Sal­vador Dalí: In Search of Im­mor­tal­ity

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Un Chien An­dalou. Sal­vador

Di­rec­tor David Pu­jol’s ex­haus­tive look at the life and work of the Span­ish Sur­re­al­ist Sal­vador Dalí is a compelling in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The doc­u­men­tary starts in 1929, the year Dalí of­fi­cially joined the Sur­re­al­ist group and col­lab­o­rated with film­maker Luis Buñuel on the land­mark short film It was also the year he met his fu­ture wife Gala, who would prove to be his life­long muse. Much of the film’s strength is in its fo­cus on their re­la­tion­ship.

Gala, a Rus­sian beauty born Elena Ivanovna Di­akonova, served as the in­spi­ra­tion for many an artist, in­clud­ing her pre­vi­ous hus­band, the Sur­re­al­ist French poet Paul Élu­ard. She mar­ried Dalí in 1934 and of­ten acted as his agent. She was also the model for many of his paint­ings. Theirs was a unique re­la­tion­ship in that Gala, en­cour­aged by Dalí’s voyeuris­tic ten­dency, en­gaged in nu­mer­ous ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fairs through­out their re­la­tion­ship.

Sal­vador Dalí: In Search of Im­mor­tal­ity spans 60 years in the artist’s ca­reer. Al­though he was ac­tive at var­i­ous points dur­ing his life in Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, and the United States, he would re­turn to Spain on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, work­ing pri­mar­ily from his villa in Port Lli­gat in the coastal re­gion of Cat­alo­nia. In the early 1960s, he re­turned to his home­town of Figueres and be­gan to build a the­ater and mu­seum which, to­day, houses the sin­gle largest col­lec­tion of his work. Al­ways a flam­boy­ant char­ac­ter with a pen­chant for draw­ing at­ten­tion to him­self with his ab­surd the­atrics and trade­mark curled mus­tache, Dalí, as the film shows him, was not just in search of im­mor­tal­ity. He was in­tent on shap­ing his own legacy in or­der to en­sure its even­tu­al­ity.

The the­ater and mu­seum project spanned more than a decade. It was a pe­riod of time that over­lapped with the artist’s es­trange­ment from Gala, dur­ing which he spi­raled into a de­pres­sion. She was spend­ing weeks at a time in the small town of Púbol, Spain, where Dalí had built a cas­tle for her, a mon­u­ment of his love and de­vo­tion, which he agreed not to visit with­out her ex­press per­mis­sion. Through­out their mar­riage, Gala avoided mak­ing pub­lic state­ments or jus­ti­fy­ing her many af­fairs, pre­fer­ring, as is stated in the film, to let his­tory judge her, for good or for ill. But like her hus­band, she wanted to be re­mem­bered as a leg­end. In their shared de­sire for leav­ing be­hind a sto­ried legacy, they were made for each other.

Af­ter her death in 1982, Dalí’s own life was marked by pe­ri­ods of de­clin­ing health. With his long­time muse now gone for­ever, he lost his own will to live. These events are deftly and ten­derly cov­ered. Pu­jol avoids mak­ing his doc­u­men­tary a cri­tique of the artist, but also doesn’t li­on­ize him. At the same time, the film­maker makes us cog­nizant of the fact that Dalí, an ego­cen­tric but un­de­ni­ably bril­liant artist, of­ten li­on­ized him­self.

En­livened by the pre­sen­ta­tion of many of the painter’s mas­ter­pieces as well as his lesser-known works, pre­vi­ously un­pub­lished pho­tographs, and rare archival footage of the artist at work, the film reaches be­yond a por­trayal of Dalí as the larger-than-life fig­ure he was. It presents him, ul­ti­mately, as sim­ply a man. For that, he re­mains as fal­li­ble as any mor­tal, de­spite the ev­er­last­ing glory he de­sired and un­doubt­edly achieved. Dalí: In Search of Im­mor­tal­ity is both a tes­ta­ment to the artist’s ge­nius and a trib­ute to a great love. — Michael Abatemarco

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