Anémic Cinéma -made in 1926 – is considered the first artist film made by Marcel Duchamp. The film shows a series of rotating animated drawings (dubbed Rotoreliefs) alternated with french puns. The text, which spirals in a counterclockwise motion seem to be complete nonsense, or as observed by a member of our group, tongue twisters or childish rhymes. However, this is subverted by the erotic language used. Duchamp creates a dualism between silence and loudness through images, image and text, and meaning and non-meaning . Duchamp signed the film Rrose Sélavy, the name of his alter ego.
Rotoreliefs were a stage of Duchamp’s spinning pieces. in terms of process, Duchamp painted these designs on cardboard cirlces and spun them on a phonograph turntable. When they were spun they appeares as if they were moving: they seemed to come alive.
The title “Anémic Cinéma” is a palindrome and anagram of sorts, reflecting the cyckical nature of the piece itself and the nonsensical disposition of the french phrases included in the work. The title, therefore, acts as a well balanced summary of the work, one that relies on repetition and langauge.
Below are the included phrases in the film and the loose translation (as provided by google translate):
- “Bains de gros thé pour grains de beauté sans trop de bengué.” “Big tea baths for moles without too much bengue.”
- “L’enfant qui tète est un souffleur de chair chaude et n’aime pas le chou-fleur de serre-chaude.” “The suckling child is a hot flesh blower and does not like hot-cup cauliflower.”
- “Si je te donne un sou, me donneras-tu une paire de ciseaux?” “If I give you a penny, will you give me a pair of scissors?”
- “On demande des moustiques domestiques (demi-stock) pour la cure d’azote sur la côte d’azur.” “Domestic mosquitoes (half-stock) are required for the nitrogen cure on the French Riviera.”
- “Inceste ou passion de famille, à coups trop tirés.” “Incest or family passion, with too many shots”
- “Esquivons les ecchymoses des Esquimaux aux mots exquis.” “Let’s dodge the ecchymoses of Eskimos with exquisite words”
- “Avez-vous déjà mis la moëlle de l’épée dans le poêle de l’aimée?” “Have you ever put the pith of the sword in the stove of the beloved?”
- “Parmi nos articles de quincaillerie paresseuse, nous recommandons le robinet qui s’arrête de couler quand on ne l’écoute pas.” “Among our lazy hardware items, we recommend the faucet that stops flowing when you’re not listening.”
- “L’aspirant habite Javel et moi j’avais l’habite en spirale.” “The aspirant lives in Javel and I have lived in a spiral”
Duchamp attempted to sell the turntable with the plates he created as optical devices at an international trade fair but to little interest or purchase. Interestingly, by doing this Duchamp is commercializing his art, making it accessible to the public but also prescribing it a function that it was initially not intended. This breaches the gap between art and everyday life. This lack of categorization relates back to “Anémic Cinéma”, it is in constant movement, constant flux, and is evolving its language and dialogue between image and langauge, and art and function.