on the lower floors of the hotel. But he couldn't find the light switch. We entered the room, stumbling and bumping against furniture, until the artist, who was using his cane like a feeler to orientate himself, found a table, and suggested that we sit down to talk in the dark, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. I had barely said a few phrases, when shouting resonated in the gloom: "DA! - DA! - DALÍ!" And then in a more normal tone, he continued: "Dalí is a universal genius. For this reason, hundreds of people approach him daily to enrich themselves. But what they do not know is that Dalí, as well as being a universal genius, is also an intellectual vampire who enriches himself with all the people who come close to him." At that point, the lights came on. One of his assistants had heard the shouting and flicked on the switch. Then Dalí took a pen from his pocket. It was plastic and ivory coloured with a copper band at the centre. He said: "In this clean and aseptic country, I have been observing how the urinals in the luxury restrooms of this hotel have acquired an entire range of rust colours through the interaction of the uric acid on the precious metals that are astounding. For this reason, I have been regularly urinating on the brass band of this pen over the past weeks to obtain the magnificent structures that you will find with your cameras and lenses. By simply looking at the band with my own eyes, I can see Dalí on the moon, or Dalí sipping coffee on the Champs Élysées. Take this magical object, work with it, and when you have an interesting result, come see me. If the result is good, we will make a film together."

Film cels with images painted in by Salvador Dalí for Impressions of Upper Mongolia, 1976
Film cels with images painted in by Salvador Dalí for Impressions of Upper Mongolia 1976
© WDR

CHRISTOPHER JONES How did you respond to that?

JOSé MONTAS BAQUER We decided to dedicate a full week to filming that corroded amalgam of copper and zinc. Amazing images began to appear - images similar to those obtained by satellites, on a scale of 1 x 500,000. Thanks to the blue and green lasers that we had set up, a fantastic geography of an imaginary planet had become visible. Remember that the satellite images of 30 years ago did not have the same definition that they do today.We filmed several rolls, which we then edited into a 30-minute summary. Then we took it to show to Dalí at the St Regis. As we set up our equipment, he puttered about the room whistling and humming. We watched the film in a hushed silence. At the end, we anxiously waited to see if our intense week on what felt like the edge of madness had made any sense to Dalí. Finally, he said: "It is not what I had expected. It is infinitely better. It is fantastic! We are going to make a film together."

Jan Vermeer, Woman Reading a Letter, 1662-1663
Jan Vermeer Woman Reading a Letter 1662-1663
Oil on canvas, 46.5 x 39cm
Courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

CHRISTOPHER JONES How would you describe the film?

JOSé MONTAS BAQUER Impressions cannot be compared with any other film made. Dalí chose the title. He believed that this homage to Roussel would be an important way to understand his work better. The open narrative structure is not easy, given that the beginnings and endings of the sequences have to be linked in a series that leads ultimately to a conclusion. The artist also told us that he wanted to paint over some of the frozen images of the film as a basic outline for a story that he would improvise as he commented on the resulting imagery. He invented the fable of a Princess of Mongolia from these partially abstract images. The story was: in ancestral times, in order to deal with a wave of starvation, the princess was forced to administer hallucinogenic powders from a gigantic soft mushroom to her subjects. This substance produced a collective madness among the inhabitants of her principality, who created rock paintings that were discovered on boulders by a Dalínian expedition to this dreamland.

Leaflet for Impressions of Upper Mongolia, 1977
Leaflet for Impressions of Upper Mongolia 1977
© WDR

CHRISTOPHER JONES What was the connection between Dalí and Raymond Roussel?

JOSé MONTAS BAQUER They had corresponded briefly before the author's suicide in 1933. In 1932 Roussel sent Dalí copies of his Locus Solus and Impressions d'Afrique. The artist replied by sending Roussel his film script for Babaouo. Several years later, Dalí painted a picture that he called Impressions of Africa. After the Second World War, Roussel's works were rediscovered by Nouveau Roman authors such as Alain Robbe-Grillet. In their various analytical and biographical studies, they found numerous examples of words, and even entire phrases, with completely different meanings that were produced by a similarity in their sounds (so-called isophonics). The secretive and complicated writing system unleashed an automatism, which generated an entirely new sense to the phrase. From a psychological standpoint, this newmeaning, which was associated with the sound of a specific, written word, produced a change, or metamorphosis, in the imaginative meaning of the phrase. Roussel called his system the procédé, which became the basis of the double or multiple perceptions used by Dalí in his paintings and films. His system, which he named the paranoiac-critical method, was also based on metamorphosis.

Raymond Roussel with descendants of Queen Pomare in Tahiti 1921
Raymond Roussel with descendants of Queen Pomare in Tahiti, 1921
Courtesy Mark Ford © Bibliothèque Nationale de France

CHRISTOPHER JONES Could you describe some of these metamorphosis scenes from Impressions?

