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Case Number 04941: Small Claims Court

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Artists Of The 20th Century: Salvador Dali

Kultur // 2004 // 47 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // August 5th, 2004

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All Rise...

Judge Eric Profancik wants to write a musical based on this innovative artist's life called Hello, Dalí!.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Artists Of The 20th Century: Andy Warhol (published June 4th, 2004) and Artists Of The 20th Century: Pablo Picasso (published July 2nd, 2004) are also available.

The Charge

"A true painter is one who can paint extraordinary scenes in the middle of an empty desert."—Salvador Dalí

The Case

If you've ever seen one of Dalí's pieces, then you know that he was a true painter. A man with a remarkable vision, Salvador Dalí did paint the most extraordinary works of art. As if he had captured his fantastic dreams and visions and put them on canvas, Dalí was a master and a pioneer of the surrealistic movement.

I've always had a soft spot for the Spanish painters. Back during my fourth year of high school Spanish, my professor, Doctora Snyder, introduced us to some of the Spanish culture—music, art, literature, architecture, and more. Since that time, I've always been immeasurably impressed by two artists in particular: Diego Velazquez and Salvador Dalí. Who can resist Dalí's mind-bending works like "La Persistancía de la Memoria" ("The Persistence of Memory") or "El Toreador Hallucinogenico" ("The Hallucinogenic Bullfighter")? I certainly cannot, and neither can thousands of college-age students who go out and buy posters of these extremely well-known works.

Most people know a few items about Dalí, notably his eccentricity, his famously upturned moustache, and his art. This disc from Kultur unfortunately does little to expand one's knowledge of this remarkable painter.

Following a chronological progression (except for a brief spell during the 1950s and 1960s), this disc shows you a wealth of works from the artist. Starting with a piece he created when he was only 13 and ending with his last piece when he was in his '80s, the program quickly and briefly shows the viewer the progression of styles that Dalí used in his lifetime. Starting with some realism, moving through cubism, and finally settling into surrealism, Dalí is shown as a brilliant artist…but little more. The program focuses on the art and not the man. While you learn about where he was born, where he lived, and whom he loved, there is no detail about what motivated the man. There's no time spent delving into his psyche, trying to ascertain where such wild imaginary flights came from. Who is Dalí? You won't discover that here.

Still, with the disc solely focused on the art, the viewer should walk away with a better understanding of the art itself. That does not happen either. Again, there's a decided lack of detail in the art. Instead of focusing on key pieces from the artist's life, the program goes at warp speed, showing as many prints as possible. Indeed, the 47-minute program is too fast, forsaking quality for quantity. Important details of technique and inspiration are never investigated, and we are left thirsting for more. We're shown the water across the valley but not the path to reach it.

In watching canvas after canvas after canvas, you begin to see similarities in Dalí's work over the years. That is the one insight you get from the film, as you absorb Dalí's obsession with shapes and objects. But, again, this is up to the viewer to determine, with the disc doing nothing to educate the interested party.

But what I consider the greatest weakness of the disc is the complete disregard for some of Dalí's most famous pieces, "The Hallucinogenic Bullfighter," "The Persistence of Memory," and "The Birth of New Man." These world-renowned pieces are given no elaboration. They're tossed on the screen for a few seconds with no background, no insight. Perhaps scholars of art know better, but doesn't logic suggest that the artist's best-known pieces would deserve some additional time? If "The Birth of New Man" is good enough for the cover of the disc itself, doesn't that suggest it's important and worth more than five seconds of screen time?

After watching this disc, I know slightly more than before, but it's not enough. There's so much more than can be discussed in 47 minutes, like the artist's lifetime love and muse Gala, or the incredibly odd naming of his pieces—"Average Atmospherocepalic Bureaucrat in the Act of Milking a Cranial Harp" or "Skull with Its Lyric Appendage Leaning on a Night Table Which Should Have the Exact Temperature of a Cardinal's Nest." The disc is merely a small appetizer to the buffet of Dalí's life and work.

The disc itself is exceptionally unextraordinary, with its full-frame video and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. As you sit watching painting after painting go by, listening to the narrator talk with the same snippet of elevator music behind his voice, you'll not notice anything particularly good or bad. The picture is simply fine and the audio is a bit less than fine: There are some audible snaps from the looping music and the points at which the narrator stops and starts. With no subtitles and not one single bonus item on top of the faulty program, there's nothing much to entice one for a purchase.

It all returns to the central tenet of the disc: quantity over quality. While there are benefits to seeing so much of Dalí's work, it only whets your appetite. This disc would have been so much better if it had focused on just a handful of pieces and detailed why they were famous or important. The disc forgot to tell us about the painter but instead just showed us his art.

Court is adjourned.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 78

Perp Profile

Studio: Kultur
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 47 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary

Distinguishing Marks

• None

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