JOSé MONTAS BAQUER An example of what Dalí called a psychological image is the painting Woman Reading a Letter (1662-1663) by the Dutch artist Jan Vermeer. On the wall behind a pregnant woman dressed in blue is a map of an undefined country. It is important to remember that the Dutch cultivated cartography in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as an artform. Dalí said about the artist: "Mysterious geographic maps appear quite often in Vermeer's backgrounds. The Dalínian paradox is to know how to distinguish the essential elements of this painting: the map, received from far away, which relates a sort of unimaginable fable, and behind the geographic possibilities, the fetishist verification that will permit travel to the imagined place." Another important aspect of the film is the soundtrack. Dalí's voice is accompanied by a musical montage with several recurring themes, including some pieces that were chosen and even mentioned by him in the film. For example, he presents Debussy's Clair de Lune in his metamorphosis of a peaceful landscape into the portrait of Adolf Hitler. In one of the classic scenes in Impressions, Dalí is seen from behind painting Gala. The image exists as the painting Dalí from the Back Painting Gala from the Back Eternalised by Six Virtual Corneas Provisionally Reflected by Six Real Mirrors (1972-1973). I remember that it was very difficult to light the live version without losing the character of the painting, which appears as an echo in the image. In this sequence, dedicated to Gala, Dalí whistles a theme from Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, which passes into a piano version of the music.

Raymond Roussel with a miner's pickaxe and lantern in Berchtesgaden c.1926
Raymond Roussel with a miner's pickaxe and lantern in Berchtesgaden c.1926
Courtesy Mark Ford © Bibliothèque Nationale de France

CHRISTOPHER JONES Impressions was an extraordinary project, although it is not well known. What do you think is Dalí's filmic legacy?

JOSé MONTAS BAQUER Salvador Dalí was a tireless, insatiable worker who had a marvellous spirit for collaboration. In such a complex project, his great culture and unacademic manner allowed him to connect well with specialists and technicians. He was generous with his time. During the filming, he never spoke of money. The only condition he stipulated in the contract was that a 35mm copy of the film should be sent to the Dalí Museum in Figueres. In Impressions, he defined himself as an agent provocateur who acts in our brain to activate our fantasy. One of Dalí's quotes is perhaps an appropriate message for all film-makers: "The most decisive moment in the production of a film is when you need the force of will to convince your producers that if this film is not made, the world, as we know it, will come to an end."

Christopher Jones is a writer and documentary film-maker based in France. He has also translated Otto Rahn's Crusade Against the Grail.

José Montes Baquer is a film-maker who specialises in music and experimental film. He heads the musical department of WDR, Germany.


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In any list of films I’d currently most like to see but can’t due to lack of availability, this bizarre “documentary” collaboration between Salvador Dalí and José Montes-Baquer would be near the top of the list. I saw it once, probably shortly after it had been made, when the BBC screened it as part of their Omnibus arts series in the late seventies. By this time I was already very familiar with the Surrealists, Dalí, Magritte and Max Ernst especially, so it was great to see Dalí himself declaring a supposed mission to explore Upper Mongolia in a search for giant hallucinogenic mushrooms. This premise aside, I remember few other details, the whole film was as delightfully confusing as might be expected. The most distinct memory was of the painting above being shown, then the camera pulling back some distance to reveal the full extent of Hitler’s face which is only hinted at in the original. Happily, a web review now provides us with some more details:

Homage to Impressions d’Afrique (1909), is a free-associative poem written by Raymond Roussel (1877-1933), even though he never visited Africa. The film is dedicated to this French author, forefather of the Surrealists, who developed a formal constraint system to generate inspiration from dislocative puns.

Dalí does the very same thing with this chimerical pseudocumentary leading us to the mysterious realm of High Mongolia where a gigantic white soft mushroom grows, many times more hallucinogenic than LSD! From his studio-museum in Cadacès (Spain), he proceeds to report on the alleged scientific expedition sent out by himself to retrieve this precious treasure, with newspaper clips and newsreel. Childhood memories (like the picture above) are the opportunity to explain more thoroughly the source of his inspiration. This bucolic landscape is in fact a close up of Hitler’s portrait (his nose and moustache) turned to the side!

Wholly Dalíesque, this film experiment pieces together astonishing combinations of superimposed images, fading in and out, switching scale with odd perspectives. Dalí invents a filmmaking process and applies his very language to cinematic purposes, bending the rules to serve his desperate need for originality. Travelling through a microscopic close up of paintings or rough surfaces, his voiceover commentary gives sense to the landscapes taking form under his eyes.

Impressions of Africa was also the title of a Dalí painting from 1938, of course:

impressions.jpg

It’s probably too much to hope that this will turn up on TV again, so for now I suppose I’ll have to look forward to it appearing on DVD at some point in the future. How about it José?



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posted by u2r2h at 11:25 PM

4 Comments:

Blogger NoBrandApp project said...

Hello sir, i wonder if you were serious with your offer to download "Impressions of Upper Mongolia". I saw it about 15 years ago and was struck by it. From the opening with the landscape through the voyage in "Upper Mongolia", i got carried away.

If you had an idea of how i could find this great piece of art, i would be very grateful (not much for a bribe, but then you'd have a supporter in France).

Best regards

Mathieu M. O'Dowd

Thursday, October 9, 2008 at 1:11:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have created English subtitles for the movie based on the translated English script by Colombina Zamponi posted at ubu.com.

You can download the .srt subtitles here: http://www.opensubtitles.org/en/subtitles/3367811/impressions-de-la-haute-mongolie-en

Tuesday, November 11, 2008 at 3:13:00 PM PST  
Anonymous fromageplus said...

I'm sorry, i'm not that good at english [I'm french], but I'm really interested in Dali's works ! How is it possible to download the movie ?

Friday, July 31, 2009 at 10:21:00 AM PDT  
Blogger 24KGOLDSLUMCOMPUTERWIZARD said...

Hello!!
I am also interested Sir.
Upload Please?
Thanks and praise!

Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 12:34:00 AM PDT  

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